Strong Dogz

Danger:  Toads!

Did you know that an encounter with a toad could have devastating consequences?

This article pays special attention to toads and also talk a little about venomous snakes, spiders and even your bar of chocolate!

The Common Toad (Bufo Bufo)

Click on image to Enlarge

Common Toad

A Few Facts:

All toads are poisonous either by being eaten or by being mouthed.The native British toad, Bufus vulgarisis is much less toxic than some exotic species, eg Bufus blombergi, Bufus alvarius, Bufus marinus.

Signs: inflammation of the mouth and pharynx with excessive salivation and retching, abdominal pain, vomiting, neurological and cardiovascular effects.

In the U.K. the signs are usually confined to local oral effects. Contact with exotic toads is more likely to cause the more severe systemic effects and these may be fatal.

Treatment: symptomatic. Contact your vet immediately and follow their advice.

Prognosis: good following exposure to native UK toads; guarded otherwise.

Toads range in size from 2 – 25 cm (1 – 10 inches). The poison is located in the raised area behind the eyes, known as the parotid gland. Poison is also present in the warts found on the toad’s skin. The toad secretes poison when it feels threatened. Toads are nocturnal creatures, belonging to the amphibian group of animals. They live on land but breed in water. The toad will often burrow itself underground and remain there for long periods of time, particularly during droughts or very cold weather. They are more likely to be seen at night and in wet weather conditions.

A little bit more information on the symptoms of toad poisoning:

A dog may show some or all of the following symptoms after mouthing or biting a toad:

  • Drooling, head shaking, pawing at the mouth, whining.
  • Change in colour of membranes of mouth.
  • Attempting to vomit, vomiting, diarrhoea.
  • Loss of coordination, irregular heartbeat, difficulty in breathing.
  • Convulsions, foaming at mouth, tightly clamped jaws.
  • The venom can cause rapid heart failure.

What To Do If you Suspect Toad Poisoning:

  • Ring the emergency vet.
  • Rinse out the dog’s mouth with copious amounts of water for at least five minutes. You do NOT want them to swallow it though.  Fill the water bowl. With one hand hold your dog’s mouth open with head facing downwards.  Scoop up water from the water bowl with other hand and rinse mouth letting the water come back out onto the floor.
  • If the dog is having a seizure handle it with caution.  The dog may not recognize his owner and could unknowingly bite.
  • Keep your pet cool as they can overheat when convulsing.
  • Patients that have been treated before enough of the toxin has had a chance to reach the system, within about 30 minutes, have a good chance of recovery. However, the overall prognosis is not good for most animals, and death is very common in dogs that have been exposed to toad venom.
  • It is vital to get prompt treatment for your dog. Try to be at your veterinary surgery within 15 minutes as this can make a life-saving difference. Treatment may vary dependent on vet and severity of symptoms.

Are Cats Or People At Risk From Toad Poisoning?
It is extremely rare for cats to succumb to toad poising but not impossible. Cats seem to be more aware of the threat posed by these amphibians and tend to stay away. However, if you are concerned that your cat has been in contact with a toad, the same procedure as for dogs would apply.

In humans, toad toxin exposure is not considered hazardous but it can cause severe irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. The use of rubber gloves is recommended when handling a toad.

Adder bites

Click on image to Enlarge

European Adder

The adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain. Adders have the most highly developed venom injecting mechanism of all snakes, but they are not aggressive animals. Adders will normally only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or trodden on. Adults are around 50-60cm long and are characterised by having a black / brown zigzag pattern along their back and V shaped marking on the back of the head. They are commonly found on dry, sandy heaths, sand dunes, rocky hillsides, woodland edges and moorland.  They generally only bite when provoked by humans, dogs or cats.

The European adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK.

Three factors affect the seriousness of a snake bite:

1. The size of the animal bitten.

2. The location of the bite.

3. The type of snake.

Adder bites may require antiserum – in general dogs require more antiserum then humans.  If your dog is bitten by a snake please seek veterinary attention. If you are bitten by a snake, please seek medical attention.

