Aussie pest's breeding season sparks health warning: 'Very toxic'

The warning comes as cane toad breeding season begins in Australia.

An alarming garden discovery comes with a warning for Aussies this summer as cane toad breeding season begins to ramp up in areas of the country where the pest has infiltrated.

A photo shared on social media this week shows a slimy, stringy mess hanging from a backyard tree. The jelly-like strands, which are "slippery to touch," are cane toad eggs, and are extremely toxic. Unlike native frogs who lay in clusters of individual round eggs, cane toads spawn appears as long, noodle-like strings — with each toad laying between 8000 and 25,000 in one sitting.

The amphibians — an introduced species, and mostly found in the northern parts of Australia and northern NSW — are particularly deadly for native wildlife and wreak havoc on the environment due to their toxin, but pets are at risk too if eaten.

Cane toad eggs hanging from tree branch.
Cane toad eggs can be very toxic to animals and humans. Source: Facebook

Cane toad spawn 'very toxic' to pets and humans

"The female toads put a lot of poison into the eggs to discourage animals like fish from eating them," Professor Rick Shine from Macquarie University told Yahoo News Australia. "The poisons are not a problem for most invertebrates like ants and spiders, but are dangerous for almost any vertebrate animal that hasn’t evolved special abilities to deal with those poisons. Birds and rodents, for example, are generally OK, but dogs and humans are not."

Aussies warned to check static bodies of water

The viral post on Facebook warns Aussies to remain vigilant and to remove any eggs they might come across. They often take just two or three days to hatch.

"Friendly reminder to everyone to check regularly around your place in any ponds, buckets, dog bowls etc for cane toad eggs," the post says. "Don’t be fooled by thinking that because something has a high side that they can’t get in, they are unexpectedly great climbers, especially on rough surfaces!

Parotid salivary glands on cane toads back
Cane toads release a toxin through their parotid salivary glands on their back, pictured here. Source: Maroochydore Rd Vet Surgery/Getty

"Cane toad eggs and tadpoles are TOXIC. Please avoid feeding them to fish or letting pets eat them, just the same as you would an adult toad. It’s far easier to get rid of the eggs than the adults!"

Shine agreed the eggs are "very toxic" but only when eaten. "You just have to ensure that if you take them out of the fishpond then you don’t leave them somewhere where an animal or child could find them and gobble a few down."

A map details showing where cane toads have been seen in Australia.
Cane toads are mostly found in northern Australia, extending down to northern parts of NSW. Source: Esri (esri)

Vet warns toxin could cause death

Earlier this month, Queensland-based vet, Maroochydore Rd Vet Surgery shared a post on Facebook warning of the risk to pets. The clinic says they've treated "hundreds of these cases", but say it's easily preventable with a few simple steps.

"The toads release a toxin through their parotid salivary glands on their backs. When your pet grabs the toad in their mouth, this causes the toad to release the toxin, which then coats your pet's mouth," they explained."This toxin is readily absorbed through the mucosa in the mouth".

The toxins are an irritant and can cause the gums to "become very red". "These toxins affect the heart and central nervous system, causing heart arrhythmias, tremors, seizures, blindness and even death," they warned.

Cane toad eggs
Cane toad eggs are long, noodle-like strings with each toad laying between 8000 and 25,000 in one sitting. Source: Facebook

Tips for pet owners:

  • Keep your pet on a lead when outdoors at night, or watch them closely

  • Always check around your pet's water bowl at night

  • If eaten, use a wet cloth to wipe the gumline continually for 10-15 mins, always wetting the cloth after each wipe. Never stick a hose in their mouth! This will not remove the toxin and can cause aspiration pneumonia.

  • After this, if your pet appears normal, and it has been over 30 minutes since exposure, there is a good chance they will not need veterinary care.

  • At any stage that your pet is tremoring/shaking/seizing take them to a vet immediately

"Dogs never learn, and will often chase toads again, and again," the clinic said. If you think your pet has toad toxicity, please call your vet, or seek veterinary care immediately.

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