When Kelsey Barbas let her dogs outside to play in the yard, she had no idea that it would become a deadly encounter. But then her dog Tater came into the house, displaying odd symptoms, and that’s when the nightmare began.
“He was kind of cowering, he was shaking,” Barbas recalls.
Chase, her other dog, then got her attention and brought her to the yard, where she discovered a dead bufo toad.
“I ran back inside, Tater started foaming at the mouth,” Kelsey said. “And then he started seizing.”
She immediately rushed Tater to the vet, then subsequently to a second vet, but neither could save Tater.
“I want people to know that these toads are real. They can kill your animals and it is super sad,” she said.
Bufo toads, sometimes also known as cane toads, secrete a poisonous mucus from glands located behind their ears – therefore if a dog bites them, they ingest the poison.
Meghan Johnson, a Blue Pearl Veterinarian, says that most encounters with a Bufo toad aren’t deadly, so long as an animal is treated by a vet very quickly, and it didn’t ingest too high a dose of the toad’s poison.
If your pet does get ahold of a bufo toad, Dr. Johnson advises you, “decontaminate the mouth by using a wet washcloth and wiping the insides of the gums,” and then get to a vet straight away.
She warns that the invasive species will always be a part of the Florida ecosystem as they enjoy a warm and wet climate. Also, they will always be attractive to dogs, as they’re something easy to chase.
“There are really no good natural predators for them,” she added. “They have quite taken hold in Central and South Florida.”
Kelsey, who is also the daughter of FOX 13 Medical Reporter Dr. Joette Giovinco, claims that she is hopeful for Tater’s legacy to help other pets and their owners to avoid potentially deadly encounters going forward.
“He was my best friend,” she said. “If I can let other people know to make them aware and protect their babies, then I will be happy to share this story.”
Rest in peace little Tater. Hopefully, all Florida pet owners will be careful of the bufo toads that might be living in their backyards.