by Gigi McWhirter

This is no fairy tale. Whoever said that you can kiss a toad to get a prince has never met the Sonoran Desert Toad (Bufo alvarius). This desert dweller is, in fact, the largest toad in the United States. They can weigh over two pounds and grow up to eight inches in length. They have smooth, leathery, olive green skin. These beauties are at their peak during the Arizona monsoon season — and they are far from harmless.

Also known as the Colorado River Toad, they are highly toxic to dogs and cats and, in fact, are responsible for more canine deaths than rattlesnakes in Arizona. When a dog or a cat licks or eats the toad, it will seep neurotoxins from the head and pores containing bufotenine and 5-MeO-DMT. This can cause the animal’s mouth to foam as well as seizures, a high fever, dilated pupils and a rapid heartbeat. If not treated immediately, it can even lead to death.

It only takes a few seconds for symptoms to appear, after a dog or cat comes in contact with the toad. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Crying or other vocalization
  • Pawing at the mouth and or eyes
  • Excessive drooling of saliva from the mouth
  • Membranes of the mouth may change color and may become pale and or inflamed
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of balance or unsteady movements
  • Seizures
  • High temperature
  • Collapse

Your quick response is the animal’s best chance for survival. If you suspect your dog or cat has come into contact with one of these toads and is suffering from toxicity, and as long as your pet is conscious, immediately flush the pet’s mouth with clear water and try to get out as much of the traces of poison as possible. SEEK VETERINARY CARE IMMEDIATELY! 

As always, please consult your veterinarian if you have any more questions about this or other veterinary topics.

Happy Tails to you!