Are Tree Frogs Poisonous? Know Amazing Facts About This Amphibian

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Jan 11, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Oct 27, 2021
Fact-checked by Nishtha Dixit
Red-Eyed Amazon Tree Frog on Large Palm Leaf.

Frog species, especially small green tree frogs, poison dart frogs, etc., are among the native species to inhabit Central and South America and are known to be quite poisonous to animals.

There are quite a few species of frogs and toads such as some tree frog species like green tree frogs, poison dart frogs. The latter frog has poisonous skin and can be toxic to any human or animal be it pets, like cats and dogs, due to the toxins produced by their skin for safety against predators.

It is said that there are approximately 7300 species of frogs all around the world and nearly all frogs are poisonous with an exception of a few. However, most of them are not harmful to humans like the benign red-eyed tree frog is not venomous. Only two known frogs are said to be venomous.

Frogs secrete toxins, but also carry a type of bacteria called Salmonella, which can be quite harmful if humans come in contact with it.

The most dangerous frogs carry toxins that can be fatal if ingested or touched and should be avoided at all costs. They can be easily identified by their appearance, which can help in avoiding them.

Poison dart frogs are known to be an example of dangerous frogs and they come in bright colors like yellow, green, gray, blue, etc. They usually live in rainforest areas of the United States and spend their life there from the point of being eggs to the adult stage.

In this article, you will find some amazing facts about these amphibians as well as a detailed description of poisonous frogs like the poison dart frog.

We’ll also discuss frog species that live in trees, and non-poisonous frogs like green tree frogs, gray tree frogs, and toads, as well as dangerous frog toxins, in Florida, in the United States.

Lastly, we’ll discover how poisonous their toxins are to other pets and animals, and the effects they can have on your dog or cat, how to identify toxic frogs by their skin color and what they are like.

If you liked our article on how poisonous some toads and frog species like the green tree frog, the Hyla cinerea, and poison dart frog that predominantly lives in a tree can be to humans and other animals? You can check out other interesting articles like marsh frog facts and are wolf spiders poisonous?

Are green tree frogs and gray tree frogs poisonous?

Yes, some green tree frogs and gray tree frogs are poisonous, but not deadly to humans.

Green tree frogs and gray tree frogs are known to be the most common pet amphibians in the United States and also parts of Canada. The green tree frog is also the amphibian of  Louisiana and Georgia.

One characteristic feature of these frogs is their bright medium-sized, green bodies.

Gray tree frogs are known to change their color as camouflage at will but their color-changing rate is slower than that of a chameleon. Just like other frogs, both green tree frogs and gray tree frogs secrete toxins in small amounts to defend themselves but aren't harmful.

The Life Of Tree Frogs

The tree frog is a species from the family of amphibians, which has a diverse family that comprises 800 species, but despite their name, many do not live in trees.

Tree frogs have pads underneath their toes that enable their small bodies to climb faster.

Young and adult species of tree frogs and some toad species come in variegated ranges of bright colors, although most of the species in the world are found in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere and come in gray, green, or brown.

The squirrel tree frog, which is also called Hyla squirrel, can change the color of its skin, similar to the skin of chameleons.

This family of tree frogs comes in a wide range of colors as well as sizes.

The arboreal tree frog is quite small and depends on slender branches and leaves to hold up its body weight. They grow up to be approximately 4-5.5 in (10-14 cm) long and the largest recorded tree frog is the Cuban tree frog, which is not native to the United States reaching up to 1.5-5 in (3.8-12.7 cm) in length.

The smallest tree frog in the world grows up to be less than 1 in (2.5 cm).

How to identify a poisonous frog?

Poisonous frogs are distinguished by their colorful skin and are quite attractive, however, their beautiful appearance and skin are toxic enough to even cause death.

They widely inhabit the areas of Africa, South America, and Australia, which is home to more than a hundred species of poisonous frogs. Their special characteristics make them unique amphibians.

Coming in contact with the frog's skin causes a trigger reaction because it secretes poison. The most poisonous amongst all other frogs are known as Phylobates terribilis or the golden poison frog, which secretes enough poison to kill up to 12 people in one go.

Most of the other frogs cause numbing or irritation in people but are capable of killing or paralyzing small animals and even birds.

Not all tree frogs that live in trees are poisonous. For instance, the green tree frog and the grey tree frog, are popular in the United States as pets.

