Monday, January 17th, 2022
Protect Your Pets from Poisonous Bufo Toads
(Click picture to enlarge)
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey
For many pets, investigating and chasing little “critters” in the yard is just part of playtime. But it can turn deadly if the object of their curiosity is a Bufo marinus toad. These non-native toads, also known as Giant toads, Marine toads, or Cane toads, have been sickening and killing pets in Florida for years – and they’re established in Highlands County. I have found dozens in one neighborhood and several in another, as well as hearing of reports of toads and toad poisoning in several other areas in Sebring and Lake Placid.
The Bufo toad defends itself from would-be predators by releasing toxin from large parotoid glands that extend behind its eyes down to the shoulder areas. If a pet attempts to bite the toad or its mouth comes in contact with the milky-white poisonous secretion, death can occur in a matter of minutes. The toxin can also be absorbed through broken skin or mucous membranes such as the eyes or nose.
Adult Bufo toads are stocky and generally between 4” to 6” long but can grow to 9” and weigh as much as 3 pounds. Their warty skin may be olive-brown or brown to grayish-brown with a creamy yellow underside. Bufo toads resemble Florida’s native Southern toad, which doesn’t grow over 3.5” long and is not deadly to pets.
Symptoms of Bufo toad poisoning may vary depending upon the size of your pet, the size of the toad, and how much toxin was absorbed. They include clawing and/or foaming at the mouth, profuse salivation, paralysis, shallow breathing, twitching, vomiting, trembling, irregular heartbeat, seizures, whining, bright red gums/tongue, tightly clamped jaw, loss of coordination, and head-shaking.
If you suspect your pet has ingested Bufo toxin, immediately rinse its mouth out from the side with a hose, making sure to keep your pet’s head pointed downward so the water and toxin aren’t swallowed and it doesn’t choke. Rub the mouth and gums with your fingers or a wet washcloth to remove the toxin, then immediately phone your vet for further instructions.
Lessening the Risk of Toad/Pet Encounters
There are measures you can take to help lessen your pet's chances of encountering this deadly amphibian. Bufo toads are attracted to pet food and water, so don’t leave your pet’s food or water dish outside. Although not a guaranteed method, you can attempt to exclude the toads from your yard with fine mesh fencing (such as hardware cloth) extending at least two feet above ground and buried six inches to a foot deep to help prevent them from burrowing underneath it. Since toads are primarily nocturnal, always supervise your dog outside between dawn and dusk, and keep cats inside. Rain also brings the toads out, so closely watch your pet if he or she goes out in wet weather. Eliminate potential hiding spots, such as long grass, lush landscaping, and yard debris.
Listen to the Call of a Bufo Toad
For more detailed information and to hear what a Bufo toad sounds like, visit the Florida Wildlife Extension at UF/IFAS website at http://www.wec.ufl.edu/extension/wildlife_info/frogstoads/bufo_marinus.php. There is also an excellent downloadable PDF document you can print out as a reference.
To watch a short National Geographic video of the killer bufo toad, go to http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/explorer/2587/Photos?#tab-Videos/02186_01.
Time to Vaccinate Horses Against Deadly Mosquito-Borne Viruses
Florida Agricultural and Consumer Commissioner Charles Bronson urges horse owners to vaccinate their horses against Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus.
West Nile Virus and EEE are mosquito-borne diseases that affect the central nervous system of infected horses; EEE usually results in death. Since vaccinations prevent a majority of the infections, Commissioner Bronson is urging horse owners to contact their veterinarians to ensure their horses’ vaccinations and booster shots are current, and to keep them up to date. Although it may be tempting to forego vaccinations during this tough economy, the cost of vaccinations is quite inexpensive compared to the agonizing death of a beloved horse.
Signs EEE in horses may include:
- Walking in circles
- Coma, resulting in death
Signs of West Nile Virus in horses may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Tilting of the head
- Inability to swallow
- Walking in circles
- Paralysis/weakness of hind limbs
- Hyper excitability
Other diseases may exhibit some of these same symptoms. If your horse develops symptoms, contact your veterinarian for definitive lab tests.
Mosquitoes are at their peak at dawn and dusk, so stabling horses during those times will help to reduce their exposure. Following are additional steps that can help prevent the spread of mosquitoes by reducing or eliminating favorable breeding conditions - i.e., stagnant, standing water:
- Remove objects that hold water, such as old tires, buckets, garbage cans and lids, etc.
- Empty children’s wading pools and properly maintain and clean swimming pools
- Keep rain gutters clear of debris
- Clean and replace water in birdbaths and livestock watering troughs every few days
- Fill puddles with dirt if possible
Have You Seen Dead Birds?
The Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) and Florida Department of Health monitor bird die-offs as a tool to track Avian Influenza and West Nile Virus. If you see a dead bird, don’t touch or handle it, but report it to the FWC by filling out the form found on the following link: http://myfwc.com/bird/.
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