Everything was going great in Linda Hughes’ world until she heard the whimpers of pain coming from her dog “Cowboy.”
Cowboy is one of several Anatolian Shepherds that Hughes has on her farm to protect her herd of goats.
Tuesday night during chow time Hughes went to feed Cowboy. He never showed.
“That was strange, of course because he’s always first during feeding time,” Hughes said.
After feeding her other dogs she went searching for Cowboy. She found him in the middle of the paddock with foam coming out of his mouth.
“I gave him a Valium, and antibiotics, and epinephrine,” Hughes said.
Nothing worked. The next day she took her dog to a local vet. She showed the vet the videos she took of Cowboy seizing and he immediately knew what happened. Hughes said the vet said he ate a cane toad and had to be put down immediately.
“It's horrible you know I raised these guys from puppies. And you watch something you love go into uncontrollable seizures and there's not a thing you can do about it,” Hughes said.
Hughes is now worried about her other dogs and her 50 head of Savannah Goats that she sells to breeders for $1,500 to $3,000.
“We are a small farm. That would be a big loss for us,” Hughes said.
The toads are attracted to water and light (to eat bugs). She’s worried about children in surrounding neighborhoods coming into contact with the toad.
“It’s horrible to watch your dog die and it would be even more horrible if it happened to your child and you have to watch your child die as a result of this,” Hughes said.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, cane toads have started to migrate farther to the north. The invasive species originally appeared in South Florida in the mid 1950’s. FWC maps show a steady migration north into Polk County and as far north as the Panhandle.
“They are out here,” Hughes said. “We don't know exactly where they are at, how many there are, there is very little research. How many other animals have died as a result? We need to find out and get control.”
If your child comes into contact with a cane toad and gets sick call 911 and see a medical professional immediately.
Veterinarians say if you can get to your dog fast enough you should give the dog milk, get a hose and rinse their mouth out as much as possible, and rush them to your local veterinarian.