Doyle's Dart Den



What do I do with my new frog(s)?
Brian Monk

The following was published in the ADG Newsletter No. 32 April - June 1997 and is used here with the permission of the ADG

I have been asked this question several times, most often by people who have lost new frogs once and don't want to lose any ever again.  It is a good question, as the problems related to the shipping or receiving of frogs (wild-caught or captive-bred) which is probably the greatest cause of death in a newly acquired amphibians.  In response to the many questions I have received on this topic, I have written down a few ideas for people to use as a guide in the treatment of newly acquired anurans.  Note that these points could apply to almost any newly acquired animal.

1. Quarantine is probably the most important thing a hobbyist can do for his frogs.
ALL new frogs should be placed in quarantine for a period of 4-8 weeks, regardless of their appearance.  At the very worst, a quarantine period will only keep healthy frogs from the general collection for this time.  At the very best, you may save yourself and your frogs a great deal of unnecessary loss.

Quarantine should be best carried out in a separate room from the general collection.   Quarantine facilities should consist of a relatively simple set-up.  A 10 gallon aquarium with a small plastic "Honeymoon Hut" and dead sphagnum moss or artificial floor covering.  The aquarium and all of its contents should be sterilized before and after each use, preferably with a solution of 10% Bleach in water.  Let the tank and its contents air dry in the sun before storing or using.  All utensils used for the
quarantine tank must not be used for any other tank.  This means buying a separate spray bottle at the very least.

Also, work with the quarantine tank AFTER you have worked with all other frogs.  This way, you will prevent the spread of potential disease from your hands.  It should go without saying that you should ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS BETWEEN TANKS.

2. New frogs are stressed (often severely) and are often diseased.
Some degree of medical treatment is indicated for newly acquired frogs, be they wild caught imports or captive bred animals from a friend down the street.  In addition to potential parasite, bacterial, and protozoa infections, many frogs are also dehydrated and/or malnourished. Medical treatment always includes quarantine, and potentially dehydration,
deworming, antibiotic therapy, close observation, exam by a veterinarian, and TLC.

I would suggest that after being shipped all frogs are at least dehydrated.  The basic treatment for rehydration includes soaking a frog in an electrolyte solution, like unflavored Pedialyte®, or simply soaking it in dechlorinated tap water.  In most cases this should suffice.  In addition, a period of quiet, warmth, and dark may also help a frog recover from a rough shipping period.
(Also see VETERINARY NOTES (Parasites) by Brian Monk).

3. Parasites can be extremely devastating to a stressed frog.
The basic treatment for parasite infections include antiparasiticals like fenbendazole (Panacur®) or Ivermectin (Ivomec®) or levamisole or pyrantel pamoate.  I use 50-100 mg/kg fenbendazole orally or 50-100 ug/kg ivermectin orally or transdermally.  These treatments are done for 1-3 days and repeated 1-3 weeks later.  Ivermectin can produce neurologic side-effects, and should be discontinued if these are seen. Fecal exams can be done at home, and typically require a 10-50 power microscope.  Direct smear and fecal flotation should be performed.  Fecal floats are done as follows:  mix feces and Zinc Sulfate in a small container (test tubes are good), fill to brim with Zinc Sulfate, rest a slide or coverslip on top and let sit for at least 10 minutes.  Read under microscope.  Direct smears are done with normal (0.9%) saline. It is important to note that interpretation of this test is what counts, and this should be done by a veterinarian until you know exactly what to look for.

4. Protozoal infections are typically NOT infections.
Many protozoans have been shown to be present in normal frog GI tracts, and this suggests they are commensal organisms, if not beneficial to the frogs.  Treatment should be avoided unless populations of protozoa are extremely large, or all other causes for a frog's illness have been ruled out.  Metronidazole at 50 mg/kg once per day orally for 1-3 days and repeated in 1-3 weeks is appropriate, although many people will give metronidazole as a one time dose of 50 mg/kg.  Metronidazole can have
severe neurologic side effects, so used it carefully and discontinued if  neurologic signs are seen.

5. Bacterial infections can be particularly devastating to frogs, as the are very susceptible to septicemia (bacteria living and reproducing in blood), and can quickly succumb and die from even minor infections.
Infections typically occur via wounds, and may present as dark or red blotches, ulcers, or general depression and ADR (Ain't Doin' Right). Normally gram negative pathogens are involved, and treatment with appropriate antibiotics of the correct dosage is indicated.  Enrofloxacin (Baytril®) is my personal favorite, but it is alcohol based and not suitable for transdermal or topical application.  Better drugs for topical application are ophthalmic preparations which are meant to be applied to sensitive areas and are properly formulated.

6. Fungal infections can and do occur, particularly on the eyes and skin.
These may be primary or secondary, and can be diagnosed by microscopically examining skin scrapings for fungal elements.  Appropriate therapy with topical or systemic antifungal medications is indicated.

7. Severely emaciated frogs may have to be force fed before they will recover enough to eat on their own.
The technique varies with the size of the frog, but in general a good force-fed diet includes all of the necessary nutrients, often in a concentrated form to decrease the volume of food to be force-fed. Several commercial force-fed diets are available.  A simple diet can be made by making a paste of fruit-flies, crickets (without the legs or wings), vitamin/mineral powder (VERY LITTLE), and a few drops of water.  A mortar and pestle can be used to grind these ingredients together, and a small
syringe and catheter can be used to feed the mixture.  Most frogs (thankfully) will eat on their own providing other problems and diseases are taken care of.

8.  Get a veterinarian.
Pick a veterinarian who is willing to listen and work with you.  Most vets don't know much about frogs, but they know a lot about the art and science of medicine.  Give them a chance, and they will provide you with plenty of knowledge and help.  You will pay for their services, but most vets have gone to school for 8 years and are $40,000 to $80,000 in debt from student loans.  You pay a veterinarian for his/her knowledge, and not just the drugs they give you.

A frog owner should not simply go to the pet store and buy some fish medication and treat his frogs.  Granted, some will have some luck with this method.  But the greater majority of the time this technique will be ineffective at best, and harmful (potentially fatal) at worst.  A frog owner should work in conjunction with his/her veterinarian, even if this means visiting the vet only one time to explain your problems and situation.

9.  If anyone has a sick frog and they want to send me a picture of it or present it for further work up, I would love to hear from you.
Hobbyists are invaluable in expanding the base of knowledge we veterinarians have concerning amphibian medicine.  Not much is known specifically about amphibian disease.  Particularly now, in this time of drastic declines in world amphibian populations, knowledge of amphibian disease is very important.  The salvation of species may depend on what we know.  You, as collectors and hobbyists, have a much greater daily exposure to these animals, and you can help the veterinary community by  telling us what you have found.


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