In reality, they are really very sweet animals and they don’t intend to harm anyone…but dogs truly need to avoid Sonoran Desert Toads. Dormant throughout most of the year, they emerge from the earth during the rainy monsoon season experienced by those of us living here in the desert Southwest. Typically, the monsoon season runs from the July 4th weekend through late September. The toads usually appear during mid-July, when the monsoon rains have begun in earnest and the earth has become saturated. However, toads can be seen above-ground as early as late June. Prior to the summer rains, water from irrigation or swimming pools might lure the toads out early.
What makes the Sonoran Desert Toad so dangerous to dogs? The toads have welts (their parotoid glands) directly behind their eyes on the top of their heads which serve as a passive defense system. These glands secrete a dangerous slimy toxin which which can flow into the mucus membranes of a dog’s mouth and tongue when a curious dog puts his mouth around it. Without immediate intervention, the dog can die within 10-30 minutes depending on the severity of the reaction and the size of the dog (the bigger the dog, the better the chances of survival). Often, the toad has since disappeared and the only evidence that the dog has been poisoned is by observing his symptoms and behaviors.
When a dog has put his mouth around a Sonoran Desert Toad, these things will happen: the dog will become disoriented and will walk with a staggering gait; his eyes will become completely dilated and look like black circles; and he may lose control of his bladder. Ultimately, the dog may topple over and go into convulsions, with death soon to follow. With immediate intervention on your part, however, your dog should recover quickly and completely. It is unlikely that you will have enough time to get to a Veterinarian-and the Vet will provide the same intervention of rinsing out the dog’s mouth that you can do on your own more quickly.
The immediate and necessary intervention is to rinse out your dog’s mouth with a water hose or a shower nozzle. Rest your dog’s head on your lap and turn his head sideways so that water will flow through his mouth rinsing the toad mucus out the other side (not down his throat). Use your fingers to massage the roof of his mouth, tongue and gums/teeth to remove all the mucus. Do this for a long time, up to 20 minutes, until your dog starts to come out of it. If, as sometimes happens particularly with smaller dogs, your dog has ingested (eaten) the toad, there is no way to rinse out the toxins as they are now deep in his stomach and this dog most likely won’t survive.
These toads can be found anywhere during the monsoon season, meaning they may be emerging into beautifully landscaped fenced yards with swimming pools. They don’t stay in dens so it is difficult to detect their presence until the rains. Be alert to your dog’s behavior and aware that you may never see the toad that he encountered. If you observe your dog exhibiting the symptoms described above, don’t hesitate to immediately begin rinsing out his mouth.
As a preventive method, I offer Sonoran Desert Toad Aversion training which follows the same format as a rattlesnake aversion training. If you would like to schedule your dog for a Sonoran Desert Toad Aversion training session, please contact me at 520-465-3460 (call or text) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. As it is hot this time of year, trainings are conducted in early morning sessions when the air is cool. Trainings run about 3 1/2 hours. The cost is $150.00 per dog and classes are restricted to 6 dogs total. For payment I accept cash, check, plastic, or Venmo.
I look forward to working with you and training your dog to avoid Sonoran Desert Toads.