Where do you keep your pet? Keep him by your bed, under the sideboard or in a kennel, but take care if you let him wander at night, and especially don’t keep him in your mouth. That was the whimsical sojourning place that a young lad from Arizona kept his pet amphibian. This bundle of fun would frighten his friends by opening his mouth and going, “Bleh!” It landed him in a lot of trouble.
He was brought into the hospital emergency room with uncontrollable epilepsy. He had been suffering seizures for more than an hour and when these were subjected by drugs he was left paralysed down one side with slurred speech, excessive salivation, a rapid pulse and breathing rate and a blue skin from lack of oxygen.
After a week the child recovered but he was lucky. His pet was the Colarado River toad, Bufo avarlua, the most toxic toad in North America. His symptoms – drooling, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias and cyanosis – are classically those of Bufo toxin, which causes sporadic deaths of children in America and of small dogs and other mammals in Britain. Even a kiss has been known to kill. So be careful the next time you are dining out. You may well know your mushrooms from your toadstools, but can you be sure that your cuisse de grenouille aren’t toad’s legs?