Penny chews her food only enough to get it down her throat and sometimes it's unnerving to see her gulp down big pieces of meat. But I reckon the owner of a dog in the Northern Territory is glad that his dog didn't stop to chew the cane toad that it ate recently.The Northern Territory News reports that the dog probably gulped the toad whole, thinking it was one of the pieces of pie and pastie that the owner had tossed onto the ground. Surprisingly, the dog is unharmed by the toxic meal; there's some thought that this occurred because it didn't chew the toad.
But the amazing thing is that the toad lived through forty minutes in the dog's stomach.It took two injections at the Animal Hospital to make the dog regurgitate the creature - and the toad hopped away! There's a fascinatingly awful photo of it covered in stomach 'stuff'. (Looks a bit like those meals that Penny eats too fast, regurgitates and then hoes into again. Ugghh!)
I thought I'd heard that dogs' saliva doesn't start the digestion process like human saliva does, so I checked around and found what seems like a clear explanation on the site of the Farmore dog food company.
Human saliva has an enzyme called amylase (spelled wrong on the Farmore site, by the way) which chemically breaks down carbohydrates into simpler compounds. At WonderQuest (a constantly interesting general information site) I read that we don't start digesting protein in our mouths - our tongues are made of protein so they don't get harmed. Now, that's a relief! I suppose we're more like our dogs than I thought - we too only use our mouths to chew meat into little pieces that fit down our throat. If we were to keep a piece of meat in our mouth, it wouldn't start to digest, as a piece of bread would.
Cane toads have been a disaster for Australia since their introduction from Hawaii in 1935. They were introduced to combat a beetle that was infesting our precious sugarcane crops in Queensland. However, not only did they fail to control the beetles, but themselves became a worse pest. They're spreading around the country, moving southwards by about 1.3 kilometres a year, so I guess we won't have to worry here in Victoria for a while.
But it makes me sad to think that we don't have an effective way to combat this pest that has no natural enemies on this continent. There was an article in The Age newspaper recently reporting that toads are killing off our native freshwater crocodiles. If you'd like to know more about cane toads and other invasive species in the Australian environment, go to the site of the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and The Arts.