5 Health Risks to a Dog If It Eats a Dead Frog
Dogs tend to eat many things they aren’t supposed to, and it can be scary when they eat something poisonous or dangerous. It can even be gross when they decide to eat dead animals! In particular, dead frogs and toads can be dangerous to eat, depending on the type they get their paws on.
There are multiple health risks associated with eating dead frogs, with more serious symptoms being fatal if they ingest poisonous species. Toads are typically more of a problem than frogs, but the risks of both are similar. Their toxins are found on their skin and will make their way into the glands of dogs and other animals quite easily once consumed.
In the U.S., toads are a greater concern for serious illness in dogs, with Cane and marine toads, giant toads, and Colorado River toads being the most dangerous. Whether the frog is poisonous or not will largely dictate what happens to your dog. This article explains five health risks that your dog faces if they eat a dead frog or toad.
Frog and Toad Toxins Can Cause Death
The worst-case scenario when a dog eats a poisonous species of frog or toad is death. This is most common when a dead toad is eaten, especially with more toxic species. If untreated, the toxins secreted by the toad are quickly absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream and will attack blood vessels, the heart, and the nervous system (Source: VCA Hospitals).
Dogs can exhibit a range of symptoms after ingesting a poisonous dead frog, and if you notice any of them, you should immediately call your veterinarian.
Here are the primary signs of frog or toad poisoning (endotoxemia) in a dog:
- Change in mucus membrane color: This is one of the first signs of poisoning and will turn gums and eyelids to a deep red color from the original and healthy pink. The dark red color is a key symptom of endotoxemia (Source: Science Direct).
- Foaming at the mouth/salivating: To combat the effects of the poisoning, the dog will start to foam at the mouth, and their saliva production will increase.
- Vomiting and loss of appetite: If you notice vomiting or your dog refuses to eat, this could be another symptom of poisoning. This may also include diarrhea, so their stool should also be monitored.
- Whimpering or howling: To make their discomfort known, the dog may vocalize in varying degrees. Pawing at the mouth is also common, as this is where the pain is often coming from after ingestion.
- Disorientation: As toxicity progresses, the dog may start to become dizzy, have trouble walking, or have stark changes in behavior.
- Seizures: Tremors, muscular convulsions, and shivering may also occur and are brought on by changes to the brain caused by the toxins (Source: Greencross Vets).
The onset of these symptoms can occur within minutes, so you must seek care quickly. The severity of these symptoms and warning behaviors in the dog will escalate as the toxins make their way to the main organs. Poisoning should be your number one concern when a dead frog or toad is eaten, especially if you live in one of the high-risk regions.
Eating Frogs and Toads Can Bring Parasites
Even if the frog or toad is not poisonous, dead animals can be infested with harmful bacteria and parasites. Especially if the frog has been dead for a while, parasites have found it and are taking advantage of the corpse’s available nutrients. When a dog eats this, the contaminants make their way inside the dog, where they find a new host.
Eating dead animals and feces is a common way for a dog to get a parasite, resulting in many health problems and discomfort to your dog. These result in intestinal parasites that make their way into the intestines through consumption. Frogs can carry several parasites and attract even more once they are dead carcasses (Source: DMV360).
The most common parasites to be aware of include:
- Hookworms: These worms hook onto the inner intestinal walls and survive on your dog’s blood. This results in internal blood loss and is most harmful to growing puppies. The most common symptoms include weight loss and diarrhea (Source: AKC).
- Ringworm: This is a fungus that results in lesions on the dog’s skin. This infection targets dogs with weakened immune systems and can be treated with medication to kill the ringworm.
- Roundworms: These worms cause diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. They are the most common type of parasite found in dogs and can be easily spread through their environment. If you suspect roundworms, check your dog’s stool for white segments that look like pasta.
- Tapeworms: Weight loss and diarrhea are common symptoms of tapeworms. Tapeworms are contracted when dogs eat fleas (which may be on the dead frog or have eggs laid inside the frog). These worms will look like rice in their stool (Source: Kansas State University).
