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Big bufo toads invading after heavy rains

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Bay Area veterinarians are warning pet owners that the recent wet weather is causing problems from bufo toads, a big species that in some cases can grow as big as a pie plate.

Dr. Daniel Diaco knows just how toxic they can be.

It was just a few weeks back, on Labor Day, when his sister-in-law came up to him in a panic. Her five pound Yorkie named Alex had thrown up and had no heartbeat.

"I immediately put the dog on the ground and start doing doggie CPR," Dr. Diaco said.

After 30 seconds of chest compressions, Alex's heart started beating again. But the Diacos, who grew up in Florida, knew they immediately had to get to a vet.

"Along the way - the dog dies, literally five more times," Diaco remembers.

They stopped at a BP station and washed out the dog's mouth, which likely saved it. Alex lived, but Dr. Diaco is now warning other pet owners just how toxic the toads can be.

"I had no idea they were that poisonous," Dr. Diaco said. "I had no idea a dog could suffer that severe of an injury from just a little {toad}."

Last year, a Jack Russell in north Tampa died because it bit directly into one of the toads. John Gicking, a veterinarian at Bluepearl Veterinarian Partners, said deaths by toad are pretty rare.

"I have seen it, but it's exceptionally uncommon," he said.

But he warns the toxin can be a potent thing and owners need to get care for their pets immediately.

"When you start to see the signs is when the animals need to be treated," Gicking said. "There's not as though you have a waiting period of time ... to see if they're going to be okay or not."

He says washing their mouth out is important but owners should do it cautiously.

"Don't force water down into their throat," he said. "You don't want them to aspirate the water."

Cats are less prone to being affected by the toad because they tend to swat at things instead of bite.

"We probably see more of the terrier-type breeds," Gicking said. "But frankly any dog is going to chase after a frog...are the ones that are going to be exposed."

Courtney Phillips-Cintron, an instructor at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa says the bufo is an invasive to Florida as well as Hawaii and the Philippines. The big problem started when people carried them over as pest control for the cane sugar crop.

"Problem is not only do they eat cane beetles, they will eat anything, including each other, other toads, small mammals, and small birds," Cintron said. "Most amphibians need to be near water so when it's dryer on land, they're going to stay near to those water sources. But when it rains - it gives them a little opportunity to expand their range so they can go a little bit farther without having to worry about their skin drying out."

But it's also how they reproduce that makes them so prevalent.

"These guys - they have very very short reproductive cycles so they will lay about 30,000 eggs versus most of our native toads - only lay about 3,000 eggs. Within 14 days they hatch and within three months they're ready to reproduce again so it's just a mass amount of toads."

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