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oops... that should have been "some Ticos that I Know"....


so what happens if if your 3-4 year old child licks Bufo marinus toad or rubs their eyes (or has cuts or scratches on their hands) after handling a poison dart frog? Would they require medical attention?


I know my dog didn't fare too well after 'licking' a toad.

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For awhile, it was quite faddish to lick Bufo marinus toads, as supposedly it caused the lickers to get high. We do have lots of toads, but never have had any incidents with dogs, toddlers, or drug seeking adolescents. Where we live, the poison dart frogs are quite secretive, and it would be very very rare for a toddler to encounter one...I studied in Costa Rica with Jay Savage, who wrote the book on Costa Rican Reptiles and Amphibians, and he never ever said a word about being careful when handling a poison dart frog.I think it requires more than a casual contact to do any sort of damage. Sort of similar to the difference between coca leaves and cocaine... concentration of the toxin is necessary. I will re read the section in his book and see if he says anything at all, but i do recall that wild Phyllobates vittatus has the highest toxin levels of the different species..when poison dart frogs are raised in captivity, they are not toxic, because they derive their toxins from their food, and crickets are quite edible for humans.

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Imagínate voz! y no terminada todavía. Yes, I remember first hearing of toad licking back in '70's. The toads are toxic to dogs, with some encounters reportedly resulting in death. Mine just foamed at the mouth profusely, went into convulsions, vomited and was quite lethargic for several days, but he survived. The local folklore remedy was lots of milk so mi cuñada poured as much of a litre down his throat as she could and the rest to wash his mouth out.


It's not so much the concentration of the dart frogs toxin as the method of intake. The toxin is not readily absorbed through the skin, hence the use of darts. Various sources state that there is enough toxin on the skin of one frog to kill 8-20 adult humans. And yes, the frogs concentrate the toxins on their skin from eating their prey as a defensive mechanism.


Soooo...back to my question. 'Would they require medical attention?'... Let's say for the sake of discussion that after a 'very very rare' encounter that one would require medical attention. No phones, no electricity, no ambulance, no taxi, no bus available. So now you now have to saddle up your horse, ride two hours or so to the lancha. And the lancha only runs on lunes y jueves (two days a week). Then a 4-5 hour ride over, at times, some very rough waters......you get the idea. As a padre o abuelo in those days I , too, might be inclined to instill fear of something in my children so that they don't touch it rather than deal with the alternative.


Remember, it wasn't very long ago, the story of a tourist student who decided that it would be cool to grab a garrobo for a foto a he ended up being sent packing back to the states due to the resulting infection.

Edited by Criollo
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I just post this to demonstrate that this topic is very complex and diverse..each species of toxic amphibian and even populations and individuals are different in their biochemistry. I was just thinking that being careful and thoughtful is more functional than being fearful. Some of the same people we know also teach their children to be afraid of dogs.


Answer to question..... always best to be cautious if you are able....


The chemistry of poisons in amphibian skin by J.W Daly

Proceedings of National Academy of Science


Poisons are common in nature, where they often serve the organism in chemical defense. Such poisons either are produced de novo or are sequestered from dietary sources or symbiotic organisms. Among vertebrates, amphibians are notable for the wide range of noxious agents that are contained in granular skin glands. These compounds include amines, peptides, proteins, steroids, and both water-soluble and lipid-soluble alkaloids. With the exception of the alkaloids, most seem to be produced de novo by the amphibian. The skin of amphibians contains many structural classes of alkaloids previously unknown in nature. These include the batrachotoxins, which have recently been discovered to also occur in skin and feathers of a bird, the histrionicotoxins, the gephyrotoxins, the decahydroquinolines, the pumiliotoxins and homopumiliotoxins, epibatidine, and the samandarines. Some amphibian skin alkaloids are clearly sequestered from the diet, which consists mainly of small arthropods. These include pyrrolizidine and indolizidine alkaloids from ants, tricyclic coccinellines from beetles, and pyrrolizidine oximes, presumably from millipedes. The sources of other alkaloids in amphibian skin, including the batrachotoxins, the decahydroquinolines, the histrionicotoxins, the pumiliotoxins, and epibatidine, are unknown. While it is possible that these are produced de novo or by symbiotic microorganisms, it appears more likely that they are sequestered by the amphibians from as yet unknown dietary sources.


Edited by Mayanca
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Thank you for that abstract, Mayanca.


It provides illumination on the concerns about frog / toad toxins expresed in posts #14, #17 & #20, and others above.


It also offers better reasons for 'caution instead of fear' about these creatures, since basically they just want to be left alone and not bothered.




Paul M.


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I sure wish there were a way to instill the Fear of Toads-etc. in dogs. You can explain it in big scary detail to a child, and teach them respect and caution, but dogs ...

I love it when Tonka hunts and kills the June bugs whose ridiculous bumbling flight patterns always end with being tangled in my hair, but he unfortunately can't discriminate, and is a natural bug hunter. He'll just as easily snap up a beautiful butterfly, or a scorpion, or a nest of fire ants, or a poisonous spider as he will a June bug or a fly. He hasn't yet seen a toad or even a lizard, but I'm not looking forward to it.

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Unless you are completely against it, aversion training would be the way to go in this matter.


It is used to train dogs to leave poisonous snakes (or other dangerous critters or situations) alone. It involves a shock collar and a remote. The dog is not incapacitated or damaged in any way by the electric shock that is administered during the course of the training, but it is briefly uncomfortable & startling to him, which does get his attentiona and makes the point (i.e., "Leave that alone!").


At the same time as administering the shock you verbally give the command, "No!" Eventually the verbal command suffices so that the shock can be dispensed with. And if this works to train your dog to leave snakes alone, it will work for toads, too.


Not sure if/where one of these kits might be found in CR, but I'd start by asking my Vet, if I were you.



Paul M.


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Legs, no, he hunts them after they've been knocked to the floor by my wildly flailing limbs, and stunned by my screeching.


Paul: Dog training is such an interesting topic, and one I could yammer on about until you'd probably want to give me an aversion jolt, jaja. Yeah, I actually am against aversion training. I'm a fairly experienced dog trainer, and use positive reinforcement methods. My daughter, however, trains gun dogs (GSDs), and she does use a mild buzz collar (I hate even writing "shock collar") for that. We've talked a lot about it, and I can understand the reasoning behind some of what she says in relation to hunting dogs, although a well known guy in that field did come out with an article saying PR training does work with gun dogs, and that's all he uses now, so there's change happening even in that arena. In order to teach a dog not to mess with snakes etc. in a place like this, I could definitely see why people might go the route of a shock collar in the interest of protecting their dogs in the big picture. I'm actually going to look into this a little bit more, the whole snake-etc. thing. I have trained a really reliable "leave it" command with my dogs, but with something live and moving, that prey-chase instinct can easily overtake reason or training ... further research needed!


CRF: Interesting -- have any of them had any type of experience with the toads that would've taught them to avoid them, or do they seem to just do it naturally? Oddly enough, a toad hopped right onto my foot tonight -- first time that's happened -- and somehow Tonka didn't see it. I may have to trade in my flip-flops for some stylish crocs to walk the dog in. Is it only a certain type of toad with the poisonous secretions?

Seaturtlewoman: Yes. A June bug attack generally leads to a good bit of frenzied flailing about.

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