- Whipworms: Whipworms are less dangerous than others in terms of symptoms, but they are also harder to detect. These are commonly acquired by ingesting contaminated materials.
- Non-worms: Other parasites can be particularly dangerous because you cannot easily see them, and they work fast. Giardia is a parasite that is commonly ingested from infected food, water, feces, and other animals.
Parasites create their own issues within a dog and could be a problem even if the dead frog is not poisonous. Closely monitoring your dog will be necessary to see if any of these symptoms occur. If they start to appear after a day or so, your dog more than likely has a parasite or bacterial problem than poisoning.
Because symptoms can appear similarly for both poisoning and parasite situations, you should consider all possibilities and consult your veterinarian when symptoms occur as an additional cautionary measure.
Frog and Toad Toxins Can Cause Neurological Problems
Because the toxins emitted by the frog or toad target the nervous system, this can result in neurological problems that may be long-lasting or permanent. When the dog is experiencing tremors or seizures, this is a common symptom linked to longer-lasting problems within the nervous system.
These neurological problems can vary but tend to impact the nerves, brain, and spinal cord. The poison from a frog or toad may damage some of these body systems for extended periods or be permanent with varying levels of severity.
After a dog has eaten a frog or toad and recovered, you may notice specific signs of neurological damage that could result from the poison:
- Seizures: Continued seizures after the incident may suggest there has been some damage to the brain. These can be regular or episodic (Source: AKC).
- Disorientation: This includes zoning out, confusion, and overall lack of awareness. It may appear quite different from your dog’s normal behavior and can happen in waves.
- Body weakness or lack of mobility: The lack of communication between the brain and nerves is a common symptom of neurological disorders. This can present itself as difficulty moving or standing as well as stumbling or overall weakness. You will be able to see this particularly well in the hind legs.
- Back pain: If you notice changes in body posture and movements or pain to the touch, this may suggest larger issues in the nervous system.
Reacting quickly to your dog eating a dead frog or toad will help to prevent neurological issues that may become a greater risk if the poison is able to enter the nervous system and other major body systems fully.
Frog and Toad Toxins Can Lead to Heart Problems
Another symptom associated with frog and toad poisoning is heart arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats (Source: Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine). These not only have short-term impacts that could lead to death, but they also put a strain on the heart that could have a longer-lasting impact.
Arrhythmias are dangerous because they limit heart function, which can result in cardiac arrest or lead to organ failure (Source: American Heart Association). After an incident involving the ingestion of a poison, these arrhythmias can persist but do not always persist. The heart may not be as strong after a traumatic episode where the toxins were able to make their way into the bloodstream.
These poisoning incidents may lead to premature heart failure and are a primary cause of death in dogs. If the dog does live, the strain and stress put on the heart may result in overall weakness or lead to heart conditions later in life. This is a health risk that is less likely to occur and may need to be examined on an individual basis by your vet.
Frog and Toad Ingestion Can Lead to Weight Loss
Vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms of dead frog and toad poisoning in an attempt for the body to eliminate toxins. With excessive elimination of these wastes, nutrients are also removed. This may result in overall weight loss that could have negative health consequences. Body weight reductions greater than 10% should be a concern (Source: VCA Hospitals).
This excessive loss of fluids and nutrients may also impact your dog’s ability and desire to eat, resulting in the absence of hunger. Being depleted of nutrients can result in weak bones, heart disease, and an overall decreased quality of life. While weight loss is typically a short-term problem in these situations, gaining the weight back in a timely manner is essential.
Once your dog has regained their appetite, you should supplement their food with additional nutrients and make sure they are finishing each meal. Increasing the amount of food you give them, adding canned food, or adding additional fats and calories will help make up for these larger losses.
You must always monitor your dog after they eat a dead frog, whether symptoms appear or not. Some symptoms may take longer to appear or are much milder if the frog isn’t poisonous. A dead frog can still have bacteria and parasites that upset your dog’s intestinal tract.
