Bufo toads have invaded Florida and are posing serious threats to pets. Protect your pooch from these potentially deadly amphibians. 

By Claire Harmeyer
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Does your dog love to chase critters in your yard? If so, then beware: A playful afternoon could lead to a nightmare. A recent increase in the invasive species, Bufo toad, is causing major concern for dog owners in Florida. The poisonous amphibians carry rapid-acting toxins that can be severely damaging to canines, to the point of death.

Size is the best way to differentiate a Bufo toad from a native toad—ranging from six to nine inches long, these toads are massive. The dangerous amphibians are reddish-brown with a light yellow belly. Also known as cane toads, the species originated in South America. In 1936, Bufo toads were introduced to Florida's sugar cane fields as a pest controller. Several mishaps followed, causing an unintentional spreading of the species.

Bufo Toads thrive in warm climates and have been sighted in Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Most recently, heavy rain in Florida has caused Bufo Toads to swarm wet, humid yards throughout the state.

As natural predators, most dogs don't shy away from toads—they'll often lick, pick up, or nudge toads with their noses. This simple act can be fatal. When frightened, Bufo toads release a milky substance from glands behind their ears. If ingested by dogs, the toxin causes a reaction, which can range from drooling, disorientation, and dilated eyes to much more severe effects such as seizures, loss of coordination, and even death.

It only takes minutes for dogs to show symptoms after exposure to the toxin, which can be a blessing and a curse. If you notice your pet acting strangely early on and take them to the vet, chances of recovery are high. If you don't, the sad reality is that they likely won't survive.

If you think your dog has been poisoned by Bufo toad's toxin, immediately rinse its mouth with water and carefully wipe its lips, tongue, and gums with a towel. You can't be too thorough. Crucial tip: Rinse the towel between each wipe to ensure that the toxins are cleaned off. After, drive your dog straight to the vet.

If your yard is severely invaded by Bufo toads, there are ways to get rid of the unwanted creatures. Herpetologist, former veterinarian technician, and owner of Toad Busters Jeannine Tilford explains her technique—once she finds a toad, she picks it up with gloved hands and applies a numbing agent to its stomach, which puts it to sleep. Next, she places the toad in a plastic bag in the freezer for two days before disposing of it. This is the most humane way to get rid of the pesky amphibians for good.

However, if you don't have experience with catching animals, it's best to keep your distance from the toads and call your local animal control services. If you live in South Florida, contact Toad Busters for help. Preventing these toads from spreading will ensure that your precious pooches stay safe.

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