CANE TOADS

A Danger To Your Pup

For those not familiar with cane toads, they are an absolute menace. They have become a dangerous pest in Queensland and Northern New South Wales of Australia. Although, I do believe they are spreading further afield now. They were imported from Hawaii into Queensland many, many, moons ago. They idea was that they would eliminate (or at least keep under control) another pest threatening the sugar cane at the time – specific beetle species.

Cane toads feed on insects. But that is not all they eat. I guess no one told them they were not supposed to invade and eat anything outside of the targeted beetle population. Cane toads have been known to eat other frog tadpoles. But wait there’s more! They will also eat any small animal that fits into their mouth.

They have thrived in an ideal climate with an abundance of food. These beastly looking things contain toxic goo. This toxin is squirted out from glands they have on their back. They do this when they feel threatened and everything seems to be a threat. They are not only a danger to cattle which they have been known to kill with the poison they shoot out of their back, but they are a massive threat to pets, people, to our native frogs and everything on the food chain. Although, it seems that over time, some bird species in Australia have developed an immune-system that allows them to feed on the cane toads. Yay! However! One female cane toad can lay over 30,000 eggs per year!  

As I mentioned before, cane toads are a danger to pets. Puppies are naturally curious little things. They like to explore and take up the challenge that the big wide world of their backyard has to offer. Unfortunately, some of the things that get a puppy’s curiosity going can also kill them.

During the late 1990s while I was living in Brisbane, Taylor, my 12 months old miniature fox terrier pup experienced firsthand what these things can do. Unlike so many other unfortunate pups, he was most fortunate. Keep in mind that cane toads have bee known to kill cattle!

The previous week I had been discussing cane toads with a work colleague. I was new to Brisbane. She had explained the need to flush animal’s mouths in order to increase their chance of survival. It had to be done immediately.

Remember!

Stay calm

Work with urgency

Be thorough.

It might be the difference between life and death.

Wash their mouth out, preferably with the garden hose. Do it from an angle so that you actually wash it out of their mouth and not into the mouth. This will help to prevent your pet from swallowing any more of the poison.

I remember the tears starting to swell up in my eyes as I hosed his mouth out. I had no idea how long he had been like this. But he had been waiting at the backdoor for me to help him. I had come home late from work, later than usual. As I held him I could feel him becoming weaker and my heart just sank. I felt his little chest. I could hardly feel his heart beat. It was beating very slow. I rubbed his gums to make sure I had removed all the poison. I rushed inside and wrapped him in his little blanket to keep him warm. I placed him on the lounge next to me as I called the 24hour emergency vet. He lay there next to me lifeless. He slowly opened his sad, soulful puppy brown eyes. He strained to look up at me. I burst into tears and babbled on to the person who had picked up the phone. I was told that there was nothing that could be done at this point in time. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I blubbered on. It was now just a waiting game. The vet did not hold out much hope. After all Taylor was a small dog and I had no idea how long he had been like that before I found him. It was only a matter of time. I had done all that could be done, I was told by the vet. That did not make me feel any better me. I could have come home on time!

For over an hour and a half I sat by his side, stoking his little head, talking to him. I checked his heart beat regularly. He was hanging in there…only just. But! he was fighting. I wasn’t giving up without a fight either. You could see the effort in his eyes. Taylor was young and strong. He also had a whole heap of attitude. He was going to fight with all his might. It had been just over 90 minutes. There was a glimpse of life. He very slowly moved. I took the blanket I had wrapped him in off. He tried to stand up. He fell. He tried again. He was unsteady on his legs, but he was moving. He was on the come back. He finally managed to stand and take a couple of steps. He was very unsteady, but he was getting some strength back. I called the vet who seemed to be shocked and amazed that Taylor was still alive. He told me to bring him in immediately. Taylor was thoroughly checked out and was given a sedative. The vet was impressed. Next morning, you wouldn’t know that he had been knocking on death’s door. He was his usual bouncy self, wagging his tiny stumpy tail wanting breakfast.

The first signs that your puppy has taken in some of the toxins, is salivation and frothing at the mouth. The gums will change colour and become a bright brick red. If caught immediately, usually the washing out of the mouth might be all that is required. But do not rely on this. Remember to also rub the gum to make sure you get rid of all the sticky poisonous goo. Flush the mouth out for about 10 minutes or so. Contact your vet immediately! Despite treatment some dogs continue to deteriorate and may die.

Listen out for the change in tone of barking which your dog will emit when excited by something new and interesting. Taylor was not a yappy dog. With him, I had to keep an eye out. I knew when something had his attention because there would be no sign of him. Just like kids getting up to mischief, Taylor was the same. If he was too quiet, I knew he was generally up to something.

Fine tune your ears to the change in barking tone of your dog.

Be aware.

Keep them safe.

****

I don’t know if it was a bi-product of the toxin or not, but after Taylor was well and truly recovered from his near-death experience, he would intentionally go and harass cane toads in the backyard. He would get squirted. He would come running to me as he started to sway and foam at the mouth. It almost seemed as he was doing it on purpose now. It was as though he knew he knew what had to be done and he knew that I was the one to do it… flush his mouth out. I swear that dog was getting high on the poison. He did this several times. I witnessed him do it.

When a second pup came to live with us, from the back window I was horrified to see what appeared to me to be Taylor teaching the new pup to do the same. Almost as though he was giving the new addition to the family specific instructions. What a nightmare.  

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