When to Take Your Dog to the Veterinarian
If you did not see the frog your dog ate, it can be more difficult to determine when you should take your dog to the vet. Because toad poisoning occurs quickly, waiting it out can be very dangerous.
These are the reasons you should be taking your dog to the vet after eating a dead frog:
- There are known dangerous frog and toad species in the area: You should at least call your vet if you know they ate a frog or toad in your region. If you have poisonous species near you, the likelihood that they have ingested one of the ‘bad’ ones is much greater.
- Your dog has severe symptoms within minutes: The symptoms associated with poisoning will come on quickly and should be immediately addressed. Look specifically for foaming at the mouth, drooling, mucus membrane colors, and vocal signs. Seizing and impairment will need attention, as well.
- Your dog has persistent symptoms: If symptoms do not go away after two days, there may be a reason for concern. This could be a bacterial or parasite issue. Longer-lasting symptoms do not usually suggest poisoning.
It never hurts to be overly cautious and at least give your veterinarian a call. They will provide you with information on what to look for in more detail, especially given their knowledge of your specific dog and breed. They will advise whether a visit is necessary and any steps you can take at home to ensure your dog will be okay.
Preventing Your Dog from Ingesting a Dead Frog
It can be difficult to identify when a dog has eaten a dead frog unless you physically see it. The best way to prevent these situations is to avoid allowing your dog to spend considerable amounts of time outside while unsupervised. As a pet owner, you should also be aware of the type of wildlife commonly found in your area and around your property.
Deadliest Frogs and Toads for Dogs
Knowing which frogs and toads in your area are dangerous will help you to best gauge how closely you should be monitoring your dog when they are outside. While there is still a risk of parasites and illness from any dead frog or toad, poisonous frogs should be your main concern. Most of the clinical symptoms are quite similar between these deadly species (Source: MSD Vet Manual).
Here are some of the most poisonous frogs and toads and where they are located:
|Frog / Toad||Scientific Name||Location|
|Cane/marine toad||Rhinella [formerly Bufo] marinus||North America: Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, Mississippi)
|Colorado River toad||Incillus [formerly Bufo] alvarius||North America: Southwest United States (New Mexico, southern California, Arizona, Colorado) and Mexico|
|Pickerel Frog||Rana [Lithobates] palustris||North America: Eastern United States (north to south: Maine to the Carolinas, Minnesota to Texas)
(Source: University of Georgia)
While these are not the only frogs and toads that you should be worried about, they are the most deadly ones and can cause the most harm to your dog.
Best Practices for Keeping Dogs Away From Frogs
Most frogs are nocturnal and are more likely to seek out food and be active at night. Be sure to keep your dog’s food and water bowls off the ground or avoid leaving them outside. Toads may be attracted to them, and this will not only increase the risk of contact but could contaminate their food, as well (Source: ASPCA).
Coming in contact with these various frogs and toads is most common in these situations:
- Summertime or high humidity months
- Around rainfall
- At dawn or dusk
Eating a dead frog can bring about similar symptoms to eating other poisonous substances, such as chocolate or antifreeze. Unlike these commonly consumed items, poison from frogs and toads acts quickly, and forcing them to vomit will not combat the effects that have made their way into the bloodstream.
Fortunately, frogs and toads taste bad to dogs, so they often spit them out before many of these negative health risks can occur. If your dog does try to pick one up in its mouth, you should quickly rinse out their mouth for 5-10 minutes as the toxic secretions are located on the frog or toad’s back and can still cause harm when licked.
Health Risks When Dogs Eat Dead Frogs
The greatest risk to dogs eating dead frogs and toads are parasites and death. The former is most common because it can easily be found in dead animals and then transferred to the dog after being eaten. The more serious issue of death is present when poisonous frogs and toads are eaten. Even after the amphibians die, their poison can seriously injure or kill your dog.
Being aware of the dangerous frogs and toads in your area will help you to take the appropriate steps in treating your dog. You can ask your veterinarian or conduct your own research based on the area you live in. If there are poisonous frogs and toads in your area, you should take quick action and see a veterinarian.