The common toad (Bufo bufo) is widespread in Britain (and western and central Europe), but is not found in Ireland. With common toads emerging from hibernation in late February, VPIS has started receiving enquiries about pets coming in contact with these amphibians.
All Bufo species possess paratoid glands (not related to parotid salivary glands) on their dorsum, which secrete venom (a thick, milky liquid) when the toad is threatened. Some species have additional glands on the arms and legs. Toxicity is variable between species although the venoms are similar. In addition, the larger the toad the larger the parotoid glands and the greater the volume of venom secreted.
Most cases of poisoning occur in domestic animals that play with, lick or carry toads in the mouth. Dogs or cats that have ingested or mouthed a toad in the UK usually only develop hypersalivation (which can be profuse) with foaming or frothing at the mouth, vomiting and associated signs of distress. There may also be erythematous mucous membranes, pawing at the mouth and vocalising.
Treatment for cases where the animal is showing signs of oral irritation (i.e. most cases) involves immediately and thoroughly flushing the oral cavity with water, taking care to prevent swallowing of the irrigating fluid. If no effects other than local buccal effects occur within 2 hours of exposure then serious toxicity is not expected.