Handling Frogs

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

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.

  1. Washing your hands – Ensure your hands are thoroughly washed, removing all soap, detergent, sunscreen, etc. Your hands should remain wet while handling the amphibian.
  2. 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.
Handling Frogs

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.

Holding Frog

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.

Containers

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.

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39 Comments

  • I’ve been seeing a lot of controversy on frogs sitting up right because it suffocates them and can even lead to death. So is this true, that sitting frogs up right like humans do, bad for them?

    Reply
    • I am also very interested in hearing an informed response to this.

      It is incredibly common on “frog Instagram” to see comments about frogs sitting upright being unable to breathe/suffering organ damage, but I have never found any scientific basis for this claim. Considering that frogs breathe both through their lungs and their skin, it would be hard to believe that any single body position would cause suffocation, at least not for short periods of time. And as far as organ damage is concerned, it is said in these posts that vertebrae of frogs can damage the lungs if the frogs are in an upright position, but I find that also a little hard to believe because, well, a species that has undergone so many different evolutionary adaptions to survive being easily killed by a slight shift in their body posture doesn’t sound feasible to me.

      I want to be clear that I am in way advocating for the posing of frogs for photos, I’m more interested in learning whether or not those claims are misinformation.

      Reply
  • I’m looking to get a white’s tree frog and have seen people dressing them up all over Instagram and was wondering if that’s ok to do. I’m also wondering if you are able to put homemade decor in their enclosure.

    Reply
    • You can place homemade decor in their enclosure so long as it’s not harmful. Things that could cause problems are the chemicals used in making the decor (example: glue, paint, etc), if there are sharp edges on the decoration, or if it’s generally unsafe; so long as they won’t get crushed or stuck in it.

      Please don’t dress them up. Frogs don’t like being handled in general.

      Reply
      • I have a frog in a garden pond (actually a old bath sunk in the garden that was here when I moved in).
        I now have a pond in same garden that was done two years ago so would like to fill in the old one but would it be ok to move the frog from the old bath into the new pond.

  • Hello, we’ve recently acquired a Smooth Side Toad that was as the dealer said “an escape artist” which most likely means he didn’t put loud on tight and he escaped. He was caught between a wall and received a sore on his back. Since it’s become nasty looking and has puss on it. We’ve been dabbing with clean towel and dripping Vetericyn on it but it isn’t really helping. He is still on coco husk bedding just fyi. What do you suggest as this has been 2 weeks now.

    Reply
    • Hey, Shane. Sorry to hear that about your pet. Did a vet advise you to put Vetericyn on the wound? If not, please be careful. Amphibians aren’t like cats or dogs. They have semi-permeable skin so you have to be careful. I certainly recommend calling your local vet to see what they say. For now, keep the substrate clean and provide really clean water daily.

      Reply
  • I have been looking at frogs and I love the desert rain frog, but I’ve read they are very rare and illegal to own in some states. I was researching some other frogs that are similar and I like the dumpy tree frog. Do you know of any other frogs that are similar? I’ve never owned a frog before but I am interested in owning one.

    Reply
    • Waxy Monkey Tree Frogs are similar in appearance to White’s Tree Frogs. Whatever species you decide on, I highly recommend doing plenty of research before getting one!

      Reply
  • Hi, I recently got a frog under extremely strange circumstances. Went camping, packed up the tents, drove 2 days across the country and when I got home, there was a tiny froglet in the tent. I went to the petstore to get advice and they said it was best that I keep him, as he is very far from his home, and is unlikely to survive if I set him free. I have never owned a frog before, and I was wondering if you could give me any advice so he can live his best life. I have already got an enclosure and the petstore’s reccomended food: tiny crickets. He seems happy but I was hoping for a bit of advice. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • You drove two days, huh? The more information you can share the better. If the climate is quite a bit different then yes, it would be better for you to keep him. Do you know what type of frog it is? Or, if not, what does he look like and where did you find him (state, region).

      The environment of the enclosure should reflect his natural environment. Hence the reason I ask. The temperature, humidity, etc. I highly recommend checking out this page about what frogs eat first. Once I have some more information about the type of frog, I’ll be able to help more.

      Reply
  • Hi! I was just wondering about white tree frogs, if I were to get two, should I group two males or two females together? Thank youuuu

    Reply
    • It doesn’t matter honestly. If you want tadpoles, get a male and female. Even then, it doesn’t guarantee they will mate. The environment has to be right.

      Reply
  • is it bad to hold a frog by the back of its neck? ps ive never done this just filling in some info for someone 🙂

    Reply
    • Yes lol! Please refer to the pictures in this post or avoid holding it if possible. Good luck!

      Reply
  • Why is it advisable not to handle frogs after rinsing hands with chlorinated water such as tap water?

    Reply
    • It’s not the best method. Frogs have semi permeable skin so they absorb things that come into contact with their skin. Any soap or chemicals remaining on your hands could be absorbed by the frog. Some people use gloves.

      Reply
      • I recently read a comment about someone holding a frog that was screaming they said its screaming because our hands feel like sandpaper to frogs and advised us not to wash our hands or something to that nature but I was wondering if it’s actually true do I hand really feel like sandpaper to frogs.

