Exploring the world around them is part of your dog’s nature, but both curiosity and prey drive can get your dog into some dilemmas, especially when it comes to wildlife. We know there are some critters out there, big and small, that can pose a danger to our pups. So, what about frogs? Are they poisonous to dogs?
If your dog has had a run in with a frog, don’t panic. Though all frogs produce skin secretions as a defense mechanism against predators, most will not pose significant risk to your dog. That being said, some can be very dangerous, so identifying the species and contacting your veterinarian, if necessary, should be at the top of your do list in this situation. Keep reading to learn more.
Frog/Toad Poisoning in Dogs
There can be some confusion between frogs and toads, so it’s important to know that toads are a sub-classification of frogs meaning all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads. Poison is a common chemical defense mechanism in nature and most amphibians, including frogs, produce various chemical secretions from the skin to protect themselves from predators.1
The toxins produced by a frog’s skin glands will vary depending on the species. When it comes to poisoning, most species are only mildly toxic, however, there are two species of toad in the United States that can cause severe poisoning and be potentially life threatening to your pooch.\
Most Toxic Species of Toad in the United States
Toads are poisonous throughout all life stages. The good news is that the most dangerous species of toad have a very limited range within the United States. However, if you are within native range of either of the following species of toad and your dog has encountered one, you need to contact your veterinarian right away.
Both of the following toads are incredibly poisonous, and this would be considered a medical emergency and prompt treatment is required.
Cane Toad (Rhinella marina)
Also known as the giant neotropical toad or marine toad, the cane toad is native to South America, stretching up through Central America and up into southern Texas. They have also been introduced to other areas including Florida, Hawaii, the Caribbean Islands, Guam, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Australia.
These terrestrial toads inhabit the open grasslands and woodlands and reach 6 to 9 inches in length. They produce a highly toxic skin secretion known as bufotoxin. This toxin can cause severe illness and death to both native wildlife and domesticated pets if they are to bite or eat the toad. They are also toxic to humans and can burn the skin and eyes of those that attempt to handle them.
Colorado River Toad (Incilius alvarius)
Also known as the Sonoran Desert toad, the Colorado River toad is native to the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Though their range is quite limited within the United States, those that reside from Central Arizona into Southwestern New Mexico, should be cautious of this species.
Like the cane toad, they are one of the largest species of toad in North America, reaching up to 7 inches or more. They inhabit the grasslands, arid desert lowlands, and mountain canyons within their native range. They produce highly toxic skin secretions that are poisonous to both humans and animals that come in contact. These toxins also include psychoactive properties and can cause severe illness and death in dogs.
What Causes Toad Poisoning?
As mentioned, toads secrete toxic substances through glands on their skin. These substances will be secreted in larger amounts when the animal feels threatened. When a toad is either licked or eaten, these toxins will be absorbed through mucous membranes or any open wounds, resulting in poisoning. If your dog were to drink water containing eggs, or even a bowl that a toad has been in, poisoning can also occur.
Signs of Toad Poisoning
If you live in or are visiting an area with these poisonous toads and your dog has come into contact with one, you need to contact your veterinarian or a nearby emergency vet clinic right away. Early intervention on the owner’s part is very important and can make a difference between life and death.
This includes removing as much toxin from your dog’s mouth and skin as possible by rinsing it with cool water as you work on seeking prompt veterinary care.
The clinical signs will often develop rapidly and include:
Treatment & Prognosis
Since exposure to a toad with bufotoxin is a medical emergency, owners should seek out care immediately. Rinsing the toxin from the mouth or skin with lots of water should be done right away as you work to get your dog to the veterinary clinic.
Treatment includes supportive care such as:
Prognosis for toad poisoning depends on the severity and how quickly treatment is rendered. Dogs that develop only mild, localized irritation often have a good prognosis. On the other hand, dogs that develop more severe clinical signs such as seizures or heart arrhythmias have a poorer prognosis.
With prompt and early treatment some dogs with toad poisoning can make a full recovery but in cases where dogs have been exposed to either a cane toad or Colorado River toad and treatment is either delayed or avoided, mortality rates are very high.
The 6 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe from Toad Poisoning
1. Never Hesitate to Call Your Vet
Anytime you have concerns about your dog’s health, you should contact your veterinarian. When it comes to local wildlife, your veterinarian will be well versed in any potential dangers that are in your region and can provide you with the best guidance. If your vet does not offer after-hours services, keep contact information available for a local emergency clinic that operates 24 hours a day.
2. Supervise Your Dog While Outdoors
Keeping a close eye on your dog, especially in areas that are known habitats for poisonous or venomous wildlife, is important. Unless you are in a secure fenced area, keep your dog leashed so that you have more control over where they are going and what they are exploring. If your dog is off leash, keep a close eye on them and be mindful of what they are getting into.
3. Keep Food and Water Bowls Inside
Toads tend to be attracted to water and will also lay their eggs in it. Your dog is at risk of toxicity if it drinks water containing eggs, or even from a water bowl that a toxic toad has been in. The best way to prevent this from happening if you live or are currently in an area where either the cane toad or the Colorado River toad is native, is keeping all food and water bowls indoors and supervising any drinking water while outside.
4. Bring Your Dog Indoors at Night or After a Rain
Toads are most active at night and immediately following a rain. If you live in an area with more dangerous toad species, make sure you bring your dog in at nightfall or after rain to ensure they are safely inside during their toad’s most active time.
5. Keep Your Yard Clean
Toads will often hide under debris, bushes, and various objects during the day to avoid direct sunlight. If your yard is full of hiding spots, you are more likely to have toads hiding out somewhere. In areas native to heavily toxic toads, make sure your yard is clean of any potential hiding places or be sure to check them often to prevent an unpleasant encounter.
6. Consider a Barrier
In areas where there are large amounts of dangerous toads, you may consider wire mesh barriers to keep them from entering certain areas of your yard, especially those where your pets frequent. It will need to be an appropriate height to keep them from scaling the fence.
Frogs secrete a toxic substance from their skin to protect themselves from predators. Thankfully, most frogs and toads in the United States will cause only mild clinical signs. However, if you are in an area that is inhabited by either the cane toad or the Colorado River toad, these two species are incredibly dangerous to dogs and contact with either one is a medical emergency. Always reach out to your veterinarian if you ever have concerns over something your dog has come in contact with, or if they are experiencing any unusual signs.
Featured Image Credit: feathercollector, Shutterstock