Protect your dog from poisonous cane toads
Hawaiian Humane Society
It happens all too often: A playful dog bites a Bufo marinus (cane toad) and the dog's frantic owner quickly phones their veterinarian. "I'm so scared! My dog won't stop drooling and shaking his head. What should I do?"
Depending on the size of the dog and how much toxin was ingested, symptoms can progress to tightly clamped jaws, heartbeat irregularities and even death. So the answer is to immediately start first aid and then seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
First aid includes washing out the dog's mouth with a steady stream of water, especially along the gums. Don't point the water down the dog's throat or allow him to swallow. Gently wipe toxic secretions off the gums and teeth with a cotton towel and rinse again with water. If the dog continues to salivate or shows other symptoms, take the dog to a veterinary clinic immediately.
"Because there are large numbers of bufo toads in Hawai'i's residential areas, many dogs get poisoned every year and, unfortunately, some die," said Nicholas Palumbo, a Honolulu veterinarian.
"Cats are usually smarter. Pets who bite the toad at the parotoid glands (one on each shoulder behind the eardrum) and swallow the toxin can die before you have time to drive to the clinic."
Because of their small size, cats, puppies and small-breed dogs are more seriously affected by toad poisoning than adult and large-breed dogs.
Cane toads are large, heavily built amphibians with dry warty skin and a bony head with ridges over their eyes. They sit upright and move in short, rapid hops. They can grow to be 4 to 9 inches long and weigh more than 2 pounds.
Adult bufos are active at night, often found sitting fearlessly just inches away from a light awaiting flying insects. They also eat pet food that is left outside, sitting inside the dish to dine.
Medication can control the seizures, the salivation and the heart irregularity if you can take the animal to a veterinarian quickly. Treatment can be expensive.
If you have seen bufos in your yard, here's how to keep your canine pal safe:
- Don't allow your dog outside unsupervised after sunset. Toads are nocturnal.
- When it is raining, stay with your dog in a lighted area and keep your eyes open. Toads come out more when it's wet.
- Check the yard thoroughly before you let your dog outside alone in the early morning.
- Lush plants and landscaping make ideal hiding spots for toads even during daylight hours.
"Morning, daytime, nighttime, and in the rain, there is never a good time to leave your dog unattended if you share your yard with bufos," Palumbo said. "We recommend supervising your dog outside whenever possible, along with prompt veterinary treatment if symptoms occur."
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These particular animals may have already found new homes. Please visit to see all the wonderful pets in person. The Hawaiian Humane Society & McInerny Dog Park at 2700 Wai'alae Ave. are open Mondays through Fridays, noon to 8 p.m., weekends 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The incoming animals area always is open. If you've lost or found an animal, call the humane society at 946-2187, ext. 285. Its Web site is www.hawaiianhumane.org.