Toxins and poisoning: Action plan for dogs poisoned by toads

Toads are often depicted in fairy tales, in children’s books as the allies of witches and of the elements of the dark. Apparently, these depictions are justified. The brown and wart riddled body of toads are repulsive enough but what makes these amphibians scary is the fact that the poisons they have can kill a dog in minutes. Surprising, isn’t it? Not many dog owners are aware of this fact.

Dog breeds that hunt vermin will be enticed to follow and capture these toads. Dogs are very playful and some breeds may find it amusing to play with toads. Because of the high prey drive, dogs may be tempted to devour toads too. Toads are slow moving thus they can be easily captured. Compared to the size of dogs, toads will have no chance of escape. However, they do have a very dangerous defense mechanism. When a toad is being threatened, a milky substance will be secreted by a gland situated at the back of the head. This milky substance was once used by hunters in Africa and South America. Arrow tips are dipped into the toad’s venom to make them more potent hunting weapons. This highly toxic substance can kill a dog in minutes. A stressed toad will squirt the milky white substance into the eyes of the predators. This substance will be rapidly absorbed by the mucus membranes in the mouth when the dog bites the toad. The venom will rapidly affect the neurological, cardiac and gastrointestinal systems of the dog. Toad poisoning is an emergency situation. The dog has to be taken to the nearest veterinary facility. Calling the vet beforehand is advised as every minute counts to save the life of the pet. Unfortunately, dog owners unaware of the symptoms of toad poisoning may not know what actions to take.

Once the dog bites the toad, the venom that gets into the mouth will be readily absorbed by the gums. Brick red gums are the hallmark signs of toad poisoning. The dog that salivates excessively, would paw at the mouth and try to vomit. Constant head shaking and eyes that rapidly move from side to side will be followed by twitching. The dog would have tightly clamped jaws and stiffened legs. A dog poisoned by a toad would be a pitiful sight as it would continuously cry as if it is in immense pain. The dog may no longer be able to stand until it collapses and have a seizure. Owners aware that the dog is showing toad poisoning symptoms should act immediately to save the life of the pet.

Owners should always have an action plan if and when these emergency situations happen. Short of keeping the dog under lock and key, accidents can never be prevented. The very first thing the dog owner has to do is to keep calm. The survival of the pet will depend on the action of the owner. Puppies must be rushed to the vet’s. The risk for death would be greater as puppies would get more venom per body weight. Owners of larger dogs can rub the dog’s gums and mouth with toothpaste and with a garden hose, flush the mouth with water. Care must be done so that the water will not flow towards the throat and get into the lungs. This can be done by holding the head of the dog down and directing the flow of water towards the side of the mouth. This can be difficult as the distressed dog will be resistant. A better option is to use a wet cloth to gently scrub the gums to remove the toad’s venom from the mouth of the pet. If the venom was sufficiently removed the brick red color of the gums should fade. The next course of action is to take the pet to the vet’s.

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