A Toad Sucking Dog?
January 1, 2007 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Mrs. Lester played Laura Mirsch's essay called 'The Dog Who Loved to Suck on Toads' for the first time last night. It's a great piece, but my bullshit detector went off immediately. How likely is this to actually happen? Have any dog owning mefis had had problems with dogs being addicted to other substances?
posted by lester's sock puppet to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My 6 year old poodle does this. It causes her mouth to foam and she does act a bit odd afterwards, but I can't say if they are hallucinogenic or not. But yes, she goes nuts for them.
posted by Sufi at 11:19 AM on January 1, 2007

My mom's Weimaraner used to do this all the time, living in South Florida. Finally fell in the pool after licking a toad and was too high to swim.
posted by gleuschk at 11:41 AM on January 1, 2007

When I was a kid, we brought a toad home on more than one occasion and put it in front of our bulldogs to see what they would do. They would sniff the toad, the toad would hop away and then they would paw at the toad and then eventually try to pick the toad up in their mouths. Which was not a pleasant experience for them--they'd foam at the mouth, spit the toad out, then bark at the toad and then try to pick the toad up again. Eventually, they'd end up just barking at the toads and looking like they'd been eating shaving cream.

They did the same thing with our Van Degraff generator. Walk over and sniff and get zapped on the nose with a spark. Back off, come in again and get zapped again. They'd rise and repeat until they were sitting just out of range, just barking at the damn thing out of frustration. They weren't exactly doggy rocket scientists.

My mom would take groceries out of the sack and sometimes put the empty sack on the floor by the counter. The bulldogs would come in and see the sack, freak out and start barking like there was a burglar in the house. They are the most lovable of dogs but, God, they can be dumb.

I heard that story on NPR. I'm not a big fan of those over-written, self-congratulatory God, I am just cracking myself up! Am I on a roll or what !? listener essays. I thought it was a little too cute and trying too hard to be clever to be entirely for real. But, to tell the truth, I just don't know. We'd need a talking dog to know for sure.
posted by y2karl at 1:53 PM on January 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

Lots of toads excrete poisonous venom.

The hallucinogen bufotenin, which is present in the venom of Bufo alvarius (aka Colorado River Toad, aka Sonoran Desert Toad), is not orally active. Thus, "toad licking" is a bit of a myth. If you wish to get high from toad venom you must dry it out and smoke it.

Attempting to eat the venom can make you or your pet very sick. In fact, pets have been known to die from ingesting it.

I mean, the venom is, after all, the toad's defense mechanism.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:58 PM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

(see erowid for more)
posted by Afroblanco at 3:08 PM on January 1, 2007

Did your bullshit detector go off just at the thought of animals displaying self-medicating or addictive behaviour?

That kind of thing is quite common in the animal kingdom: cats and catnip for example, or those elephants who get drunk on beer, or even self-medicating donkeys who eat coca leaves. Can we say "zoopharmacognosy"?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:56 PM on January 1, 2007

According to http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic3407.htm:

"Several species of toads produce venom that has psychoactive properties. Members of the genus Bufo, particularly Bufo marinus and Bufo alvarius, contain bufotenine and 5-MeO-DMT. The compound 5-MeO-DMT is firmly established as a hallucinogen, whereas the role of bufotenine has not yet been established. The toads are either licked or milked for their venom, which may then be ingested or smoked. Their dried skin also may be smoked."

Don't know about a dog getting hooked on it, but it doesn't seem impossible.
posted by kch at 6:30 PM on January 1, 2007

Best answer: kch - The emedecine link is wrong. Do your research. 5-MeO-DMT is not orally active unless it is combined with a MAO inhibitor. MAO inhibitors are not found in toad venom.

"Of course the licking myth is newspaper hype -- it is the venom that is active, and it is smoked."
- Alexander Shulgin

So, yes, Lester's Sock Puppet, the dog-and-toad story is BS. Your BS detector is well-calibrated
posted by Afroblanco at 9:10 PM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I thought as much myself when I heard it. It's just too neat.
The situation seemed to resolve itself when the toads went into hibernation for the winter.

But when they returned, so did Lady -- and with a vengeance.

"We couldn't keep our dog's addiction a secret any longer," Laura Mirsch says. "The neighbors all knew that Lady was a drug addict, and soon the other dogs weren't allowed to play with her."

In the end, Lady seems to have found a way to manage her problem.

"She seems to have outgrown the wild toad-obsessed years of her youth," Mirsch says, "and now only sucks on weekends."
Hmm, More from Intern Edition

Laura Mirsch. Wonder if she knows Melody Jo Kramer. NPR is starting to seem like flypaper for the mendacious.
posted by y2karl at 11:13 PM on January 1, 2007

When I was a kid, my dog used to eat bees. It was the wierdest damn thing. He'd swallow the bee, shake his head and then stagger around for a few seconds and then go eat another one. He would do this often. I'm not sure if he got high off of the venom or what, but as a kid that's what I always assumed.
posted by anansi at 11:16 PM on January 1, 2007

It would be interesting to find out what species of toad that is in the picture and whether it indeed secretes halluinogenic or hallucinogenic precursor in its skin and at what levels.

From a moment's Googling, and with the possible exception of Australia aside, human toad licking stories seem to be hype and hoaxes as well.

Another thing is the whole addiction story. I know dogs can develop OCD behaviors but sustained compulsive drug use ? I think that's something only people do. Oh, I know there are all sorts of animal experiments involving compulsive drug use in attempts to show a physical basis for addiction. But these involve strapped down animals in cages that are trained to self medicate. I don't think there are any studies that replicate such self medication in uncaged animals. Animals may ingest beer or plant derived psychoactives but addiction is a human behavior. Plus the writer displays an as seen on TV tabloid level knowledge of the subject of addiction research. It's one cliche after another.

"The neighbors all knew that Lady was a drug addict, and soon the other dogs weren't allowed to play with her."

As if. That's where it really jumped the shark.

Hmm, here's last year's Kaycee Nicole. Start your engines. It's time for another episode of CSI MetaFilter.
posted by y2karl at 12:05 AM on January 2, 2007

Response by poster: my bs indicator was based on the toad licking (not that i haven't, um tried it myself) ... not the addictive behavior. the description of a totally white toad sounded off to me ... most dogs eat things, not suck them. then they'd throw up. it's doubtful that a toad would survive ... and that the dog would put up with habitual barfing for a toad fix.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:34 PM on January 2, 2007

>I know dogs can develop OCD behaviors but sustained compulsive drug use [...] I don't think there are any studies that replicate such self medication in uncaged animals.

Er, did you read my post, or the link?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:16 PM on January 3, 2007

Your link mentioned Chimpanzees eating a presumably anti-helminthic herb when infected with an intestinal parasite. A chimp worming itself is not exactly a chimp getting high. Can we say mentioned nothing concerning animals consuming psychoactive substances let alone compulsively consuming psychoactive substances ?

Animals have been known to consume psychoactive substances. This much is fairly common knowledge. Dogs lap up beer, cats eat cat nip. Birds and bees get drunk on fermented berries, juice or nectar. Reindeer in Siberia have been known to enthusiastically eat the yellow snow made by Amanita Muscaria eating shamen. On occasion. What I was talking about was the sustained compulsive use of psychoactive substances which labratory animals can be trained to do when isolated and under restraint.

Animals in the wild, heck, even animals loose in cages, with choices to do something other than push or not push a button to get a dose of a drug injected intravenously while under restraint do not develop such behaviors. The choice to move around in a stimulating environment, to interact with other animals if they are a social species, to eat or drink if they wish distract them. Lab animals have a steady supply of whatever substance they have been trained to self-administer. Wild animals usually do not get such an opportunity.

As for domestic animals, cats love catnip when exposed to it upon occasion but lose all interest in it if it is left out all the time. They develop first a tolerance and then a repulsion.

And all this apart from the fact noted above by Afroblanco that toad venom has to be smoked to be psychoactive. I also think lester's sockpuppet makes another point--this dog's toad licking does not ring true. It doesn't sound something a dog would do. Dogs like to gulp, to wolf it down as it were.
posted by y2karl at 11:15 PM on January 3, 2007

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