Why Dogs And Bufos Don’t Mix

In Hawaii, with the cold weather comes the rain — a small price to pay, really.

But with the rain comes an unwelcomed visitor, Bufo marinus aka bufo toad.

The problem with the bufo toad is that the toxin in its skin is very poisonous. If you were to lick this toad, you may experience tremors and an irregular heartbeat before being carried off for psychological evaluation.

Who licks toads?

Actually, dogs do. This is a story about a repeat offender who never learned his lesson.

Or did he?

Max, a 3-year-old Jack Russell terrier, was rushed to our hospital one night for an emergency. His owner Mrs. Smith said she saw Max go after a toad in the bushes. When he came out, he was drooling, foaming and frantically pawing at his mouth.

“I picked him up and rushed him to the water hose. Someone once told me that if Max ever bit a toad, I needed to wash his mouth with water,” an exasperated Mrs. Smith recanted. “Is he going to be all right, Doc?”

“I think so,” I replied, “except for his muscle tremors, he seems stable. We’re going to take him in the back and continue to rinse his mouth with water. We’ll also give him an injection to calm him down and reduce the chance of any seizures.”

I think the word seizures took Mrs. Smith by surprise.

I looked into her eyes and calmly said, “Don’t worry, Mrs. Smith, by doing what you did, you saved Max’s life.”

We kept Max overnight at the hospital for observation and discharged him the next morning. I would like to say that Max learned his lesson and avoided toads from then on, but, well, he’s a Jack Russell terrier. Jack Russell terriers can’t help but chase down small vermin and put them in their mouths.

Over the next couple of months, Max returned to our clinic two more times for his treacherous, newly discovered pastime.

Each time, Mrs. Smith washed his mouth out with water and rushed him in.

“Why is he doing this, Doc? I mean, he knows what will happen when he bites the toad and he still does it.”

With a quizzical expression, Mrs. Smith continued, “This may sound weird, but sometimes I think he actually likes it. Could that be possible?”

At the time, I chuckled at her comment.

Since then, however, a colleague told me of a televised report about dogs licking toads and “tripping-out” in their own backyard.

What if Max was doing the same thing?

I guess it wouldn’t be all that different from having a couple of beers or a glass of wine after a hard day at work.

Well, except for the possibility of dying, that is.

To Max’s displeasure, the Smith family rounded up all the toads in the yard and relocated them to a peaceful spot where no dogs could be harmed.

Just in case, I made sure they also removed any funny looking mushrooms they came across. After all, I didn’t want Max to be tempted.

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.