Try to remember the shape, size and colour of the snake and keep the part of the body that has been bitten as still as possible to prevent the venom spreading.  Snake bites are rare in most of the UK.

All of the following can be dangerous for your dog:

  • Spiders (False Widow Spider)
  • Adders.
  • Toads.
  • Jelly fish.
  • Scorpions.
  • Chocolate. (The darker, the more toxic)
  • Onion.
  • Raisins, grapes, currants and sultanas.
  • Flowers. Daffodils can be toxic, most often after ingestion of the bulb but occasionally after ingestion of flower heads. Bluebells are poisonous to dogs. Crocuses and Tulips, are considered to be less toxic but seek veterinary advice if you are worried your pet has ingested them. Ivy is also toxic for dogs as are holly, mistletoe and poinsettia.
  • Xylitol is an artificial sweetener commonly found in sugar free chewing gum, nicotine replacement gum, sweets and as a sugar substitute in baking.
  • Ant powders, baits and gels. Slug and snail pellets. Anticoagulant rodenticides.
  • Luminous necklaces
  • Oak/acorns and conkers.
  • Batteries.
  • Antifreeze.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen or aspirin. 

This list is not exhaustive.  If you are in any way concerned that your dog may have been poisoned then contact your vet immediately. 

In most cases the best course of action is to get your pet to the veterinary surgery as soon as possible. However, in some cases you may be advised to give some immediate first-aid treatment at home. If your pet is already showing signs of poisoning do not attempt to make it vomit or drink anything but seek immediate veterinary care.

The False Widow Spider.

Click on image to Enlarge

The False Widow Spider

What Can You Do To Protect Your Dog?

Use force-free training techniques to teach your dog the following cues:

Leave it.  Teaching your dog to leave something when you ask him to could save his life.   When using food to teach this cue, do not reward with the food you have asked him to leave.  Pick the food up off the floor and reward with a higher value food.  You do not want your dog to start anticipating that you are going to release him to the very thing you just asked him to leave!

Come.   Teach your dog a great recall!  Never use your recall cue if you don’t think your dog will respond – go and get him instead.  Never punish your dog for not coming back to you, as he will be less likely to come back in future. 

Watch Me.  Teaching your dog eye contact could be all you need to get him to focus on you rather than the snake, toad or anything else you want him to avoid making contact with.

Stop!  Teach your dog an emergency stop.  Once you have taught your dog to stop on cue, increase the level of urgency in your voice.  Remember:  if you use the cue in an emergency you may well shout or even scream it.  You don’t want your dog to be so frightened of you shouting “stop” that they freeze or run away (perhaps straight into what you are trying to get them to avoid). 

How To Teach Your Dog An Emergency Stop.

A rapid response to any of these cues could prevent an encounter that might be extremely dangerous for your dog!  Be sure to use lots of high value rewards.  NEVER punish your dog for not responding to these cues, as this could make him LESS likely to respond in future.  Teach all cues in a non-distracting environment (e.g. in your kitchen) before teaching in more distracting environments.  You want your dog to succeed, so set them up for success!  Reward your dog EVERY time they get it right, as what is rewarded will be repeated!  If your dog gets it wrong you perhaps need to go back to teaching in a less distracting place and/or increase the value of the reward.  Remember:  just because you think something is rewarding, doesn’t mean your dog does!  Make sure to reinforce with something your dog loves!  A ball, a tug, a Frisbee, a piece of hotdog…

  • Always have your vet’s telephone number with you.
  • It can be useful to carry an anti-histamine such as zyrtec or piriton.
  • Try not to panic. 

Please note:
The author assumes no liability for the content of this article. This advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide.

Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment IMMEDIATELY if you are worried about your pet’s health – even if they are closed, they will always have an out of hours service available.

 Article by
Louise Stapleton-Frappell

Trainer for,  Jambo – The Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog. First “EVER” Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be a Crowned Trick Master Champion. for more details click the link HERE.