The cane toad was originally introduced to Australia in a misguided effort to control the sugar cane beetle, but the species soon spread. It is now regarded as a major pest and is endemic across Eastern Australia.
Cane toads cause a number of problems, and they're also extremely poisonous. Dogs are a common victim, so here's everything you need to know to ensure that your pooch remains protected.
Understand the Risks
Firstly, dog owners should appreciate that the cane toad does not need to be killed or bitten into in order to release its poison. These pests exude their milky white poison from glands beneath their eyes, squeezing it out whenever they feel like they are under threat. Dogs can become infected by either licking them or holding one in their mouths – something which is particularly common in retrieving breeds. If you see your dog handling a cane toad in any way, it might have become infected.
Recognise the Signs
Dogs are affected by the poison of the cane toad extremely quickly, so the sudden development of these symptoms should act as a strong warning that they may require immediate assistance. Their gums may appear red and slimy, and they may begin to paw at their mouths. Vomiting is also common, as is a noticeable level of disorientation. Your dog may also begin to shake or show signs of muscle rigidity. The most serious cases are characterised by an extremely rapid heart rate.
Take Appropriate Action
If any of these symptoms present themselves, or if you have any reason to believe that your dog has been in contact with cane toad poison, you need to act fast. To start with, make sure that you clean out the dog's mouth. Remember, this is poison instead of venom, so it enters the body after being ingested rather than injected into the bloodstream.
Your dog may still have some of that poison in their mouth, so use a hose to clean it out, ensuring that the water doesn't flow down into the throat. Next, use a wet cloth to clean around the gums and under the tongue, as well as any small cuts you might see in the dog's mouth. Make sure you don't make the mistake of letting your dog eat or drink before their mouth has been thoroughly cleaned out—food and water may carry excess poison down into their stomach.
Once your dog's mouth has been cleared of poison, contact your nearest vet to let them know what has happened, then take them to a vet clinic without delay to make certain that they will be okay.
Finally, make sure that you don't handle the toad yourself. Its poison can be absorbed through small cuts in the skin, and it is just as dangerous to humans as it is to dogs. If you do end up handling it by mistake, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly as soon as possible.
Remember to properly supervise your dog when it's outside in an area where cane toads are known to be prevalent, and commit the information in this guide to memory. It could just save your dog's life.