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Bird Saves Dog – No Film at 11

June 13th, 2010

One of the things about living in the tropics is that here we have animals, insects and reptiles that can hurt our pets… and people as well. This is not to say that this is not true in the US, but our threats are a bit different. I know friends who live in the Southwestern US who have lost pets to snakebites, and I know others living in the foothills around Los Angeles who must constantly be on guard against coyotes who will snatch a dog or cat if the opportunity presents itself.

We live in the central valley not far from San Jose  so we are not troubled by snakes or wild animals. We do get the occasional scorpion (venomous but not life threatening), the occasional tarantula, but not much more. Killer bees live here, of course, and once in a while there are news reports about an attack… seldom fatal. The poison darts frogs of Costa Rica are quite famous and we can see them all the time near the river on my wife’s property in Limon Province, but they are not found in the central valley. Folks living near the beaches or in other truly tropical areas have told me of brushing against or handling certain varieties of caterpillars that can cause amazingly serious and painful injuries.

Here though, and right in our back yard, we get toads.  Big fat fellows that emit a serious poison through their skin when threatened. I must say I completely underestimated the danger of this reptile, and my lack of understanding almost cost the life of our dog, Piro. She would be dead if not for our parrot (lora). a yellow naped Amazon.

If this story interests you, read on!

The Bird (top left – whose real name is QuiQui) and the dog (bottom right) are fast friends. This was not always so as there was some dispute as to who was going to be alpha in the pet hierarchy. Those of you familiar with parrots know them as pretty fearless critters, and ours falls into that category quite nicely.  The Dog learned this the hard way having had her nose tweaked numerous times when she tried to assert herself. The Bird, who is quite capable of flight, prefers to walk. As walking places her nicely on the Dog’s terrain, turf wars were inevitable. It took the Dog and the Cats a very short while to learn who was alpha insofar as the floor was concerned.  The cats give her wide birth and the Dog is her sidekick covering her like a bodyguard.  This procession never fails to amuse me.

As mentioned, the Bird is quite fond of the Dog and it was this weird relationship that saved the Dog’s live a couple of weeks ago.

The Bird was in her outdoor cage and the Dog was roaming the back yard. We were all indoors doing whatever when QuiQui starts screaming. Those of you who know or have parrots know that when they let loose… they really let loose and can be heard for miles. As the bedroom is not miles from the back yard, we jumped out of our skins at the racket and ran outside to see what was the issue.

Piro had found and decided to chow down on one of the large toads I mentioned above.  The result was almost immediate and had not the Bird sent out the alert, it would have surely been fatal. Piro started running in circles, out of control as the poison entered her system via her gums. My wife and Carlos attempted to give her milk with lemon juice, later determined not to be a useful, and also used water to flush her mouth, later determined to be the correct thing, but still relatively useless.

We all piled into the car for the 1 KM trip to the vet hoping that she would be there. At this point, Piro was totally out of control, suffering spine bending contractions, similar to epileptic seizures of the grand mal variety.

We arrived minutes later, and thankfully, the vet was there. She grabbed Piro and placed her on the operating table. Piro’s heart rate was out of control and she bagan an IV, not a simple task on a dog suffering whole body contractions and whipping around like crazy. We  saw no improvement and the vet, without my wife seeing this, shook her head. No chance.

Still, she gave us small hope saying if she survived another 5-10 minutes….

She did, but the contractions were absolutely unchanged. There were no outward signs of improvement. It did not look good.

Carlos and I had to leave, but Maria Luisa decided to stay with Piro, promising to call when she either improved or…

Five hour later we got the call. Piro was alive and we went to pick her up. She was alive, but completely sedated from the drugs.

We made a bed for her indoors when we returned, but she did not move a muscle for 7-8 hours. When she did wake up, we discovered that she was completely deaf and blind. This was apparently normal because of the massive amount of drugs given her, but at the time, we did not know this.  It was heartbreaking.

Two days later, she regained her vision and hearing, but her coordination was gone.  She could not even negotiate a single six inch step. We had no idea what to expect and the vet, who I think was surprised she made it this far, could only suggest we wait to see how she progressed, but gave some hope that she might well recover completely.

She did!

It took two more weeks, but she made a 100% recovery.

Folks often ask about the vets here, and I have always said my experiences have been very good. Clearly, our vet did wonderful work, never leaving Piro’s side for almost 5 hours.

