Are Toads Poisonous or Dangerous?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: February 19, 2022
Image Credit Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com
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Toads may look very similar to frogs, but they have unique characteristics that set them apart. For one, some poisonous frogs secrete harmful toxins through their skin when touched. On the other hand, toads have glands that release toxic substances to defend themselves from threats and predators. So, are toads poisonous or dangerous? Toads are poisonous, but some species have higher toxicity than others. They can also be very dangerous to animals. Fortunately, no known species of toads can cause serious harm to humans. Yet, it is still not advisable to handle or touch toads because while they do not have teeth and do not bite, their poisonous secretions trigger allergic reactions in humans. Even worse, unhealthy toads in the wild can transmit Salmonella bacteria to humans and mammals, like your household pets.

Do Toads Bite?

Because toads don’t have teeth, they rarely bite.

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Like frogs, toads do not have teeth, so they rarely bite. Even if they do, it is like getting chewed on by a marshmallow mouth. It wouldn’t hurt a bit. When a toad bites you, it does not mean that it is aggressive or it perceives you as an enemy. Often, when you put your fingers too close to a toad’s mouth, it may lash out and bite. These amphibians will only bite when they see your fingers as food. 

Toads do not possess venom, nor do they have fangs or stingers to deliver venom to their prey or adversaries. Toad bites do not penetrate the skin and cannot leave marks. Their bites also do not pose any risk to humans because they do not typically leave symptoms. Toads eat invertebrates like spiders, insects, flies, and snails. Depending on the toad’s size, they also include small mammals like mice or even birds in their diet. They catch their prey using their tongues before swallowing them whole and alive.

Toads can seem frightening -people seem to be more afraid of them than frogs, mainly because they have warts all over their bodies, have drier skin than slimy frogs, and can urinate on people. 

Are Toads Dangerous to Humans?

Natterjack toad sitting at the water's edge.
Due to the toxic substance toads secrete, handling one can result in allergic reactions in humans.

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Generally, toads are not dangerous to humans. When handled or touched, they can secrete a toxic substance that can be very harmful or even deadly to animals and cause allergic reactions to humans. Apart from this, unhealthy toads can also carry Salmonella bacteria that can be transmitted to humans when they are touched or ingested. 

Although toads look anatomically similar to frogs, they still have features that set them apart from other amphibians. Aside from a much drier skin and warts, toads also have a different self-defense mechanism. Toads possess parotid glands that secrete a poisonous, milky substance that deter and sometimes injure or even kill their predators. This substance is called bufotoxin, commonly present in many amphibians, especially toads. They also occur in poisonous mushrooms and plants, causing the same effects. This milky substance is a complex mixture of standard components that include serotonin, hallucinogen, vasoconstrictor, bufotenine, and bufagin, affecting the heart. Toad poison is potent to animals and can kill small prey and other predators in the wild. 

Although there is a myth that touching toads could give you warts, it is not true. Toads do not poison humans by skin-to-skin contact. However, the parotid glands behind their eyes are the ones responsible for releasing a white substance that can severely harm animals if touched or ingested. For humans, this milky-white substance can only trigger some allergic reactions when contacted. However, it’s a whole different story when humans consume this substance. 

Apart from possible allergic reactions, humans can also get infected with Salmonella from handling unhealthy toads. After touching a toad or other amphibians like salamanders, newts, or frogs, you should immediately wash your hands before putting them on your face, eyes, or mouth. Salmonella infections can cause fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Are Toads Poisonous?

Natterjack toad isolated on white background.
All toads are poisonous as they secrete a toxic substance that can be fatal to small animals.

Raul Baena/Shutterstock.com

Unlike their frog cousins, all toads are poisonous. Toads contain parotid glands that secrete a toxic substance that can be lethal for small animals, even pets. This poison’s effect on humans is relatively mild compared to other animals, but it can cause allergic reactions. However, some toad species can cause worse damage when ingested, even to humans.

Frogs are considered an exotic delicacy in some regions, but toads are not safe to eat. Toads are toxic, and ingestion of more poisonous species like the cane toad can lead to severe complications and sometimes even death. While they can be prepared with expertise to ensure that their toxins are removed before consumption, eating toads is still at your own risk. Exposure to the toad’s toxic substances can lead to fatal reactions like seizures, vomiting, paralysis, convulsions, irregular breathing, or death. However, touching them will pose no other risk than allergies and Salmonella unless you eat a highly poisonous toad. Regardless, toads should not be handled or put close to pets, as these amphibians can be fatal to animals.

Are Toads Poisonous to Dogs?

Dogs are susceptible to a toad’s poisonous secretions. Exposure to these toxic substances causes severe symptoms in dogs or cats. Worse, toad poison can sometimes be fatal to dogs and other pets.

Since toads are slow-moving, they can easily target many predators, including curious dogs. Yet, they are not easy to eat. Most toads will taste bad for dogs, and they can also cause food poisoning. The secretions they release are highly toxic to animals. Symptoms of toad poisoning in dogs may include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Whining or crying
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Elevated temperature
  • Paleness or redness

When these symptoms occur, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the dog has eaten the toad. It may have played with the toad, licked, or touched it. The safest thing to do is bring the dog to a vet for prompt medical attention.

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