Poisonous Toad Causes Concern For Pet Owners In Hillsborough County

By Nick Nahas

The poisonous cane toad, otherwise know as Rhinella marina, has become a concern for pet owners in the area. This invasive toad, more prevalent during their breeding season between April and September, has glands located on the sides of the neck that secrete a toxin that can be fatal if ingested by cats, dogs and other small pets.

According to information from the Hillsborough County Extension Service, cane toads are fairly easy to spot, averaging in size from 6 to 9 inches. They make a distinct noise, characterized as sounding like a motor. These creatures are normally spotted at night after heavy rain. It is important to not leave pet food outside because it may attract them to your house.

According to Roy Kerr, veterinary technician at Bloomingdale Animal Hospital, initial symptoms of the neurotoxin include drooling, and a drunken-like stupor. If not treated, this can lead to convulsions and possibly death. If you suspect that your pet has had contact with the toxin of the toad, it is vital to try to rinse the poison from their mouths repeatedly with ice-cold water with their head tilted forward, ensuring that they do not swallow the poison. Then take your pet immediately to the vet, Kerr said.

Since cane toads are invasive to Florida and do not have any natural predators, they are less likely to relocate once they find a place to live. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) recommends that the toads be humanely euthanized because they are rapidly reproducing, and they are a threat to native species. The method they recommend to kill these toads is putting benzocaine ointment on them or spraying their bellies with benzocaine spray, which will put them to sleep in a few minutes. Once they are unconscious, place them in a plastic bag and put them in your freezer for at least three days.

“These toads definitely need to be eradicated around the area,” said Kerr. “They can get up to 3 pounds and live five to 10 years. They are true carnivores, and they are out of control.”

Native to South America and Central America, cane toads were originally brought to Florida in 1944 to help eliminate sugarcane pests. The toad population gained momentum in the Sunshine State when they were accidentally released and reintroduced again in 1957 in Miami.

Do not confuse the cane toad with the native Southern Toad, which is harmless. For more information on identifying the toads, visit bit.ly/29Td7gl.