Toxic post-monsoon toads pose threat to Tucson pets

pets_colorado river toadIt’s almost monsoon season and it’ll be raining toads — Colorado River toads (a.k.a. Sonoran Des­ert toads), that is!

The Colorado River toad is a large, bumpy, brown amphibian that is a common nocturnal visitor to Tucson yards every monsoon season. Most of the year they live buried in the ground but they become active after it rains. The Colorado River toad is very persistent when looking for a mate, so you may find a toad in your yard, despite wire fencing or wire mesh snake guards.

Colorado River toads have their place in the ecosystem because they ingest large quantities of bugs. Although they may keep your yard free of bugs, the toads are dangerous for pets as they have glands in their skin that secrete a potentially deadly hallucinogenic neu­ro­toxin when attacked by a predator.

Unfortunately, dogs and cats love to play with the toads. If you see your pet mouthing or ingesting a toad, watch for the following signs of intoxication: mouth irritation, bright red gums, excessive drooling, seizures, weakness, collapse, vomiting or diarrhea.

If your pet is observed playing with a Colorado River toad, rapid intervention is the key. The first step is to wash your pet’s mouth out thoroughly with water. Point your pet’s head downward and rinse its mouth for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. A garden hose works well for a large dog, while the water sprayer on your kitchen sink works well for smaller dogs. Use a gentle water pressure and point the stream of water across the mouth. Do not point the water flow toward the back of your pet’s mouth, as doing so may cause inhalation of water resulting in aspiration, pneumonia or drowning.

Once you have rinsed your pet’s mouth thoroughly, seek immediate care at your primary care veterinarian’s office or an emergency veterinary clinic. Further intervention such as IV fluids and medications may be needed to counteract the less common signs of poisoning, such as an irregular heartbeat, seizures and shock. Immediate action by you and your veterinarian enables most pets to respond positively within one to two hours after treatment begins.

Tucson’s summer desert holds many dangers. Your pet depends on you to keep him or her safe from heat, wildlife and swimming pools. Careful monitoring of your pet while outside can prevent many accidents from happening.

Courtesy of Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson, located at 4909 N. La Cañada Drive. Contact them at 795-9955 or