Abby and the Cane Toad

CaneToadWe had no idea there were poisonous toads here in Central America! By the way, there are some poisonous snakes too! A couple weeks ago Abby was outside for the nightly before bed ablution. She whipped around the side of the house and was hopping side to side, making very little distance.  Mike saw she was chasing a toad and grabbed her up scolding her as a bad dog for not coming when called and chasing the toad. Little did we know what would lie ahead.

Thursday we spent at the Presbyterian High School helping put their computer lab together. We were exhausted upon getting home and gratefully went to eat dinner with Mom and Dad at a local restaurant not far from the house. Upon arriving home we let the dogs out, as is our usual custom when we come home, to greet us, get some exercise, and relieve themselves. When they came back in, I was sure I counted five dogs so when Mike asked if Abby had come in, I replied that I was pretty sure she had come in with the rest of the dogs. Unbeknownst to us, she was outside amongst the cane toads. Fortunately, Dad had their dog outside and saw Abby and brought her to the house. She was reverse sneezing, but seemed okay. She disappeared into one of the bedrooms where the A/C had been running as she likes going under the bed and soaking the cool from the air as well as the tile floor.

A few minutes went by and she didn’t come out so I went looking for her. She was laying on the floor, in complete seizure. She had vomited on the bed, then ended up on the floor with her head was back as far as it would go, jaw was clenched shut, front legs straight out in front of her, hind legs as straight out behind her, tail frantically thumping the floor, eyes wiggling back and forth, breath rapid, temperature way up there, unable to hold her head up, with slime all over her muzzle and the floor where she was laying. I picked her up, she was nonresponsive, and I thought for sure she was gone though I had no idea what had happened. All we knew was she had gotten into something outside. I handed her to Mike and ran next door for Mom. Isn’t that what everyone does when there is trouble, run next door for Mom? If Mom isn’t next door, then usually the first thing to do is call her…at least in my experience.

Grabbing towels, water, ice cubes, paper towels, we put Abby on a towel on the floor. As it turned out right in the way of the front door, but hey who cares when you are in a crisis? We immediately started trying to get the slime off. The idea being, since the slime hadn’t been there before her crisis, it needed to come off to help her return from the crisis. Abby seized multiple times during the first hour. All we could do was hold her down and wait for it to pass. We put cool water on the pads of her feet and continued to try to dribble water into her mouth in an attempt to rinse it out. After about an hour she loosened her jaw and we were able to rinse her mouth quite well. She then took water from a syringe, simply filling a syringe with water and then gently touching it to her teeth while pressing the plunger caused her to lap up the water. She drank several cc’s of water this way.

She had an impromptu bath to make sure all the poison was off. We used two containers of water, one with shampoo in it and the other just clean fresh water. We washed her legs, pretty much up to her body, with the soapy water, then poured clean water to rinse the soap away. Her entire jaw, neck and left ear had to be washed this same way. As you can imagine, our fluffy little girl was quite the ragamuffin! We dried her as best we could with a clean towel as a blow dryer would just heat her up and the main cause of death is the fever caused by the reaction to the poison causing the heart to give out. Pretty gruesome!

After about two and a half hours she was trying to sit up and scooted over toward my water glass which she put her face in and drank. As you can imagine, I did not care, when she finished I just moved a bowl of water closer to her that would be more convenient than trying to get her snout down my 16 oz. glass! After three hours she was still unstable on her feet and exhausted. Her temperature was normal, she was alert and looking around, so we determined the best solution was to put her to bed. We crated her that night and got up every hour and a half to check on her. She woke most of the time but was quite content to stay in the crate and while we offered her water, she opted not to drink. In the morning, Mike let her out and she was walking, eating, and drinking. She was very tired for the next couple of days and we stayed home to keep an eye on her. We are grateful she is still with us as most dogs who come into contact with cane toad poison do not live.

Cane toads, as pictured above, secrete a poison from the glands behind their eyes as a defense mechanism. The photographer captured the secretion of the poison quite well in this photo. They are indigenous to central and south America. As a result of introduction, Australia has a significant cane toad population and problem. Now that we know about cane toads, we can prevent additional injury by keeping the dogs inside after dark. The toads do not roam during the day, so as long as we keep our huntress (Abby) inside when the cane toads are out and about we should have no further difficulties.

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