What to do if Your Pet Licks a Toad

Estimated Reading Time: 4 min | Last Updated: June 21st, 2022

With the arrival of warmer weather and rain, we see the number of cane toad victims increase across veterinary clinics.  With their intriguing hop across the yard, our inquisitive pets, especially terrier type dog breeds and the occasional cat, find these toads an irresistible chase. When they get a little too close for comfort, they may come in contact with the toad’s toxin. Unfortunately, the cane toad toxin, known as bufotoxin which is found in the glands behind the eyes on the neck, can have a devastating effect. If your dog does come in contact with these dreaded creatures, follow the steps below on what to do if your dog licks a cane toad.

What happens if a dog licks a toad?

If your dog has licked, chewed or eaten a cane toad, otherwise known as mouthing, the toxin is rapidly absorbed through the gums.  The toxin can also be absorbed through the eyes, nose and any open wounds as well. The consequences of this toxin varies.

Toad near dog's mouthThe toxin usually causes a localised irritation to the gums, resulting in increased salivation/drooling which may be seen as foaming from the mouth.  Your pet may also be seen to be pawing at their mouth due to the discomfort. The gums become bright red in colour and have a slime-like feel.

Your pet’s eyes might dilate, the black pupil appearing larger than normal, and they might become stiff in the legs as they progress into the more severe signs of muscle tremors, seizure, at worst sudden death can result.

It is important to seek veterinary help immediately, as an average sized dog can die within 15 minutes of coming into contact with a large amount of the toxin.

What to do if your dog licks a cane toad

If you suspect your pet has become affected by the toxin from a cane toad, the most important step to take is to try and remove the toxin from the gums of the mouth.  The toxin is sticky and needs to be wiped off.  Care must be taken to avoid accidentally being bitten.

Animal Emergency Service vet removing toad toxin from dogs mouthAnimal Emergency Service vet removing toad toxin from a dogs mouth

These following steps will reduce the amount of toxin absorbed and could be life-saving:

  • Use a damp cloth, towel or old rag wipe the gums, tongue and roof of mouth
  • Wash the cloth thoroughly between wipes
  • Continue this process for 10 minutes

Animal Emergency Service vet removing toad toxin from dogs gumsToad toxin must be removed from the gums, tongue and roof of mouth 

If your pet’s condition worsens, or if your pet is becoming stiff, vomiting or convulsing, immediately transport them to your closest veterinary clinic for further treatment. If there is a second person available, ask them to start or continue wiping your pet’s mouth while you drive. Complications can result from over-heating, prolonged seizure activity, and accidentally breathing in vomit (aspiration).

Upon arrival at your veterinary clinic, the staff will assess your pet and determine the best course of treatment.  The good news, however, is that even if your pet needs to stay overnight at your local emergency veterinary hospital, the majority of cane toad pet victims will survive their encounter if they are treated early enough.  The level of intervention your veterinarian needs to take is dependent on how much toxin has been absorbed. In extreme cases, oxygen therapy or an induced coma may be required.

Nurse Amanda explains step-by-step first aid treatment you can give your pet at home

What not to do

Please do not use a running hose or tap to rinse your pet’s mouth out.  The toxin is sticky and requires rubbing to achieve the desired result. The use of running water, particularly in a disorientated or seizuring pet, can cause them to inhale the water. This will develop into a nasty aspiration pneumonia. They can also drown.

Avoiding cane toad poisoning

Our pets do not appear to learn from previous exposure.  Every year, repeat offenders will present to veterinary clinics across the country after coming in contact with a cane toad and being poisoned. As cane toads are nocturnal, ensuring your pet is only allowed outside under supervision or on a leash after dusk is the simplest means of avoiding risk of exposure.

What to do if you find a cane toad in your yard

Should you find a cane toad in your garden, ensure young children and all pets are removed from the area to prevent risk of contact and poisoning.

Toad on rockThe cane toad is a pest and viewed as a threat to Australia’s native wildlife. However, even pests should be euthanised in a humane manner.  The current guidelines from the RSPCA state the most humane means to kill a cane toad is using a product called HopStop, which is sprayed onto the toad, and repeated two hours later prior to confirming death has been achieved and disposal.

Should this product not be available, then staged cooling may be considered.  The toad should be placed in a bag or container which is labelled and refrigerated for 12 hours to cause it to become unconscious. After 12 hours the toad is placed into the freezer for a further 24 hours.  The toad should then have death confirmed prior to disposal.

If you believe your pet has come into contact with a cane toad, contact your closest Animal Emergency Service hospital or your local vet immediately.

For more information about cane toad poisoning, visit our Cane Toads and Dogs Guide.

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