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Toxic toads kill more Arizona dogs than rattlesnakes do

Sonoran Desert Toads are said to kill more dogs in the Phoenix area each year than rattlesnakes do.

A Sonoran Desert Toad can be deadly to dogs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published June 19, 2015. As monsoon descends upon Arizona again, we've seen renewed interest in this information.

PHOENIX - A potentially deadly danger to dogs is emerging now that monsoon has returned.

The Sonoran Desert toad, also known as the Colorado River toad, is said to kill more dogs annually in the Phoenix area than rattlesnakes.

A Fountain Hills woman nearly lost her beloved dog after a run-in with these creatures, which are now emerging from the ground.

"I'm so grateful", Lauren Briggs told us as she recalled a terrifying night two weeks ago. "I did not want that dog to die in my arms. I did not want that dog to go through any part of that pain he was going through."

That dog, her little mixed-breed named Max, is recovering after his encounter with something that wildlife biologists say lives beneath the Sonoran Desert sand most of the year.

It's a toad armed with a toxic self-defense mechanism: neurotoxins that trigger a nearly instant, dramatic and oftentimes deadly reaction.

"I let him out in the usual routine," Briggs said. "I walk him out, and all of a sudden I turn around and he's behind me crying and screaming. When I look down he's foaming at the mouth."

As she held Max, he lost control of his bodily functions, his heart raced and she and her husband tried not to panic as they hunted for answers.

That's when her husband noticed a Sonoran Desert toad in their back yard.

Amy Burnette with Arizona Game and Fish offered insight into this dangerous encounter.

"More dogs die from these things than rattlesnakes, so, it's definitely something you want to keep an eye on," Burnette said.

Neurotoxin seeps from pores along the toad's head. The white secretion is a powerful potion that also comes from pores on their legs.

It can cause a dog to foam at the mouth, suffer seizures, high fever, dilated pupils and a rapid heartbeat.

A pet owner's fast response is a dog's best chance at survival.

"Take a garden hose and you take it from the corner of his mouth and you flush it out towards the front of the mouth", said Burnette describing how to treat dogs who have come in contact with a Sonoran Desert toad. "Just keep on flushing those toxins out ... you want to get all of that poison out and you want to get your dog to the emergency vet as soon as possible."

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