Dog owners can generally agree, dogs LOVE rolling on a dead crapaud skin. Perhaps it is their attempt at perfume. ‘Eau de Crapaud’. Other dogs seem to love the smell. Another best seller in the canine perfume department is ‘Eau de Dead Fish’. Dab a little on each shoulder and Voila! your dog is the most popular canine on the block. In both cases, our sweet doggie ends up smelling pretty horrendous. But this interaction with the crapaud is more painful for us owners than it is for our dogs.
A more serious issue with the crapaud is when one ends up in your dog’s mouth. For our non-trinbagoian readers, 'Crapaud smoke yuh pipe' is our local saying loosely translated -You're in SERIOUS trouble! Our common toad is locally called the ‘crapaud’, scientific name Bufo marinus. Many of us aren’t toad-friendly, but they are really fascinating creatures. This bumpy-skinned critter has venom glands in its skin that are used for defence purposes. On a side note, its venom may have great medicinal value for us; in the fields of antibiotics and more. However, a problem arises when our dogs bite a toad. The venom appears thick, creamy-white and is highly irritating.
The venom is in fact a neurotoxin that affects the nervous system, distressing the dog's heart or brain. The signs range from mild to severe depending on various factors and can even result in death.
The most common symptom is constant frothy salivation, accompanied by vigorous head shaking. Retching is sometimes seen. In severe cases there can be abnormalities in heartbeat, difficulty in breathing, possible vomiting, a change in colour of the animal (a pale look) coupled with seizures. Unfortunately, the severe signs are life threatening and require the immediate attention of a Veterinarian.
WHAT TO DO?
I. First Aid
If you are prepared with a plan of action there is a better chance of helping or even saving your beloved pet. We recommend the following basic first aid tips.
Start by ensuring that you have easy access to the components of a 'toad emergency kit'. This includes a pet leash, a garden hose with a high pressure attachment, towels of various sizes, and a list of emergency vet phone numbers.
If you suspect (or know) your dog has had a toad in its mouth, and your animal is exhibiting the symptoms mentioned above, have someone assist you with the following procedure:
II. Preventative Measures
Frogs and toads are useful to our environment as they eat lots of insects, especially mosquitoes. It is inhumane to place salt on the back of these animals, or spear or maim them for any reason. We do not encourage killing any creature (except mosquitoes). Simple preventative measures include removing all pet water dishes and uneaten food from outside at night or placing them in a spot that is accessible to pets but not to our amphibian neighbours.
Another option is wire screening. Unlike frogs, toads are not known for their athletic jumping abilities and cannot jump particularly high. This may be a bit expensive, but wire screening around the perimeter of your property that is at least 18" high can help.
For the more adventurous folks, toad hunting can be great way to relax and beat the office stress. This is usually a night-time activity, as that is when the toads are most active. We advise protecting your hands - using gloves or hands wrapped in towels - allowing you to pick up the toad. Resist the temptation to lick the toad. They’re also not good for you! Those of us that suffer from ‘toad fear issues’ can use a dust pan or a scoop to pick up the toad. To avoid a great deal of hopping, we recommend the use of a torchlight/flashlight. Shining a big torchlight in their eyes assists in immobilising them. Remember to keep the torch focused on the toad, as they tend to move as soon as the light is gone. Some dogs get excited when toads are being removed, so it may be a good idea to secure Fluffy (or Butch) during this time.
Take the toads far away from people's houses, ideally to a nearby watercourse where they can continue to assist in controlling the insect population. We sometimes practice the ‘frog toss’ method, where toads are gently tossed across the fence (beware of your neighbour!). But there is a possibility of them venturing back into their favourite yard (or of annoying your neighbour).
The crapaud is a member of our trinbagonian ecosystem and this bumpy skinned friend most probably lives in your neighbourhood. Although the crapaud may not win any beauty contests, that doesn’t entitle us to aim for total annihilation. They are useful to us in many ways, including (we’re told) in aphrodisiacs and a remedy for hair loss. Men, take note. Be kind to the crapaud!
To protect both dog and crapaud, and to ensure our dogs do not mistake the crapaud for a favourite squeaky toy, we have to be diligent and responsible as pet owners. Live and let sit.
Healthy, Happy Animals - Healthy, Happy Communities