As we were leaving her office with Piro, I went to settle up the bill. I am not sure what I was expecting.  Veterinary care is less expensive her, but 5 hours? Drugs?

She told me the bill was 20,000 colones (about $40.00).  I said that was impossible, totally forgetting that my comment would be taken as trying to negotiate a better price. It was, and she looked embarrassed.  I looked more embarrassed as I explained it was far too little for the work, and not too much.  After “bargaining” she accepted 40,000 colones, and that was a battle.

Nice story huh?  Happy ending!

I told her last week that I planned to Blog this story.  She asked for confidentiality.  Please do not ask me for her name and office location.  She has a small practice and does not want/need new clients at this time.

17 Responses to “Bird Saves Dog – No Film at 11”

  1. Rian on June 13, 2010 4:30 pm

    Great story, Tim. Glad Piro made it. Give him an extra treat for me. xoxo

  2. Janie on June 14, 2010 8:07 am

    What a great story! We have two very beloved dogs so I read with great interest. I’m so glad Piro survived! This story ALMOST makes me want to have a bird. 🙂 We’ve been through something similar but our dog did not make it through. 🙁 It’s been 5 yrs and he is still greatly missed. My husband is a Vet in the US but, of course, will not be licensed to practice in Costa Rica…so we will be looking for a good Vet in the Central Valley area very soon! I’m sure we’ll find one in our area without too much trouble but recommendations are welcome if anyone has one.
    Cheers to QuiQuui and Piro!

  3. Jason on June 14, 2010 9:31 am

    Hey Tim, great story, glad your dog recovered fully.

    I live in Belen and have seen some of these toads around my house as well. I’ve never seen one in my back yard but your story does concern me about my own dogs safety.

    Do you recommend doing anything about the toads if I find one? Should I try and relocate it? Are they really toxic to people as well?

  4. Ashley Required on June 14, 2010 2:09 pm

    Hi Tim
    We’re pleased Piro recovered. I hope the toad survived the attack too after its natural defence mechanism did the trick! As a conservationist I am increasingly concerned about the effects of non indigenous animals on the environment. Cats are particularly destructive to small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

  5. don derkach on June 14, 2010 5:07 pm

    With all the bad things happening all over the world it’s wonderful to read a story like this. Hooray for the bird and dog.

  6. Tom in Portland on June 15, 2010 1:45 am

    Give my warmest regards to your Vet, she deserves the best karma possible for her efforts. Treats QuiQui for I think the bird is a high Tibetan lama returned to this life. And to Piro greetings and treats for seeing the Bardo,but not going because of her love for you!

    Any blog information coming about how to deal with toads in your back yard in the near future? I a moving to a mountain outside of Palomo, Cartago and been concerned about the very thing happening to my girl in some form or anotherr. She is an English Springer Spaniel and a very noisy girl and loves to chase the birds from the yard. I wouldn’t mind if a bird like QuiQui clipped her wings and made her a friend!

  7. Cyril Alvares on June 15, 2010 6:29 am

    Dear Tim
    If you had paid the Vet $40 your story would have lost its charm. God bless you man, God bless the vet. Cheers Piro.


  8. GirlBlue on June 15, 2010 6:37 am

    So happy Piro has recovered from her ordeal, she looks like a lovely little dog 🙂 I hope QuiQui got a reward for her heroic action thus saving the day.

    I have a parrot myself and am well aware of the screaming they can emit when disturbed by something *yaouch*. I always know when someone is at the back of my house thanks to him. Hope they both continue to have excellent lives and continue to love each other or a very long time to come

  9. Tim on June 15, 2010 6:58 am


    Our back yard is surrounded by a 10′ (3M) wall, and the toad was taken to the field on the other side and released unharmed.

  10. Tim on June 15, 2010 7:05 am


    We are neighbors!

    The toads are not toxic to people I do not think… (unless you lick one maybe…. ewwww!). Anyway… I do not think these are the same toads a few of my friends licked back in the ’60s. I forget much of that era anyway as I DID inhale 🙂

    If you see one, just take it to an open area and release it. Use gloves if you are concerned, but probably best not to leave it anywhere where your dog can get at it.

  11. Tim on June 15, 2010 7:20 am

    Tom in Portland

    As is clear to me now, time is of the essence if a dog gets a hold of one of these toads. You have literally minutes to get the animal to a vet. We were there very quickly and as you read, she held little hope for her survival. That IV was in within seconds.

