Toxic toads put pet owners on alert
Deborah and Charlie Barrett want people to know about the dangers of Bufo marinus toads. "People should be — as we weren't — aware how toxic the Bufo toads are," Charlie Barrett said. The couple's 6-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Willie, died last week after biting a Bufo toad, he said. Deborah Barrett had taken Willie to the backyard of their Temple Terrace home one night last week. While in the backyard, she heard Willie tussling with something but didn't think it was unusual, Charlie Barrett said.The dog was playing with the toad, Deborah Barrett said. Willie bit into the toad and killed it, she said. When Willie returned inside the home, he seemed fine, but a few minutes later he started convulsing, Charlie Barrett said. They drove the dog to a local animal hospital, but Willie died on the way, he said. Bufo toads are considered a nuisance, said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They aren't natives, he said. They were brought to Florida to control insect issues in sugarcane fields, Morse said, and now are a problem for pet owners. The grayish-brown Bufo marinus toads secrete a toxin that is highly poisonous to dogs, cats and other animals. Small dogs are most at risk, but larger dogs can suffer severe medical problems, according to veterinarian Paul Langston of the Temple Terrace Animal & Bird Hospital. "Once they start having seizures, if you don't address it quickly, it can cause massive brain damage," Langston said in a news release. If you suspect your pet has bitten a Bufo toad, rinse its mouth and paws with water and seek veterinary help immediately. People also should avoid handling them and children should be told not to pick them up. The most humane way to kill a Bufo toad is to place it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for three days, said Ken Jukoff of the Connechusett Animal Hospital in Temple Terrace.