PHOENIX - Now that the monsoon is here, you’ll need to protect your pets from a toxic toad found throughout Arizona.

The Sonoran Desert toad, also known as the Colorado River toad, spends most of the year burrowed in the ground, but it comes out with the summer rain. 

"They come out during the monsoon season looking for a mate," Daniel Marchand, the executive curator at the Phoenix Herpetological Society, said. 

These toads are nocturnal and are usually found near permanent water sources like streams.

"In the desert, it doesn’t rain very often. They’ve got to get it together and lay those eggs and those eggs have to turn into frogs and toads. Then they have to get back underground before it gets too dry," Marchand said. 

The Sonoran Desert toad secretes a neurotoxin strong enough to kill dogs that pick them up with their mouths. The Game and Fish Department says Sonoran Desert Toads kill more Arizona dogs than rattlesnakes do.

Sonoran Desert toad
12 News Weather Watcher Dave Carter found this Sonoran Desert toad near Big Bug Creek.
Dave Carter

“When they grab them and bite --- the toxin will be secreted --- and actually can kill a large type dog, like a (German) shepherd,” said Marchand.

If your dog gets one of these toads in its mouth, the reaction is immediate. The toxin can cause the dog to foam at the mouth, suffer seizures, high fever, dilated pupils and a rapid heartbeat.

If this happens, flush out your dog’s mouth with a garden hose from the back of the mouth the front. Then, get your dog to an emergency vet as soon as possible.

A quick response is a dog’s best chance at survival.

A Phoenix woman washing out her dog's mouth
Shelley Nelson washed out her dog's mouth after encountering a toxic toad. Photo: Ozzy Mora, 12 News

To avoid an encounter with these toads, wildlife experts suggest feeding your dog inside because the toads are often drawn to dog or cat food. 

Also, keep a close eye on your dog when letting them out first thing in the morning or in the evening, when the toads are most active. 

The Tucson Herpetological Society has photos and information on its website that can help you identify a Sonoran Desert Toad. 

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