Colorado River ToadThis week I nearly lost my beloved 80 pound Golden Retriever, Cooper, after he had a close encounter with a Colorado River toad less than 7 inches long.  There he stood at the kitchen door with a plump frog whose 4 legs were dangling on each side of his mouth.  My first reaction was fear for the frog who was clearly outmatched size wise.  However, I watched in horror as Cooper's expression turned from triumph over his "catch" to a glazed over panic as the frog secreted copious amounts of what I now know to be a hallucinogenic toxin that can cause nausea and even death. 

I rescued Cooper when he was a mere 3 to 4 weeks old.  A litter of six Golden Retriever puppies had been recklessly abandoned in the desert and 2 of Cooper's siblings had not survived.  When I learned about the puppies that were going to be taken to the pound, I offered to take one of them.  It was love at first sight when I saw Cooper, the only red one in a group of blond puppies, and clearly, the runt of the litter. 

My vet wasn't sure he would make it as his time in the desert had taken quite a toll on his immature body, which had been taken many weeks too soon from his mother.  But Cooper and I proved him wrong...thank goodness, he is a survivor!

Those survival skills were put to the test again this week.  By the time I had the toad out of his mouth, paralysis had set in and he was foaming at the mouth.  It is a frightening sight to see an animal the size of Cooper brought to death's door by a frog no less--but there is nothing ordinary about the Colorado River toad.


The Colorado River toad (Bufo Alvarius) is sometimes called the Sonoran Desert toad.  It is 3 to 7  inches long and is the largest native toad in the United States.  Olive green to dark brown in color, the toad has smooth shiny skin covered in warts.  Its belly is cream-colored and there are one to two warts on the corners of its mouth and large raised warts on its rear legs. 

During the heat of the day the nocturnal Colorado River toad stays underground.  When threatened the toad will secrete a milky-white hallucinogenic toxin from the parotoid glands under its jaw.  The toxin gets in the mouth of predators and can cause nausea and even death.

What I learned as a result of this harrowing experience is that the venom is highly toxic to pets.  Dogs, which are the most likely pet to come into contact with a toad, have a high probability of dying if untreated.  If enough toxin is ingested, your pet may have an irregular heartbeat and act strangely, as if in the grip of a hallucination. Call your veterinarian if you observe:

  • Mouth irritation with foamy salivation
  • DepressionCooper Monday 9/4/2010
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

    If your pet comes into contact with the Colorado River toad you should IMMEDIATELY flush his mouth with water to remove traces of the toxin.  My Veterinarian advised me to flush his mouth for about 10 minutes--and to try and prevent Cooper from ingesting the water--rather let it run out the side of his mouth.

    He said after thoroughly flushing out his mouth to wait 10 minutes and if the symptoms listed above have not disappeared then he needs to be evaluated by a Veterinarian.   Thankfully, we didn't have to make a late night trip to the Vet, and I am happy to report Cooper is fully recovered from his close encounter with the poisonous Colorado River Toad. 
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