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Keeping Fido Safe: What You Need to Know about the Sonoran Desert Toad

During Monsoon season in Mesa, most pet owners have heat and snakes on their radar, but it also helps to know the most common threat to a dog’s health, one that causes more canine fatalities in Arizona than rattlesnakes – the Sonoran Desert Toad.

Monsoon Season

The Sonoran Toads generally stay underground for most of the year in rodent burrows or other underground spaces. However, about a month before the summer monsoon rains begin, they begin to emerge and can be found at night or in the early morning.

As they become more active, they seek to mate and can be quite mobile, often finding their way into backyards as they seek other toads and any standing water.

Sonoran Toads are Poisonous.

The Sonoran Desert Toad has glands that secrete powerful psychoactive toxins as its primary defense system. These toxins can be potent enough to kill a large dog.

The toads are attracted to standing water such as dog bowls, and dogs are often found to catch a toad in its mouth. In both cases, the dog can become immediately very sick. Even bowls that were visited by a toad during the night can still contain enough toxin to be dangerous.

What to Look For

Dogs and cats who encounter these toads may foam at the mouth, suffer seizures, experience fever, and more. Symptoms usually appear within a few seconds of an encounter and can include:

  • Crying or other vocalizations
  • Pawing at the mouth and/or eyes
  • Profuse drooling
  • Change in the color of the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unsteady movements
  • Seizures
  • High temperature
  • Collapse


A pet owner’s quick response is the best treatment. If you suspect your pet has encountered a Sonoran Desert Toad, use a garden hose to flush their mouth and try to get as much of the poison out as possible. Then, seek veterinary care immediately.


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