Catching and holding frogs can be an enjoyable experience for anyone, especially children. I caught toads when I was young and I bet many of you reading this did too.
Did you have stop and wondered if holding frogs is safe? Or consider whether your actions were harming the happy little toad? Well, that’s probably why you’re here! I’ll answer these questions and more.
When handling frogs, toads, or other amphibians, there are precautions you should take to protect yourself and the animal.
For example, amphibians and reptiles can carry Salmonella, a bacteria that is dangerous to humans, especially for children under the age of 5.
Another thing to consider is the health of the frog. Are you hurting it? Is there a proper way to catch and hold a frog? You may be surprised to learn that frogs can absorb salts, oils, and chemicals from your hands. This is due to their semi-permeable skin, which allows them to absorb oxygen from water.
Because of these reasons, it’s important to practice frog holding etiquette. With some knowledge and preparation, catching and handling frogs can be accomplished safely and with little chance of harming yourself or the frog.
Understanding The Potential Dangers of Handling Frogs
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 are poisonous
- They can carry salmonella
- Amphibians absorb 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
Let’s first start by looking at the dangers people encounter when handling frogs.
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 frog but you should be aware that your health is at risk too.
Most frog enthusiasts know how dangerous poison-dart frogs are. In the wild, these colorful frogs eat a variety of insects containing alkaloids which are then sequestered into potent toxins.
Fear not! There are only a handful of potentially deadly poison dart frogs and they’ve native to Central and South America. Should you live in these areas or plan to visit in the near future, it’s good to learn how to identify poisonous frogs.
The deadliest frog is the Phyllobates terribilis and just one of these frogs can carry enough poison to kill two adult elephants. But did you know cane toads are poisonous as well? Cane toads have been found in Texas, Florida, and throughout parts of Mexico.
In fact, most frogs produce some type of toxin. Those toxins are used as a defense mechanism against their predators. They’re mostly harmless to humans and only mildly irritating to most cats and dogs.
Aside from a frog’s toxins, which are usually mild and harmless to humans, there is another thing to know about.
Amphibians and reptiles have been known to carry Salmonella. Salmonella is a harmful bacteria that commonly results in diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
Salmonella is thought to spread through amphibian and reptile droppings. You can become infected if you handle a frog with salmonella and you touch your mouth or rub your eyes without first washing and sanitizing your hands.
The data from one study suggests exposure to amphibians and reptiles is associated with as many as ~74,000 salmonella infections each year in the US .
Because of this, always wash your hands with soap and water after handling reptiles or amphibians.
Protect the Frog
Handling frogs without first cleaning your hands can be dangerous for amphibians! Soap, oil, and other chemicals are harmful to amphibians because their skin is delicate .
Amphibians have a semi-permeable, membranous skin which contains a network of blood vessels where respiratory gases and other elements are processed.
Essentially, this allows them to absorb 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 with soap is discouraged because the residue is still lingering on your hands. Not only is this something to consider but squeezing frogs too hard will cause severe pain and even death.
- Yet another thing to factor 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’re unable to find your frog and it remains outside its habitat for an extended period of time, starvation and dehydration become a threat.
These are the dangers frogs face every time you handle them. For that reason, it’s best to avoid holding frogs.
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.
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.
Using Nets or Containers
Another way to catch your frog and avoid contact altogether is by using a small aquarium net. 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 paper plate is another way to scoop up an amphibian. This method is only recommended if you’re transporting your pet over short distances.
Many keepers do their best to avoid all contact with their amphibians but they still need to clean their enclosures from time to time. Transporting frogs with plastic containers is one way to transfer them into a temporary enclosure 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.
Wash Your Hands 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.
TLDR; The Basics of Frog Handling Etiquette
Catching frogs is a fun activity for kids. It’s mostly harmless, too. Having said that, it can be potentially dangerous. In this section, I’ll summarize the important information and give you tips for the next time you (or your kids) encounter a frog!
- Frogs have toxins on their skin. The toxins provide a defense against small animals but, in most cases, they’re virtually harmless to humans. Toads have large glands behind their eyes. Don’t squeeze it – this is where they store bufotoxins.
- Poison dart frogs are mostly found in Central and South America. They’re small, colorful frogs and they’re rather potent. It’s best to avoid them. Most people in the US, Canada, and UK, it’s unlikely you’ll encouter one.
- Although rare, amphibians and reptiles can carry Salmonella, a harmful bacteria.
- Frogs don’t like being handled and their skin is semi-permeable. This means they can absorb harmful chemicals from your skin.
Because amphibians are delicate, it’s best to leave them alone and admire them from afar. If you simply cannot help yourself, the paragraph below will teach you how to hold a frog.
Ensure your hands are clean and slightly wet. Gently hold your thumb and index finger around the frog’s body (see the pictures above). Don’t squeeze too hard. The sooner you release the frog, the better. Don’t touch your eyes or mouth, and go wash your hands with antibacterial soap.
Want to learn more? Consider reading our safe water guide for tadpoles.
- Mermin, Jonathan, et al. “Reptiles, Amphibians, and HumanSalmonellaInfection: A Population‐Based, Case‐Control Study.” Clinical Infectious Diseases, vol. 38, no. s3, 2004, pp. S253–61. Crossref, doi.org/10.1086/381594.
- Llewelyn, Victoria K., et al. “Permeability of Frog Skin to Chemicals: Effect of Penetration Enhancers.” Heliyon, vol. 5, no. 8, 2019, p. e02127. Crossref, dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.heliyon.2019.e02127.