Lizards and Toads Oh My!

An unfortunate parasite that puts our pets here in South Florida at risk is the liver fluke, Platynosomum fastosum.    This liver fluke is transmitted to our kitties when they ingest lizards.  Surely Dr Sutton isn’t the only person in town trying to save the lizards on her patio from certain death at the hands of her kitties.   Not only does she want to save the lizards, she doesn’t want her kitties to get liver disease!   According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, "Chronic infection with this fluke leads to development of enlarged bile ducts and gall bladder, biliary epithelial hyperplasia, and ultimately, liver failure.   There are no products labeled for treatment of trematodes in dogs and cats; however, praziquantel, epsiprantel, and fenbendazole have been reported to be effective."   If your cat is a big game hunter, Dr Sutton will likely set you up on a quarterly deworming schedule for your kitty. 

Here in South Florida we are also unfortunate to have BUFO TOADS.   They can be very toxic to our dogs.   If you think your pet has had exposure to a bufo toad, rinse your pet’s mouth with water.  If there is any unusual behavior at all, take your pet IMMEDIATELY to an emergency clinic.  (Local emergency clinics are listed on the EMERGENCY tab of this website.)   Neurologic, gastrointestinal and cardiac signs may ensue.   You can read all the gory details in the article below from the Veterinary Information Network on Bufo Intoxication. 

Article from Veterinary Information Network:

Bufo Intoxication, Toad Poisoning
Last updated on 3/25/2010.

Linda Shell, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology)

Toad poisoning

Disease description:
When dogs mouth or bite Bufo marinus or Bufo alvarius (cane toads) toads, a potent venom is released from the toad’s parotid gland. The bitter taste and irritating effect causes prompt salivation, frothing and vomiting. As the toxins are absorbed, CNS and cardiac signs occur resulting in vasodilation, tachycardia, tachyarrhythmias, hypertension, seizures and potentially death in as little as 15 minutes. While morbidity rates are high, mortality is low. 1-5 Fewer cases are reported in the winter months. 2


The marine toad (Bufo marinus) is found mainly in Florida and Hawaii. Though probably less toxic than B. marinus, the Colorado River toad (Bufo alvarius), found in the desert Southwest, causes similar signs in dogs that ingest them. 3 Cane toads were introduced to Queensland, Australia in 1935 and are now found in coastal regions from northern New South Wales to western Northern Territory. 4

The parotid gland secretions of these toads contain a mixture of toxic substances (bufogenins and bufotoxins) some of which are cardiac glycosides having a similar effect to digitalis. The venom may also contain catecholamines,epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and the non-cardiac sterols, which are thought to be non-toxic. These toxins which are readily absorbed across mucus membranes and broken skin effect the parasympathetic nervous system and heart.


Since smaller dogs receive a higher dose of toxin per kilogram of weight, they may display more severe signs. Animals absorbing these substances initially develop hyperemic mucus membranes, ptyalism, vomiting, and pawing at the mouth. If the venom comes into contact with the eye, the pet may paw at the eye which quickly develops conjunctivitis and uveitis. In as little as 15 minutes, the pet may start to show ataxia, extensor rigidity, opithototonos, seizures. These may progress quickly to coma and death as cardiac arrhythmias (ventricular fibrillation) develop. If not fatal, complete recovery occurs in ½-1 hour.

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and historical information of observed exposure.

*Colorado river toad (Bufo alvarius)
*Marine toad (Bufo marinus)

Clinical findings:
Bark, increased vocalization
Cachexia, weight loss
Case fatality rate high
Collapse of patient
Coma, unconsciousness
Extensor rigidity
Gait choppy
Hyperemic mucus membranes
Hyperventilation, tachypnea
Limbs extended
Onset sudden, acute
Opisthotonos, opisthotonus
Pawing at mouth
Toad exposure
Vocalization, crying
Walking difficulty

Diagnostic procedures: Diagnostic results:
Electrocardiography Arrhythmia supraventricular
Arrhythmia ventricular
Sinus tachycardia
Ventricular fibrillation


1) There is no specific antidote.

2) The dog’s mouth should be flushed copiously with water. Owners can use garden hose and/or cloth to clean the gums. Do not lavage those dogs that are seizing or in a coma.

3) Gastrointestinal decontamination with activated charcoal and an osmotic cathartic may hasten recovery.


1) Treat cardiac arrhythmias and hypertension as necessary. Atropine may be needed to control bradycardia but is not recommended to treat hypersalivation alone.

2) Treat seizures and tremors as necessary. Diazepam has been used.

Preventive Measures:
1) Prevent contact with cane toads. Currently these toads are found in Florida, Texas, Colorado, California, Arizona and Hawaii as well as Australia.

Special considerations:


1)  Roberts BK, Aronsohn MG, Moses BL, et al:  Bufo marinus intoxication in dogs:  94 cases 1997-1998  J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000 Vol 216 (12) pp. 1941-1944.
2)  Reeves MP:  A retrospective report of 90 dogs with suspected cane toda (Bufo marinus) toxicity.  Aust Vet J 2004 Vol 82 (10) pp. 608-11.
3)  Hackett T: Spiders and Snakes:    Recognizing and Treating Envenomations.   Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference 2007.
4)  Haldane S: Animal  Envenomations. International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium 2008.
5)  Eubia PA: Bufo Species Toxicosis:   Big Toad, Big Problem.   Vet Med 2001 Vol 96 (8) pp. 594-99.


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