VALRICO (FOX 13) - There's a threat in your backyard. It's seemingly innocent and common but it can kill your pet in a matter of minutes.
Bufo toads make a lot of dogs sick this time of year. While the danger is nothing new, it's keeping vets busy.
A Valrico woman wants to remind pet owners how quickly the toxins can take over.
Barkley scurries around again like a normal, energetic pup.
"He still acts like a puppy," Debbie Wahlstrom said. "Very rambunctious, very loving, he likes to cuddle."
Twenty-four hours ago, he couldn't even move.
"He's a regular dog." Wahlstrom said. "He likes to hunt, unfortunately, which is probably what got us into trouble."
After some play time in the backyard Sunday night, Wahlstrom noticed Barkley rubbing his face on the couch.
"I'm like, he must have gotten into something," she said. "I knew we had the toads in the area. I did wash his face off and wiped his mouth out with a wet wash cloth. It was only a few moments after that and he couldn't walk anymore."
As she rushed to the vet, he started having seizures and hypersalivating. Her suspicions were soon confirmed. Toxins from a Bufo toad were attacking Barkley's tiny body.
"You can see the toad's glands on the side is where the toxins come out and the spray into the dogs' mouths," said Dr. Brittany Jager, a veterinarian with BluePearl in Tampa.
You may know them as marine or cane toads. Jager is seeing several cases a week, mostly in the early morning and dusk.
"They're very enticing to dogs," Jager said. "Some of the bigger ones can be territorial."
While there's no anti-toxin, vets can manage symptoms with antibiotics and flush out their systems with IV's. Without quick treatment, pets can die.
"Usually when we see them is when they are having tremors or full on convulsions," Jager said.
Barkley is one "lucky dog."
"It's frightening, I have gotten so attached to him, he is my baby, I couldn't imagine being without him or seeing him suffering," Walhstrom continued.
Jager suggests keeping your pets on a leash during rainy season, when those giant amphibians like to hop around. That's the plan for Barkley.
"He's feeling great and back to normal. Life is good," Wahlstrom said, petting Barkley's brown ears.
Dr. Jager suggests, if you think your dog has been poisoned by a Bufo toad, wash its mouth out with water to get rid of the toxins, just as Barkley's owner did.
Don't try to make it throw up. And, try to get emergency treatment as quickly as possible.