The Poisonous Cane Toad

Creature Feature

One of the most important RV tips is being aware of potential threats in the environment you’ll be camping in. If you’re planning a trip to Florida, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the deadly cane toad.

From wild boars to alligators, we hear a lot about dangerous species in Florida. Something you might not have heard about is the invasion of toxic toads that are taking over outdoor areas across the state. Cane toads, also known as Bufo toads, marine toads, or giant neotropical toads, originate from South and Central America. They were introduced to Florida in the 1930s to help control pests in sugar cane crops. The current infestation is believed to be the result of the exotic pet trade.

Getting up close and personal with the poisonous Cane Toad isn’t a good idea for the family pets.

Unfortunately, cane toads are quite dangerous to humans and pets who may spend time in the state.

The Dangers of the Cane Toad

Cane toads, much like many other species of toads and frogs, are poisonous. When the toad senses a threat, the glands on its back will begin to secrete a toxic white slime. The slime is particularly dangerous to dogs, cats, and other pets that might attempt to eat or play with the toad.

The toxin released by the toad can kill a dog or cat within 15 minutes. Considering that most RV travelers prefer to camp more than 15 minutes away from civilization, it’s easy to see what a severe danger this presents.

Cane Toads vs Southern Toads

Cane toads can be various shades of brown, tan, or gray. They have bumpy skin and dark spots on their backs. If you look closely, you’ll be able to see the triangular poison glands on their shoulders.

Photo credit New Hanover County Cooperative Extension as shared by UF IFAS on Facebook.

These toxic toads are often confused with the native Southern toad, which is also common in Florida. The native Southern toad is harmless. You can tell the difference between the two species by examining the toad’s head. The native Southern toad has ridges on its head and knobs behind its eyes. Cane toads have smooth heads.

Toad Poisoning in Dogs

Cane toads are toxic to both dogs and cats, but they pose the greatest threat to dogs. This is because most RV campers allow their dogs to roam around the camp, and cats typically remain inside. Dogs also love to play, which means they’re likely to go after a toad if they see one hopping around camp.

Signs that your dog may have been exposed to a toxic toad include:

  • An increase in drooling or foaming at the mouth.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  • Disorientation.
  • Shivering.
  • Stiff muscles, spasming, or seizures.
  • Red gums or visible slime in the mouth.
  • Vomiting.

If you suspect poisoning, begin by using a wet cloth to wipe your dog’s teeth, gums, and tongue as thoroughly as possible. Continue to irrigate the mouth for up to 15 minutes afterward. Try to help your dog keep its head facing downward so more of the poison exits the mouth rather than going down the throat.

After irrigation, head for the nearest emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Cleaning the mouth may not be enough, so it’s important to move quickly to save your dog’s life. A vet can administer fluids and provide medications that may help. If nothing else, a vet will be able to make your dog more comfortable.

Avoiding the Cane Toad at Your RV Campsite

The presence of cane toads doesn’t have to ruin your trip. To avoid problems, keep your dogs inside at night, and maintain a watchful eye when they are roaming around camp. If you notice your dog playing with something, check on the situation right away.

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