Bufo Toads, as known as Cane or Marine Toads, are an invasive species found through many areas of Central and South Florida. Originally from Central and South America, they are considered an ecological pest as they are indiscriminate eaters, often eating native wildlife from other frogs to small mammals and birds. Sometimes, they can even be found eating from or in food bowls kept for outside pets.
Adult toads usually range from 4-6 inches but can reach up to 10 inches. All native frog species are = 4 inches. They are grey/tan to dark brown in color with dark spots and warts. The poison glands, aka paratoid glands, appear as a raised triangular area on the shoulder region. In native toads, like the Southern Toad, it is an oval/round shape. Also, Southern Toads have 2 crests on the head, between the eyes. This is not present in Bufo Toads.
Bufo toads do not shoot the toxin. It is present on the skin and is often release in large amounts when the toad is attacked. Therefore, you must come in direct contact with the toad or occasionally a surface that the toad has rubbed on, to become exposed to the toxin. The toxin itself is irritating to mucous membranes (the inside of the mouth, nose, eyes/eyelid, digestive tract in general) and leads to more systemic signs (body-wide) as it absorbed across those membranes.
Symptoms typically appear within in minutes and up to 30 minutes after exposure and consist of:
- Excessive Drooling –> “foaming at the mouth”
- Convulsions –> can proceed to coma
- Reddened gums –> “brick-red” gums
- Loss of Coordination/Disoriented
- Pawing at the mouth/ Head Shaking
- Difficulty +/- rapid breathing
- Fast or slow heart rate
- Elevated body temperature
Prompt medical attention is important as symptoms can be fatal if left untreated. Initial treatment involves limiting toxin absorption and removal (decontamination). As the toxin is thick and sticky, it is recommended to wipe out the pet’s mouth with a wet cloth multiple times and rinsing it out between wipes. Attention needs to be paid to make sure you are swabbing out the roof of the mouth, tongue, gums/teeth, cheeks, and back of mouth if possible.
DO NOT PLACES HANDS OR FINGERS IN THE MOUTH OF THE PET THAT IS HAVING SEIZURES/CONVULSIONS. DO NOT FLUSH THE MOUTH OUT WITH THE HOSE, ESPECIALLY IF THE PET IS VOMITING OR HAVING NEUROLOGIC SYMPTOMS, AS THIS CAN LEAD TO ASPIRATION PNEUMONIA (inhaling of the water/drool/vomit and all the bacteria/toxins/irritating substances into the lungs).
There is no specific cure or treatment for Bufo Toad toxicity. After decontamination, treatment revolves around general stabilization and specific symptoms. Many pets with mild symptoms can go home <12 hours after initial stabilization and treatment. Pets with more severe symptoms, especially those with underlying health conditions, may need to be hospitalized for several days and still need outpatient monitoring for several days after discharge from the hospital.
IF YOUR PET IS SHOWING SIGNS CONSISTENT BUFO TOAD TOXICITY, YOU NEED TO SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION. If you are not certain if your pet was exposed, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and have your pet seen.
Information continued within this article was provided by Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UF Wildlife – Johnson Lab: https://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/frogs/canetoad.shtml . Last updated May 2020.
Additional resources can be found at:
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/amphibians/cane-toad/
Veterinary Specialty Hospital: https://www.vshpalmbeach.com/bufo-toad-poisoning/
Town of Palm Beach: Dealing with Bufo Toads: https://www.townofpalmbeach.com/946/Dealing-with-Cane-Bufo-Toads
Capture & Humane Euthanasia of Invasive Pets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCZlSVbOkWU