GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Cane toads can put your pet in peril, and they’re more abundant this time of year. But you can take steps to keep your dog or cat safe, says a University of Florida researcher.
Although cane toads are more abundant in the spring and summer months, when there’s more rainfall, they can be found just about any time of the year in South Florida, said Steve Johnson, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Cane Toad toxin can irritate humans’ skin and eyes,” said Johnson, who’s also a UF/IFAS state wildlife Extension specialist. “If your pet bites or swallows a Cane Toad, it will become sick and may die, so take it to the veterinarian right away.”
Symptoms of Cane Toad poisoning in pets include excessive drooling and extremely red gums, head-shaking, crying, loss of coordination and sometimes convulsions.
Johnson gets frequent emails and phone calls from residents wanting to know whether the toad in their yard is a Cane Toad, and if so, what they can do to keep their yard and pet safe. Cane toads are tan to reddish-brown, and their backs are marked with dark spots. Adults are 3 to 6 inches long, and their skin is warty.
Johnson makes these suggestions to prevent your dog from getting poisoned by a Cane Toad:
- Be aware of your pet’s location.
- Walk your dog on a short leash, especially at dusk and after dark.
- Don’t let your dog sniff under bushes.
- Trim shrubs so limbs don’t touch the ground, and remove debris and clutter in your yard. These two measures will make your yard less attractive for toads to hide.
- Turn off outside lights, which attract insects and toads.
- Don’t leave pet food out at night.
Cane toads are native to extreme southern Texas, Central America and northern South America, Johnson said. They were introduced to Florida several times between the 1930s and 1950s, as a form of biological pest control, at least in the early years. But that didn’t work, Johnson said. Scientists believe today’s cane toads came to Florida after escaping from a pet importer in the 1950s.
The toads live in Florida, south of Interstate 4, from Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk and Hendry counties over to the east coast, from Indian River south to Miami-Dade counties. They also hop around in Lee and Collier counties.
They’re mainly found in areas where there are people: suburban neighborhoods, school yards, golf courses and similar places, Johnson said. Cane toads roam around mostly at night, when they forage for food. They breed in canals, ditches and retention ponds.
If you suspect your pet has been poisoned by a Cane Toad, Johnson has these tips:
- Wipe your dog or cat’s mouth thoroughly with a wet rag.
- Using a hose, rinse you pet’s mouth for about 10 minutes, keeping its head pointed down so water runs out of the mouth.
- Call your veterinarian for more advice. The vet will probably suggest bringing the pet to the office.
Click here to find out more about the Cane Toad.
By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.