Cane toad symptoms of poisoning depend on the amount of toxin absorbed and the length of time from when your pet was exposed to the toxin. The cane toad venom contains three different toxin forms which target the cardiac and nervous system. If only a small dose is absorbed the symptoms your pet is likely to experience are like those of a psychedelic drug and is unlikely to be fatal. In larger doses, however, dogs and cats will experience a range of more severe symptoms, and in extreme cases can lead to death if not treated quickly.
Some signs and symptoms are drooling or foaming at the mouth, red/slimey gums, pawing at their mouth, vomiting and panting. They can also have more severe symptoms such as wobbley gait, muscle twitches/tremors, seizures and even death.
Two symptoms which uniquely may occur in cats when they encounter cane toad toxin are weakness of limbs and a fixed trance-like stare.
How do I treat cane toad poisoning in my dog?
If your dog has licked a toad:
- Use a damp cloth and wipe inside your pet’s mouth to remove the slime from their gums and tongue. This usually this takes 10 to 20 minutes.
- Your initial first aid may be enough.
- NEVER use a hose to flush the toxin from their mouth – as this can make them to inhale the water causing life-threatening pneumonia
- Take your dog to the vet immediately
Are dead cane toads still poisonous?
Cane toads are poisonous at all stages of their life cycle, including dead ones. Their toxins break down extremely slowly. The ingestion of their toxin can be fatal, or at least cause serious symptoms. If you do come across a dead cane toad it is important to dispose of it properly. Either bury it deep enough that your pet can’t dig it up or throw it out with the garbage.
How to prevent your dog encountering cane toads:
You can put these measures in place to lessen the chances of your dog encountering cane toads:
- Dogs can ingest the toxin just from eating food or drinking water a toad has sat in.
- Use a raised water bowl and change the water frequently (every morning before your pet drinks it)
- Keep your pets inside at night, or in a section of your yard which is easy to keep free of cane toads
- Take your dog out on a lead to the toilet at night time and use a flashlight to ensure they are safe
- Teach your dog to stay away from cane toads, while effective for some dogs it isn’t for others
- Be vigilant during the wetter seasons of the year, as this is when toads are most active
- Can toads eat anything, including pet food, so avoid leaving bowls of food lying around
- Cover swimming pools
- Turn off as many outside lights as possible
- Place a mesh screen around the outside of your fence. Bury the screen by at least 10cm and extend it by at least 50cm
- Try and trap toads with funnel traps along your fence
What to do if you find a cane toad in your yard:
Remove all young children and pets from the area to prevent risk of contact and poisoning.
The cane toad is a pest and viewed as a threat to Australia’s native wildlife. Pests should still be euthanized 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.
You can also consider staged cooling. You can put the toad in a bag or container which is labelled and refrigerate for 12 hours until it is 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.