Pictured: Adult Sonoran Desert Toad (also called the Colorado River Toad). Photo courtesy of Randall D. Babb, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Mesa, AZ

Poisonous to: Cats, Dogs

Common signs to watch for:

  • Severe, immediate drooling – within seconds
  • Brick red mucous membranes
  • Hyperthermia
  • Vomiting yellow fluid – within minutes
  • Pasty diarrhea – within minutes
  • Neurological signs – dilated pupils, ataxia, vocalization, seizures, collapse, death

Certain species of toads can be very poisonous to pets, including the Sonoran Desert or Colorado River toad (Incilius alvarius; formerly known as Bufo alvarius) and the Marine or Cane toad (Rhinella marinus; formerly known as Bufo marinus). These toads are very large in size, often reaching 8 or 9 inches when mature and are typically only found in certain parts of North American, including the region between Arizona and California and in Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and other tropical areas (respectively). The Marine toad is considered to be more poisonous, and most dogs poisoned by these toads will die if untreated. Just mouthing or holding the toad in the mouth can result in poisoning and death. Dogs can even be poisoned by drinking the water out of container that a toad sat in.

Poisoning is due to steroids compounds (bufotoxins and bufodienolids) and biogenic amines such as bufotenins, bufotionins, epinenephrine, serotonin, and others found in the toad’s parotid glands and skin. Mouthing, chewing or otherwise playing with the toad causes compression of the glands and secretion of the poison.  Contact with the mucous membranes or ingestion can result in severe, immediate drooling, followed by an elevated temperature, brick red mucous membranes, abnormal heart rhythms, difficulty breathing, seizures, and even death.

If you suspect your pet mouthed, licked or ingested a toad, rinse the mouth out immediately and call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline for immediate life-saving advice.

Poison type: envenomations

Alternate names: Bufo toads, cane toads, Colorado River toad, Marine toad, frogs, bufotoxins, bufodienolids, bufagins, bufotenins, bufotionins