Poisoning by toads is rather occasional. They affect dogs more than cats. Curious and playful, the dog becomes intoxicated just by holding the batrachian in its mouth, even without ingesting it.
How to recognize a toad?
Do you know that the toad, contrary to popular belief, is not the male of the frog? Indeed, even if they both belong to the amphibian class, they are indeed two different species!
Let’s see how to distinguish them:
The frog has smooth, slimy skin. Its rear legs are long and folded in Z. It is a rather aquatic animal. The toad, for its part, a rather terrestrial animal (except during the breeding season), has a warty skin without mucus. Unlike the frog, the toad shows a parotoid gland behind the eyes. Finally, when the frog moves, it jumps, while the toad walks.
The common toad ( bufo bufo ) is the most common in Europe. It measures up to 15 cm, the female being larger than the male. It is gray beige tending to brown. Its eyes are orange-red, with a horizontal pupil. Another species found in our countries: the calamite toad (bufo calamita), whose eyes are golden yellow. This one also has a yellow line on the back.
Toads come out of hibernation when temperatures get milder. It is therefore around the month of March that the reproductive cycle begins.
What is toad venom made of?
The toxicity of toads has been known for a long time and has even been used for centuries. Indeed, the toad venom was used in the composition of witchcraft potions, in Chinese medicine remedies, in hallucinogenic rituals. It was also used as a poison in poison arrows or as an aphrodisiac.
The toad’s venom contains about a hundred substances. We find in particular in this one: adrenaline, bufotenin (hallucinogen), bufotenidine (hypertensive and vasoconstrictor), bufotoxin and bufotaline (cardiac toxicity) …
How does the dog become poisoned?
The toad’s venom is sour and creamy white in appearance. It is present in the parotoid glands and in warts on the surface of the body. It constitutes a defense mechanism against predators. As the venom does not pass through the skin, it is when the animal is caught in the mouth that the danger becomes real. When pressure is exerted on the toad, the venom is released. In contact with the mucous membrane, it then quickly enters the bloodstream. The toxicity of the venom varies depending on the species of the toad, and even if the toad is dead, the venom remains toxic.
What are the symptoms ?
Poisoning by toads occurs most often from April to September, when they come out of hibernation to begin their reproduction. When the dog takes the batrachian in the mouth, a local response due to the causticity of the venom first takes place. Inflammation of the oral cavity causes hypersalivation within minutes. Most cases of poisoning are mild. The severity of envenomation depends on the size of the animal exposed, so the risks are greater for small dogs. Systemic involvement is possible, and more serious symptoms may therefore be observed: diarrhea, vomiting, severe pain, cardiac disorders (ranging from arrhythmia to cardiac arrest), neuromuscular disorders (ataxia, hallucinations, convulsions, coma), respiratory disorders (pulmonary edema, etc.).
What if my dog bit a toad?
Medor played with Kermit? Don’t panic. The first emergency step is to rinse your dog’s oral cavity thoroughly. (if possible with alkaline water, for example based on baking soda). Then contact the veterinarian who will assess the situation and the risks.
Currently, there is no antidote! The treatment is therefore eliminatory (rinse the mouth) and symptomatic (digestive dressings, anticonvulsants, treatment of shock, etc.).
In mild cases, the outcome is generally favorable and recovery is rapid in the absence of treatment. On the other hand, given the possible risk of death in the most serious cases, good management is necessary: never hesitate to seek advice from your veterinarian.
As you can see, playing with a toad will not turn your dog into a prince charming! Remember that toads are a protected species: if your dog barks at the amphibian, prevent him from picking up on him. Then shelter the intruder in a safe place for him and your dog!