The Poison Dart Frog And How Poisonous It Can Be

The poison dart frog belongs to the tree frog group and is from the Dendrobatidae family. It is native to the tropical areas of Central and South America and can be quite toxic. 

They are characterized by their vibrantly colored bodies and it is this trait that correlates with the species' toxicity, which is used to ward off predators. The brighter the coloration of this family of frogs, the higher the level of toxicity, therefore the ones with mild coloration bear minimal toxicity.

This species derives its toxicity from its diet. They eat a specific diet that predominantly consists of alkaloid-laden insects like mites, centipedes, ants, and termites.

The ones with mild coloration eat a larger variety of insects. This is the reason why the frogs bred in captivity do not show any signs of poison secretion.

Several species of the poison dart frogs produce a secretion known as lipophilic alkaloid as well as other toxins like batrachotoxin, allopumiliotoxin 267A, histrionicotoxin, epibatidine, and pumiliotoxin 251D from their skin. They are secreted from alkaloids, which are the skin glands of these frogs and are a mode of defense when a predator attacks.

However, some predators can easily withstand them despite the toxicity, for instance, the snake Erythrolamprus Epinephelus, which is a species of snake that is immune to the poison.

Some of the poison dart frogs from this species, such as the Epipedobates tricolor have great medicinal value because of the chemical that is extracted from their skin. This is used to make a pain killer called epibatidine, which is highly effective and is 200 times more effective than morphine.

However, it has been discontinued due to its gastrointestinal side effects.

More About Poisonous Tree Frogs

Nearly all tree frogs are poisonous except for a few but are not fatally harmful.

The deadliest frog is part of the genus, Phyllobates and scientifically, it is called Phyllobates terribilis, which means dreadful leaf-climber.

It is commonly referred to as the golden poison frog and is believed to have enough toxin concentration to kill two adult elephants.

After thorough research, it has been found that these poison frogs derive the ability to produce toxins after they eat insects that have high alkaloid content. Research suggests that dart frogs kept as pets for several years have proven that they are not poisonous because of the lack of such insects in their diet.

Most frogs produce toxins that are similar to salamanders and newts and are mainly used as a defense mechanism to ward off predators, making it dangerous for the predators to swallow them.

Coming in contact with them might cause an infection because they carry salmonella bacteria, which can lead to fever, diarrhea, and stomach ache and is highly dangerous to children with weak immune systems.

How poisonous tree frogs are to humans and pets like dogs and cats?

Some frogs can be quite poisonous for humans and pets alike, but not venomous.

They secrete a substance from their skin, which is used to protect themselves from a preying animal even from pets like dogs and cats. The secretion is potent, especially when it comes to green tree frogs.

This toxin might result in diarrhea and vomiting, which cures within an hour and is the same for both humans and pets. However, you should consult immediate medical assistance if the symptoms get worse.

Toads are known to secret bufotoxin from the glands in their eyes and have a milk-like appearance, which can cause skin irritation after touching it. You should never let your hand come in contact with your eyes or your mouth after this and prevent your pets from doing the same.

It can result in vomiting, allergic reaction, strong irritation, and general discomfort.

Even some large frogs like the Cuban tree frog will most likely not harm small pets like a dog, however, other toads like marine/giant toads are poisonous if ingested by a small animal.

Precautionary Measures

Since tree frogs can be poisonous, it is important to know certain precautionary measures for yourself and your pet if you ever come in contact with them.

The first thing you will need to do is thoroughly wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap and avoid touching your eyes. Do not eat anything unless you have washed your hands, warn young children of such frogs and toads in the garden, and if you have a tree frog as a pet, use gloves to handle it.

As for your pets and birds, tree frogs can be poisonous, but not fatal to both dogs and cats. If they accidentally ingest a tree frog, rinse their mouth thoroughly with fresh water and wipe their gums.

In case your pet begins to vomit, show signs of lethargy, do not have an appetite, and has diarrhea, immediately seek veterinary help.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are tree frogs poisonous? Know amazing facts about amphibians!

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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Fact-checked by Nishtha Dixit

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Nishtha Dixit picture

Nishtha DixitBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Nishtha is an experienced SEO writer and editor, with a passion for writing and self-expression. She is currently pursuing an undergraduate major in Literature and Communication and a minor in Political Science from the University of Delhi. Nishtha has completed a certificate master course in English from the British Council and has been appointed as the editor for the bi-monthly magazine of the University of Delhi.

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