The Sonoran Desert Toad is the largest toad in North America and a threat to curious dogs if licked. Today, our Cave Creek veterinarians share why this toad is dangerous, symptoms of illness due to poisoning and what to do if your dog encounters this animal.
Why Is the Sonoran Desert Toad Dangerous?
The Sonoran Desert Toad (also known as Bufo alvarius) is one of 12 species of toads. The largest toad in North America, it measures 7 inches in diameter and has adapted to the desert's sporadic rainfall. Many spend most of their time underground waiting for the monsoon rains.
Green to grey-green in color, the toad may live near springs or sources of permanent water — even in your yard where your dog likely wanders. Over time, toads have developed a chemical defense system to protect themselves from predators. Glands located on their backs can produce toxins that may inebriate and even kill any animal that licks or puts it in its mouth.
What Are Symptoms of Toad Poisoning?
Symptoms of poisoning due to Sonoran Desert Toads include:
- Excessive salivation
- Irregular heartbeat and gait
- Pawing at mouth
This is verifiable because naive dogs are not the only ones known to lick toads. People have also been known to imbibe in toad secretions in an effort to get high.
How Can I Prevent My Dog from Being Poisoned by a Toad?
While older, more experienced dogs are not as likely to get involved with toads as are puppies or hyperactive pets, we recommend keeping a close eye on your dog. Because your pup is most likely to encounter a toad after dusk, be careful about letting him out at night unsupervised.
You should also bring water dishes inside at night since there have been cases where a dog was poisoned by water in which a toad had soaked.
Finally, know your toad — the other 11 species are less toxic and unlikely to be in your yard.
What Should I Do If My Dog Licks a Sonoran Desert Toad?
If your dog does have an unfortunate encounter with a toad, immediately wash your dog's mouth out with a garden hose from back to front. Make sure his head is pointed down to flush the toxin out and to not allow any more to be ingested.
Finally, call your vet, as this would qualify as a veterinary emergency. While there is no antidote for toad poison, some of the life-threatening symptoms can be treated.