Even as dead, parched and shrivelled up roadkill, cane toads can still kill your pets and children, experts are warning as summer approaches.
Biology Professor and cane toad expert Rick Shine said the creature’s toxins break down very slowly, and are only safe when they have decomposed.
“Even in cane toads that are run over up in the tropics and lie there on the road for months, heated up to incredible temperatures every day, the toxins are actually still quite capable of killing animals that encounter them,” he told AAP.
Prof Shine says it is key to dispose of toads properly. They should be buried, deep enough that pets can’t dig them back up, or thrown out with the garbage.
Otherwise, he says they make “terrific compost”.
Emergency vet Dr Alex Hynes says the best way to safeguard your pets is to supervise them well during toad season.
“For some dogs, that might mean going out to the toilet on the lead with a flashlight to be sure that they’re safe as opposed to just opening up the back door,” she told AAP.
Cane toads can both spray and secrete their toxins, and dogs are at risk of poisoning if it gets into any mucus membranes – usually their eyes, nose, or mouth.
If a dog has come in contact with toxins, early intervention is crucial. Symptoms to look for include frothing, reddened gums, wobbly legs, dilated pupils, vomiting and seizing.
Dr Hynes said owners should never rinse a dog’s mouth out with a hose, which can force water into their lungs, but rather take a wet cloth and vigorously rub the dog’s gums for up to 15 minutes, rinsing out the cloth intermittently.
Dr Hynes also said it’s important to keep an extra eye on “little dogs who think they’re big dogs” – she’s treated one serial-offending Jack Russell seven times in under a year.
“It’s got to the point where if he goes out in the evening, he has a little basket muzzle that he wears over his nose, because he’s so quick that he’s just into the toads before they even realise,” she said.
Prof Shine said while the invasion “front” has spread through the Northern Territory and into Western Australia, it’s still years away from Sydney.
But “stowaway” toads that hitch rides in trucks travelling from invaded areas are likely to create their own population in Sydney.
“Will a couple of adult toads find themselves in the right place at the right time and make baby toads? It is going to happen, but when it happens, we really don’t know,” Prof Shine said.