It’s a humid summer night. Your dog or cat goes outside, sniffs around in the grass, picks something up then backs away and starts drooling profusely. What happened? If you explore the grass where your pet was nosing around, chances are, you’d find a toad. Has your pet been poisoned? What should you do?
There are three species of toad in Pennsylvania—the spadefoot toad, the Fowler’s toad and the Eastern American toad. The Eastern American toad is the most common, and both this species and the Fowler’s toad have glands on their heads that secrete a toxin that has a bitter taste. While not deadly, it can cause drooling, vomiting and sometimes pawing at the face or eyes if a dog or cat licks or picks up a toad in his mouth. Most pets will drop the toad quickly once they get a taste of the toxin but vomiting may occur if the toad is ingested. The toxin is a defense mechanism released by the toad when it feels threatened. The bitter taste makes it less likely that the toad will be eaten.
If your pet has picked up a toad and is drooling, try to rinse out her mouth with water. If your pet is vomiting repeatedly or has swelling of the face or eyes, a trip to the vet is in order. Symptomatic care may be in order such as anti-nausea drugs, drugs that coat the gastrointestinal tract or eye medications if the substance has caused conjunctivitis.
In some states like California, Florida, New Mexico and southern Texas, the marine toad or cane toad and the Colorado River toad have more potent toxins which can cause tremors, seizures, low heart rate and cardiac arrhythmias which can be fatal within hours, so be aware of this if you travel with your pet.
Lucky for us, the toads our pets may encounter in York County are not deadly, but the toxins emitted when they are threatened can cause unpleasant symptoms in dogs, and, less commonly, cats if ingested. Symptoms can mimic other types of toxins, so, if your pet is drooling or vomiting and you are unsure if he or she has been exposed to a toad, have him or her seen by your veterinarian.
This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.