Although they may not look tasty to us, dogs seem to have a liking for them. As summertime approaches, your pet might be spending more time outside and that "ribbit, ribbit" coming from beneath the bush may be the sound of a lunchtime snack for a hungry Fido. But depending on the toad, your pet may get more than it bargained for.
Dr. Matt Allender is a zoological and exotic animal veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. He says, "frogs and toads both commonly emit poisons from their parotid glands." In many species, this gland is located just behind the eye.
Although from afar they may look similar, there is a difference between a frog and a toad. Frogs prefer living in a wet environment, while toads usually live on dry land. In that same vein, toads usually have dry skin and frogs typically have the wet, slimy skin we tend to associate with amphibians.
Knowing the difference between frogs and toads may seem trivial. But in reality, it is quite important. For one, "toads typically emit poisons more than the frogs in this part of the country," notes Dr. Allender.
To cut to the chase, if you live in Central Illinois and your dog shows up at the door with a toad in its mouth, it is probably not a cause for alarm (unless your neighbor's exotic poisonous frog has just escaped!). Although many dogs who lick or ingest a frog or toad will excessively foam at the mouth, it usually is not life threatening. Dr. Allender explains that this is simply, "a mechanism the dog uses to get rid of the toxins it encountered."
To remove the irritating chemicals from the mouth, carefully wash out your pet's mouth with water, being gentle enough not to make it inhale any water.
However, if you live in Florida, Texas, or Hawaii, a trip to the emergency room may be necessary to save your pet. The bufo toad, also known as the giant or cane toad, is extremely toxic. It releases bufotoxins in its parotid gland, which can lead to foaming at the mouth, shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, seizuring, and heart arrhythmias. Immediate veterinary care is critical, and even then, the animal may not survive.
In Colorado, the giant toad and Colorado River toad can be equally deadly, causing similar clinical signs as the bufo toad. The dog may even look as though it is hallucinating.
In short, you can never be 100 percent sure that the toad your dog has had contact with is not poisonous unless you happen to be like Dr. Allender and can tell one type of toad from another. If you are concerned that your pet has eaten or picked up one that may be toxic, wash out your pet's mouth with water and call your local veterinary emergency room. And don't let that frog get away! Proper identification of the species can be an easy way to rule out serious toxins.
For more information contact your local veterinarian.
An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at www.vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns/. Requests for reprints of this article may be directed to Mandy Barth, email@example.com.
Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement
University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine