Why Are Dogs Getting High In Queensland?

Just like people, canines can become addicted to chemical highs.

Recently, dog owners have been reporting strange behaviours from their furry friends.

Marie Flink of northern Queensland is among those to notice such differences in their dogs. Flink explained to the SBS that her dog Bam Bam “looked a little bit, a little bit crazy and then she was you know, licking her mouth … and running around.”

As it turns out Bam Bam and other dogs in the area have been getting high from licking cane toads.

The cane toad, perhaps one of Queensland’s most annoying pests, has infested the tropical regions of Australia. There is an estimated 1.5 billion of them across the North of Australia and the number continues to grow.

Cane toads protect themselves by secreting a toxin from the glands on their back. When ingested, it can make the subject quite high.

“Generally, we’re presented with dogs that are salivating profusely, they’re quite hyper-excited and they often can be tremoring ... worst cases they’re seizuring or they can even go into cardiac arrest,." Brisbane vet Dr. Kirsty Fridemanis said to the SBS.

"Dogs are curious, they want to put things in their mouth to have a bit of an idea of the smell and the taste and then find out what it is."

The chemical makeup of the toxins suggests cane toads excrete hallucinogens, Professor Rob Capon from the University of Queensland explained to SBS.

“The parotid gland on the toad we believe is probably descended from an aberrant adrenal gland, which has gone mutant and has generated this large gland which can produce all these toxins.," Capon added, "The other sorts of chemistry that are produced there are adrenaline, dopamine, as well as a compound bufotenin … Bufotenin affects the central nervous system, and elicits a hallucinogenic response." He explained to SBS.

Unfortunately, due to the sheer amount of cane toads in Queensland and how difficult it is to remove them, the only sure prevention method is keeping dogs under strict surveillance.

As for Bam Bam, Flink told the SBS, “The best thing that I’ve found is just to monitor the dog’s activity when they go down at night … If they start chasing any toads, or go into the bush or something, I make sure to stop them."

Lead Image: Understanding and preventing dog aggression could save lives, both human and canine. A new study offers clues. PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

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