      • I can’t imagine that’s what it feels like to them but its hard to say. Its true though, that you shouldn’t handle them unless you have to. Gripping the frog tightly may be very frightening for a frog. You want to wash your hands with water and make sure your hands are still wet when you handle them. The reason you don’t want to use soap is because if you don’t completely remove all the soap residue, the chemicals can be harmful to the frog.

  • I remember being told that you shouldn’t sit frogs like humans because it hurts them, is this true?

    Reply
    • Any type of unnatural position for the frog could potentially be harmful. I can’t imagine that placing them in a sitting position against there will is a good idea 🙂 You may have seen some really cool pictures of frogs in poses that aren’t typical. While the pictures look interesting, the folks taking the pictures may be causing more harm than good.

      Reply
  • Hypothetically, If your red eye green tree frog got out and you had to pick him up immediately, with unclean hands that had moisturisers on, is there first aid for the frog to clean him? Yes this just happened to me and my frog 😭 please advise me how to wash him off. I gave him a long shower in clean water, but is there anything else I can do? Thanks in advance 👍

    Reply
    • You did what I was going to suggest – putting him in some clean water. It may help or it may not. Don’t worry too much, though! You did what you had to do and it most likely won’t cause any long term problems unless you had some really bad chemicals on your hands.

      Reply
      • I know that whites tree frogs can tolerate handling really well.. what other frogs are tolerable to being handled? I’ve been googling for hours and no where and no one really addresses the question…

  • When picking up a frog some water that came off the frogs back got into one of my eyes. Extremely painful at the time but I was wondering if there is possibility of infection or long term damage?

    Reply
    • I don’t want to alarm you but amphibians can carry salmonella. This doesn’t mean ALL of them have it – just that they can carry it. I’m certainly not a doctor so I can’t say whether or not it could cause an infection or long-term damage. I recommend calling your doctor and seeing what they have to say.

      Reply
  • I’m going to be getting a toad soon and would like to put some painted rocks in its enclosure and I am wondering if either the paint or sealer (mod podge) would be harmful. Also gorilla glue for altering the enclosure. Thanks!

    Reply
    • I think mod podge is non-toxic but I’m not sure how well it would hold up in a toad enclosure. The humidity may cause a problem? I haven’t used it so I can’t tell you one way or another. What I will tell you is that you’ll want to seek out non-toxic sealers. Your average glue will be harmful. 100% silicone is safe and it works well for certain applications.

      Reply
    • Hi! We just got out 12-year-old daughter an Australian green tree frog. It’s been with us for 48 ours but I could swear it looks skinnier tonight that two nights ago. He ate two big mealworms yesterday and two more today. Tonight, while he was on the wall of his terrarium I though I noticed the edges of his legs being kind of pink. I don’t know of it was just the light shinning through them. My daughter has been holding him a lot (maybe for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, a few times throughout the afternoon) with wet hands. The froggy doesn’t seem to mind. He just walks on her hand and around her fingers. We have also put him on the wood floor to feed him because it was hard to tell if he was eating in his enclosure. The worms but just go underneath the moss and stuff on the enclosure floor. I hope we haven’t bee harming our new pet :(. We’ll get him some crickets tomorrow and some bottled water since we’ve been using tap water. I’m sorry we’ve been such awful pet fro owners 😥

      Reply
      • Hey Rosa! I’m glad you’ve come here for advice! Luckily, you’ve got the one species of frog that at least tolerates handling. I would certainly recommend reading through this article for the dangers of holding amphibians and reducing the amount of time holding your frog. In addition to this, check out our pet care guide for Australian green tree frogs. It will tell you everything you need to know for proper husbandry! In addition to this, please consider switching your frog’s diet to crickets! One more article to read is this; what frogs eat. It explains the benefits of dusting feeder insects (like crickets) with calcium and vitamin powder before feeding them to your frog!

  • Are there any soaps that are more safe for amphibians (and reptiles/fish) to be around? I want to make sure my hands are clean before and after I touch my animals, or anything in their enclosure. Right now I just try to rinse my hands really well with water, but I don’t know if its getting everything off. If I have to clean their terrarium I will use vinegar, dry it out, then spray again with water.

    Reply
    • Not that I know of, Sam. It’s a great question and I’m sorry I’m not more helpful here. I recommend doing what you’re already doing – wash you hands really well with just water. You could even go as far as using cheap, disposable gloves (the non-powered type).

      Reply
  • Hi I think I have a common eastern froglet in my swimming pool and I’m worried that the chemicals and salt in the pool will kill him. At the moment he seems to be happy swimming around and lying on surface of water. What is the best way to get him out and where to take him?

    Reply
    • You could try using a fishing net if you have one. Otherwise, gently scoop him with your hands or try and run him off lol.

      Reply
  • i need to get supplies and directions for my new frog friend. i have to make sure hes okay. i think i need a frog carrier. hes in a certain kind of clear and its not providing enough as a holder.

    Reply
    • Exo Terra makes a small enclosure called a “Faunarium” in various sizes (mostly small). They’re great for holding frogs temporarily but I recommend a full-sized terrarium/tank for their permanent enclosure.

      Reply
      • I just picked up a toad outside and it jumped out my hands twice. It landed in the pool (just water) and i picked it up and put it in a safe corner in the garden but it made a noise. Im now feeling bad of having picked it up at all and worry having hurt or traumatised it 😔

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