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Toad Toxicity in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Though most toads are bitter tasting and usually result in profuse drooling in any pet that tries to take a taste, only a couple of species of toads are truly poisonous. The poisonous secretions from these toads can affect animals who come in contact with them, causing a host of clinical signs.

The poison is highly toxic to pets. Cats have a high probability of dying if untreated. The Colorado River toad and the giant toad (also called the marine toad) are the two most common poisonous toads found in the United States. These toads are only found in specific areas of the country. The Colorado River toad can be found along large streams in the southwestern United States, from Arizona to southern California (and Mexico). The giant toad is not as common, but can be found in south Texas and Florida.

Toad toxicity is more common in dogs than cats and usually affects young or curious pets who spend time outdoors.

What to Watch For

  • Mouth irritation with excessive salivation within minutes of exposure
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart abnormalities

    Diagnosis

    Routine baseline tests are generally within normal limits. Occasionally, an electrocardiogram may reveal abnormal heart rhythms that can be seen with toad toxicity.

    The presence of toad parts in the gastrointestinal tract of the affected animal or observation of the animal in direct contact with a toad just prior to the onset of the clinical signs is the only means of diagnosis. There is no test available that measures the presence of toxin.

    Treatment

    The first step in treatment is to try to remove the poison from the mouth. This can be done by directly flushing the mouth with water – a garden hose works well. Additional treatment may include:

  • It may be necessary to administer drugs such as propranolol (Inderal®) and other drugs to combat abnormal heart rhythms. Monitoring of the patient using an EKG monitor to observe heart rate and rhythm should be considered.

  • Mild sedation may be of benefit to those individuals who are extremely anxious, painful, or distressed.

  • A cooling bath is recommended for those with a high fever.

    Home Care and Prevention

    If your cat is seen in direct contact with a toad separate them immediately and flush your cat's mouth with water. Once your cat has been discharged form the hospital, follow all recommendations made by your veterinarian.

    The best means of protection is not allowing your cat to have direct contact with these toads.

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