Frog Handling Etiquette: Things You Should Know
When handling frogs, toads or other amphibians, there are precautions you should take to avoid harming them and yourself. Most people don’t consider the dangers of catching and holding amphibians; snatching up a wild poison-dart frog can be fatal but so can a seemingly harmless tree frog in your backyard. Bacteria like salmonella, which is frequently carried by frogs and other reptiles, is dangerous to humans and in severe cases, causes death.
Another aspect to worry about is the health of the frog. Amphibians absorb water through their skins. Not just water but oils, salt, sunscreen, chemicals, etc. You can read more about this in my safe water guide for amphibians. Simply put, grabbing amphibians with unclean hands will not only cause stress, but the frog will absorb the chemicals lingering on your hands too.
With some knowledge and preparation, catching and handling frogs, whether they’re wild caught or captive-born, can be accomplished safely with little chance of harming yourself or the frog.
Can Holding Frogs Be Dangerous?
Whether you’re handling frogs in the wild or in captivity makes little difference. Both the frog’s health and your health can be placed in jeopardy without following safety measures. In this section, I’ll go over the dangers humans face while handling frogs as well as the dangers the frog faces. Here is a quick overview:
- Some frogs and toads are poisonous
- Wild and captive bred frogs can carry salmonella
- When handling, amphibians can absorb the chemicals lingering on your hands
- Squeezing frogs too hard can result in injury or death
- Frogs jumping or falling from your hands can be harmful to them
Dangers for Humans
Chances are, you are reading this guide because you’re concerned about the safety of your pet frog. It’s fantastic that you’re considerate enough to learn the best method for handling your pet but you should also be aware that your health is at risk too.
Most frog enthusiasts know how deadly poison-dart frogs are. In the wild, these colorful frogs eat a variety of insects containing alkaloids which are then converted into potent toxins. The deadliest frog is the Phyllobates terribilis and just one of these frogs can contain enough poison to kill two adult elephants. But did you know cane toads are poisonous as well? Cane toads have been found in Texas and throughout Mexico.
Aside from these poisonous frog and toad species, other amphibians can be deadly too. They, along with some reptiles, have been known to carry the Salmonella germ, a potentially fatal bacteria which most commonly results in diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
Salmonella spreads through amphibian and reptile droppings. If you handle an amphibian with salmonella and you happen to touch your mouth or rub your eyes without first washing and sanitizing your hands, you can be infected.
Dangers for Frogs
Handling frogs without first washing your hands can be dangerous. Soap, oil and other chemicals are harmful to amphibians because their skin is so delicate. Amphibians have a semi-permeable, membranous skin which contains a network of blood vessels where respiratory gases and other elements are processed. Essentially, they’re absorbing oxygen in the water which comes into contact with their skin. Not just water though, anything that touches their skin can be absorbed; including the chemicals on your hands.
Even picking up a frog after washing your hands in soap is discouraged because the residue is still lingering on your hands. Not only is this something to be concerned about but squeezing frogs too hard will cause severe pain and even death. Another thing to remember is stress; most frogs become stressed while being held. For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid holding frogs as much as possible.
Last but not least, frogs are incredible jumpers and often jump from their keeper’s hands. While most are equipped to handle big falls, it still poses a potential problem. And if they don’t get hurt from the fall, they are unquestionably difficult to catch! If you cannot find your frog and it remains outside its normal enclosure for an extended period of time, starvation and dehydration become a threat.
These are the dangers your pet frogs face every time you handle them. For that reason, it’s best to limit the amount of time spent holding them.
How to Safely Handle Frogs
Now that we understand the potential hazards of holding frogs, let’s look at a few safety precautions you can take. I’ll also guide you on how to pick up and hold a frog with your hands.
Holding frogs with your hands
Whether you need to catch a frog in the wild or you want to hold a captive amphibian at home, using your hands is fast and effective. But before you get started you need to wash your hands or wear non-powdered vinyl gloves.
- Washing your hands – Ensure your hands are thoroughly washed, removing all soap, detergent, sunscreen, etc. Your hands should remain wet while handling the amphibian.
- Wearing non-powdered vinyl gloves – Wearing disposable gloves is a great way to protect you from getting salmonella and it protects the frog from harmful toxins that may be on your skin. Powder-free gloves are preferred & you can pick these up online for very cheap. Here is a link for vinyl gloves on Amazon. Click here to check price.
Once your hands are wet and you’re ready to handle the frog, place your thumb on the back of the frog, just below its head. Scoop-up the frog with your fingers around the torso. The frog or toad should be laying on your fingers while your thumb is holding them gently in place.
Alternatively, your thumb can be placed under the frog while your pointer and index finger gently hold pressure on the back of the frog. Apply slight pressure to keep the frog from escaping but don’t squeeze too hard.
Nets & utensils
Another way to catch your frog and avoid contact all-together is by using a small aquarium net or disposable utensils. A 6-inch fish net will suffice for catching most amphibians. If that’s too small, you can opt for using a larger dip net.
Using a plastic spoon or paper plate is another way to scoop up frogs. This method is only recommended if you’re transporting your pet over short distances. Many keepers do their best to avoid all hand-held contact with their amphibians but they still need to clean their enclosures from time-to-time. Scooping little frogs up with plastic spoons is a great, albeit difficult, way to transfer them into a temporary container for cleaning.
My final suggestion is to use small, plastic containers to hold your frogs, toads or other amphibians. Small, disposable containers or even Tupperware are perfect for holding small creatures temporarily. Just be sure the container is clean and has small holes to provide airflow.
This is common-practice among reptile owners. Placing your beloved pet inside a safe, clean container is a great way to temporarily store them outside their permanent enclosure while you clean.
Cleaning Up After Handling Frogs
When you’re finished handling your frog, you always need to wash your hands with antibacterial soap. Even if you wore gloves, I suggest you go the extra mile and wash thoroughly. Frogs, as I mentioned already, can carry salmonella germs so be safe and clean up.
Disinfect any surface the frog came into contact with. Be mindful of what they touched so you can go back later to clean those spots too.
Also, do not touch your mouth or rub your eyes in between the time you handle a frog and wash your hands! This is the quickest way to transfer salmonella germs. As always, stay safe and avoid handling amphibians as much as possible.