    Even if your home is near a vet, that does not mean he will be in his office. Nearly all of them do house calls, and it not a slam dunk that you will find them in.

    Once there, the only treatment is an IV to combat the venom. Even if you are animal nuts as we are, it is just not practical to have the medicine and an IV needle around the home… and how the hell would you find the vein anyway and know the flow rate? The only answer is the vet.

    This whole incident has changed things here… Piro no longer spends as much time outside as we have become a bit paranoid. I actually wish another toad would come along (when I was with her) to see what she would do. I have no idea if she has stored this incident in her doggie memory like she has for other bad bugs and critters… I’d feel a lot better if I knew for sure she would not again try to attack/bite/chew the things.

  12. Peter M. on June 15, 2010 12:32 pm

    Hello, Tim, and all you caring Aficionados of Tico “Animal” kingdom, and Bravo for your survival experience with the love of your life; I am particularly concerned inasmuch as I will soon be a neighbor to one and all of you in “Tico” land. I have a 5 1/2 year-old 6 lbs. Yorkie, and she is my love, too. How come it took me so long to take the responsibility of such a sweetheart as she is? I’ll never know!!

    I’d be happy to hear from folks who live in the country particularly in the Southern region, namely la Costa Ballena, Ojochal,and others; it would be nice to know someone when I come down to visit with Steve Linder’s Pacific Lots in September; of course, I would be returning for the final “Jubilado” move a couple of months later, so we could meet then!
    Hasta luego,
    Soy don Peter con mi Dulcinea,Olivia

    P.S. Can anyone put me in touch with the Expatriates Community and other U.S.-driven Clubs? Thanks

  13. Ed in Grecia on June 28, 2010 9:10 am

    Oh does this story bring back memories. I will share some insights on this as we have “survived” this ordeal many times.

    The frog is known in the US as a “Boffo” frog. They can be identified by their size and the dinosaur wrinkles look on their back.They are UGLY! Their nature is to snuggle down into moist dirt/mud, usually under a bush.

    The Boffo does indeed emit a poisonous venom from it’s back when it feels threatened. When a dog bites it, the venom flows.

    How harmful is it? For smaller dogs, they will react to the venom like Piro did. Death is certain if not treated soon. For larger dogs, the venom is not usually strong enough to cause death. A larger dog (60lbs and above) will just get sick for a period. Humans: there are certain “unusual” people that lick these frogs for the high it gives them!!

    How do I know all of this? We lived many years in South Florida, home of MANY Boffo frogs. For 14 years we owned a Jack Russell Terrier (Jake) that survived about 4 bouts of this poison. Tim, your $40 cost made me cry (sort of). We dropped thousands of $$ at emergency pet clinics to save Jake.

    I have no idea if the CR frogs have stronger venom than in the US. But the best thing you can do is wash the dogs mouth out totally with water and run to the vet asap. The first sign we had of trouble was foaming at the mouth, then disorientation, then convulsions. It’s ugly to see.

    Hope this sheds some light on this matter.


  14. Alexandra on October 21, 2010 6:19 am

    Great story telling – very happy ending. Hope your dog does remember and stays well clear of all things toady and poisonous. Well done also for releasing the toad, I think most people would have killed such a creature after an incident like that!

    My uncle was a successful parrot breeder in the UK so I have always had a bit of an admiration for them – plus a slight fear coz they’re clever and are armed with a strong grip and a beak that can break open walnuts – yikes!

    I was just browsing the internet and found your website – it was so good to read I delved in further and found this.

    Take care Tim.

  15. Penny on January 25, 2011 8:17 am

    What a great story. Animals are amazing!

  16. Sarah Arant on August 26, 2011 3:04 pm

    So glad your story had a happy ending. We plan to find a rental place in the Grecia/Atenas area next month and retire there. We will of course bring our chichuhua (sp?) and shih tzu. Can anyone tell me if heartworms are a CR problem. I tried to ask the vet but keep getting told the website is not available. Is having their shots up-to-date all we need? Thanks so much and God Bless.

  17. Chris Sparks on March 23, 2013 10:59 pm

    That was a great story. I live in Arizona and I have a rotty that got bitten by a diamond back. She is still alive today. She has some nerve damage in her face (she drools) but she is a healthy dog.