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Amphibian Safety

Amphibian Safety

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

blue frog in a terrarium

Overview

While amphibians are fun to observe in their habitats, they should be handled as infrequently as possible.

Amphibian toxins and exposure

Handling amphibians can cause them great stress. As part of their self-defense, all amphibians secrete toxins from their skin which are irritating to human skin and can cause allergic reactions in people.

Bacteria carried by amphibians

Amphibians and the water they live in can carry bacteria that may cause illness in people if ingested. Women who are pregnant, senior citizens, children under the age of 5 and people with weakened immune systems should consult their physician before handling an amphibian.

The most common bacteria that can be present in amphibians and in their habitats are mycobacteria, nocardia and salmonella. Mycobacteria are a group of different bacterial species that cause a variety of diseases in people, including tuberculosis. Nocardia causes nocardiosis, a bacterial infection that typically affects the lungs, brain and skin. Salmonella is an orally transmitted bacteria generally acquired through contact with an amphibian's fecal matter. Human infection can take place by not washing your hands after having contact with an amphibian, the amphibian's habitat, water, décor or substrate. Salmonella is of particular concern for children due to their immature immune systems.

How to avoid toxin and bacterial exposure

  • Handle amphibians as infrequently as possible
  • Always wear moistened disposable, powder-free gloves when handling amphibians and/or cleaning their habitat
  • Always use a net when moving aquatic frogs
  • Gently scoop amphibians into your gloved hands when moving them
  • Never drink water from an amphibian's habitat or the water in which they were transported
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after handling amphibians or their habitat contents
  • Do not touch your face after handling amphibians or their habitat contents until you have thoroughly washed your hands with antibacterial soap and water or used hand sanitizer
  • Do not touch food or beverages or their containers after handling amphibians or their habitat contents until you have thoroughly washed your hands with antibacterial soap and water or used hand sanitizer

What to do if exposed to toxins or bacteria on amphibian skin

If exposed to toxins

  • Immediately wash the exposed area with hot water and antibacterial soap; use the hottest water temperature you can stand without burning your skin because hot water works best to help neutralize the toxin
  • Seek medical attention if you believe you are having an allergic reaction
  • If seeking medical attention, be sure to write down the species of amphibian to which you were exposed to help ensure proper treatment

If exposed to bacteria

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with an antibacterial soap and water or use hand sanitizer
  • Seek medical attention if you become ill after handling an amphibian

Additional Care Sheets

Notes and sources

Because all amphibians are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your amphibian or their habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for amphibians and should consider having a pet other than an amphibian. Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about amphibians and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, contact your veterinarian.