EP 21: Dangerous Sonoran Desert Toads and Dogs in Tucson, Arizona

Sonoran Desert Toad

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • What are Sonoran Desert Toads?
  • Where are they found and when do you see them?
  • How they can be dangerous to dogs and how quickly a dog can die without intervention
  • What to look for in your dog if you suspect it encountered a Sonoran Desert Toad
  • What you MUST do quickly if your dog shows symptoms of having encountered a Sonoran Desert Toad

Welcome to another episode of Free Range Dogs

In this episode, Web and his wife, Nicole, talk about Sonoran Desert Toads (Bufo Alvarius) and how to keep your dogs safe from them. Sonoran Desert Toads, also known as Colorado River Toads, are found from Central Arizona to southwestern New Mexico and Sinaloa, Mexico. They stay underground, buried in dirt and sand, until the seasonal Monsoon rains.

Web describes how these toads, which exist with several other toads in this region, have parotoid glands which secrete a toxin that can poison and kill dogs if they put it in their mouths, lick it, etc.  This is a passive defensive system designed to protect them from predators. Unfortunately, it is also effective in protecting them from curious dogs.

These toads do not emerge until the summer rains, known as the Monsoon season in the desert Southwest.  In more rural areas, the rains will find them in previously dry catchments now filled with rain where they splash around by the 100s, mating and filling the air with a very loud chorus that can be compared to the sounds made by a large herd of bleating sheep.

As their primary source of food is insects, these toads can also emerge into residential area backyards, which often host swimming pools and landscaping lights that attract insects. As such, it is imperative that any dog owner living in this region be alert to the danger posed by Sonoran Desert toads, including the common symptoms exhibited by dogs, and the immediate intervention that must be applied.

A dog that has had mouth contact with a toad will exhibit these symptoms:  a staggering gait, pupils that are completely dilated, and signs of disorientation. When you see these signs in your dog, immediately put your dog in a location where his mouth can be completely rinsed out, such as with a garden hose, or in a tub with a shower hose. Position your dog so he is lying sideways on your lap as you continuously run a stream of water through his mouth, using your fingers to remove any of the toxins from the roof of his mouth, gums, teeth, etc. Do this for a long time, until your dog appears to be recovering from the experience. 

Web offers Sonoran Desert Toad-Aversion training during the monsoon season. Please contact him at Free Range Dogs for more information.


Web Parton and his wife, Nicole

Free Range Dogs