Danger to Dog and Man: The Bufo Frog

Bufo Frog

Bufo Frog
Flikr Photo Credit- Toni Rodrigo

The Bufo Toad, sometimes called the “Bufo Frog” or the “Cane Toad,” is native to Central America.  It’s an old species — been around since the Miocene.

The Bufo is a prolific breeder.  Some say its reproductive success is because it will eat almost anything, dead or alive, limited, of course, by mouth size and lack of real teeth.  The other side of that success probably lies in the facts that few enjoy eating them, and those who do often die.  They have poison glands that can take down a big dog.  Even the tadpoles are toxic when chomped.

They get big, too.  The largest one on record weighed in at almost six pounds.  That’s twice the size of my toy Chihuahua, to give you some perspective.

I don’t know that I’ve actually seen one, although my yard in Uverito was often full of black toads, which may or may not have been Bufos.  I didn’t get that close.  But a friend in Pedasi suggested I write this to inform expats with dogs, and another friend, who runs a dog rescue center in Uverito recently told me she has regular visiting Bufos.  They like the dog food – when the dogs actually leave any – and they love the dogs’ water bowls, especially in the dry season.

There are lots of perspectives on dealing with Bufos, ranging from “The only good Bufo is a dead Bufo,” to my friend’s more humane approach.  She is well aware that they are poisonous.  She knows that if the dogs are to be protected from them, she will have to handle it.  She also hates to kill living creatures.  So her solution was to provide them with their own water bowls.  She raised the dogs’ so they are out of toad-reach, and keeps a flattish pan available for the toads.  In the morning she says hello to the three or four she finds there, and carefully empties the dish.  In the evening, she refills it.  Very compassionate.

Others are not so careful of disliked species.  They are more concerned about the life of their beloved pets.   A playful, curious puppy only has to lick one of these warty creatures to need immediate medical attention.  Toad poisoning doesn’t just make your dog “high.”

Symptoms include:

  • excessive, foamy salivation
  • pawing at the mouth
  • uncharacteristic crying and whining
  • bright, brick red gums
  • stiff movements / loss of coordination
  • difficulty breathing
  • vomiting
  • in severe cases, seizures and
  • in untreated cases, death  (100%, according to some experts)

Where are they found?

Bufo toads, like most toads and frogs, are most prevalent during the rainy season (in Panama late May to mid October).  They come out at night to hunt for food.  Because their food is chiefly bugs and most bugs are attracted to light, you find them near lighted areas.  Since they will eat “anything,” you will also find them where you habitually leave uneaten dog food.  In the daylight they hide under vegetation.

Earth Clinic in Florida provides some helpful information regarding first aid and ideas about how to prevent your dog from coming into contact with bufos in the first place. Another excellent source of information is Dr. Mary C. Fondren’s article “Bufo Toads in South Florida.”

First Aid ideas include:

  • Take a dripping-wet cloth and wipe your dogs mouth, tongue and gums with fresh water.  Don’t let them drink the rinse water and get rid of it immediately. Then take the dog to the vet at once.
  • Wash the dog where it has touched the toad (including inside mouth) with Baby Shampoo and lots of water.  Rinse, rinse, rinse.  Give the clean dog a spoonful of olive oil, provide it with a barfing area and rush it to the vet.
  • Wash the dog as above, with or without soap, and give it a small dose of Benadryl, which is an antihistamine.  Get it to the vet as fast as you can.

Prevention ideas include:

  • Eliminate potential food sources.  Don’t leave open dog food dishes outside.
  • Don’t leave your dog’s water dish outside, or at least elevate it past toad-reach.
  • Keep your dog on a leash and well supervised when outdoors.
  • Carry a flashlight at night, so you can check out what your dog might have found.
  • Keep your dog muzzled (extreme).
  • Toadicide (extreme) using:
    • Ammonia
    • Mothballs
    • Bleach
    • Salt
    • Guns
    • Traps

If you like videos, here’s one from National Geographic.  Just be warned that the actual video is preceded by an ad that doesn’t play properly, but the video itself plays perfectly.

And a few more suggestions for protecting your pets.