FLORIDA — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is warning about a lethal risk to household pets you may have seen hopping around your lawn.
Bufo, or cane, toads are the largest toads in the world. Native to South America, they were introduced to Florida to limit the effect insects have on the sugar industry. Unfortunately, the toads also secret a toxin from their skin that is toxic to humans and lethal to pets.
The toxic toads have made their reappearance, and pet owners in southern, central and the Panhandle of Florida have been on the lookout for the lethal hazard. Cane toads can be found all over Florida, but come out in large numbers after rain showers.
Dogs may try to play with one of the poisonous toads and end up with the toxin on their nose or in their mouth.
All it takes is a quick lick or a sniff. Fifteen minutes later, your dog could be dead.
An interactive map from The University of Georgia - Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health shows where the toads are being reported.
How to spot them
- Reddish-brown to grayish-brown in color
- Light-yellow or beige belly
- Enlarged glands behind the eyes that angle down to the shoulders
- 6 to 9 inches in length
- Do not have ridges across the head, that's a southern toad
What to do if your pet bites or swallows a bufo toad
Symptoms may include:
- Frantic or disoriented behavior
- Brick red gums
- Foaming at the mouth
What to do:
- Wash toxins forward out of mouth using a hose for ten minutes being careful not to direct water down the throat
- Wipe gums/tongue with dish towel to remove toxins
- Get your pet to the vet!
- Mow and trim your yard: Keep grass short so you can spot the toads. Bring underside of shrubs off the ground to eliminate hiding places for the toads.
- Clean up: Messes attract pests. Outdoor food and water bowls for pets, brush piles and other clutter can attract toads and their prey, which in turn attracts toads.
- Watch out: Cane toads are nocturnal, so watch your pets while outside at night. Don’t allow your pets to nose around in bushes while on walks.
If you do decide to hunt the amphibian, the FWC recommends using gloves to rub a benzocaine, like Orajel, on the toad’s belly and put it in the freezer for 24 hours.