Are Salamanders Poisonous to Dogs?

Dogs are natural predators, so it is common for them to catch smaller animals in their mouths. In some parts of the United States, these “smaller animals”, may include certain species of salamanders are newts.

Nearly all salamander species produce poisonous secretions that can be harmful when ingested by a dog. This means that if your dog eats, licks, or chews on a salamander, it is potentially at risk of poisoning.

Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors are more likely to encounter salamanders, especially in the warmer months when amphibians are most active. Since there are so many salamander species, the symptoms that a dog may have after an encounter with a salamander will vary widely.

Most Salamanders Are Only Mildly Poisonous

Most salamanders produce mildly poisonous secretions that only make them taste bad to animals that try to eat them. A dog that mouths one of these salamanders may spit and droll, but usually nothing more than that.

However, some salamanders such as the fire salamander, and the rough-skinned newt have extremely potent toxins that can be fatal to any dog (or human) unfortunate enough to ingest them in sufficient quantities.

How Do I Know My Dog Has Been Poisoned by a Salamander?

There are over 600 species of salamanders, and the toxicity varies dramatically between different species.

On one end, are rough-skinned newts, which would be fatal to most dogs if eaten. On the other extreme, we have red-backed salamanders with a toxin so mild that it would have little to no noticeable effect on most dogs, even if eaten.

For this reason, the symptoms a dog may have after an encounter with a salamander will depend on how poisonous that species of salamander is.

Mildly poisonous salamanders may cause a dog to drool or spit, but usually nothing more. However, more poisonous salamanders may lead to life-threatening symptoms.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, you should watch for these general signs of poisoning:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures/convulsions
  • Dilated pupils
  • Erratic movement (Moving as though drunk)
  • Loss of appetite

In addition, petMD says other symptoms of poisoning are;

  • Weakness
  • Excessive pawing at the eyes or mouth
  • Crying or whimpering.

The intensity of these symptoms will depend on the quantity of poison ingested, the body weight and fitness of the dog, and its overall health. Small or sickly dogs will generally experience more intense symptoms than healthy or larger dogs.

If you notice your dog has any of these symptoms, it may be a sign that it has mouthed or eaten a poisonous salamander, and you should contact your vet right away.

It is extremely important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The earlier the dog gets medical attention, the better his/her chances of survival. Do not wait until the symptoms intensify.

What Salamanders Are the Most Dangerous to Your Dog?

Rough-skinned newts, found on the Pacific Northwest Coast of the United States are the toxic salamanders in North America. These newts (along with other newts in their genus) are so toxic that a single adult newt has enough toxin to kill 25 000 mice!

Rough-Skinned Newt
Rough-skinned newt. Photo by: John P Clare/flickr

However, these newts are unique, so most salamanders will not be this poisonous. The vast majority of salamanders only have a mild toxin.

Below is a chart of different salamander species and their level of toxicity.

Type of Salamander How toxic they are Where they are found
Rough-skinned Newt Extremely Poisonous Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and southern Alaska
Red-bellied Newt Extremely Poisonous Northern California
Sierra Newt Extremely Poisonous Sierra Nevada
California Newt Extremely Poisonous Coastal Range of California
Eastern (red-spotted) Newt Extremely Poisonous in juvenile red-eft stage, and mildly poisonous as adults Eastern North America, from the Canadian Maritime Provinces, all the way to Florida
Fire Salamander Extremely Poisonous Southern and Central Europe
Tiger Salamander Mildly Poisonous Most of the United States and into Southern Canada
Spotted Salamander Mildly Poisonous Eastern Canada, into the Eastern and midwestern United States.
Marbled Salamander Mildly Poisonous Most of the Eastern United States
Red Salamander Mildly Poisonous Most of the Eastern United States, as far north as New York
Mud Salamander Mildly Poisonous Most of the Eastern United States, with one isolated population in Mississippi
Slimy Salamander Mildly Poisonous Most of the  Eastern and Central United States, from Florida, all the way to Oklahoma
Red-backed Salamander Very Mildly Poisonous Most of Eastern North America, from Missouri  all the way to the Canadian Maritime Provinces
Long-toed Salamander Very Mildly Poisonous Most of the Pacific Northwest region of North America

Salamanders Can Carry Parasites

Most salamanders, especially those living in dirty or unsanitary environments, can carry roundworms, tapeworms, flukes, and other parasites in their bodies.

This means a dog that eats a salamander is not only at risk of poisoning, but may also consume parasites and develop a parasitic infection.

The symptoms of parasitic infection may include; weight loss, abdominal distention (swollen abdomen), lethargy (weakness and lack of enthusiasm) and, a yellow tinge in the eyes.

These symptoms may not show up right away. It may be weeks or even months after contact before a dog shows any symptoms.

For this reason, it is advisable to contact your vet immediately you notice that your dog has eaten a salamander. Even if the dog does not have any symptoms of poisoning or a parasitic infection, it is still a good idea to contact your vet.

Salamanders Can Carry Salmonella

All amphibians can carry bacteria that can make dogs (and humans) sick. One important bacteria is Salmonella. Salamanders can carry salmonella bacteria in their intestines and excrete them in their waste.

The bacteria usually doesn’t cause illness in the salamander, but can spread to animals (or humans) that come in contact with the salamander.

Exposure to salmonella can lead to an infection called salmonellosis in dogs, which is usually characterized by symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, but it can lead to more serious illness.

Salmonella infections in healthy dogs are quite uncommon. Dogs have very strong stomach acids that kill the bacteria before they can cause any harm.

10 Tips to Protect Your Dogs From Salamanders

There are a few things you can do to keep your dog from coming in contact with any salamanders.

1. Keep Pet Salamanders Out of Reach

If you have any pet salamanders, keep them safely secured in their enclosure/tank and out of reach of your dog. When you need to clean the enclosure, do not let your dog get close to the salamanders.

2. Teach Your Dog a “Leave It” Command

If your dog comes across a salamander, you’ll want it to ignore, rather than attack or bite the salamander. This can be achieved by teaching your dog a solid “leave it” command. When your dog masters this command, it will know to leave the salamander alone at your command.

3. When Hiking Outdoors, Put Your Dog on a Leash

Having your dog on a leash will make it easier to control it and keep a close eye on its interactions with the environment.

4. If You Live In An Area With Lots of Salamanders, Consider Installing a Fence

If you have an open yard in an area with lots of salamanders, it is inevitable that salamanders will eventually end up on your property. Putting a protective mesh or wire screen around the perimeter of your yard will help keep salamanders out of reach of your dog.

5. Keep Your Pets Inside at Night

Salamanders are nocturnal animals, so they will be most active at night. Keeping your dogs inside will prevent them from coming in contact with any salamanders that may be moving around to forage for food at night.

6. Cover Swimming Pools

Being amphibians, salamanders are attracted to areas with water bodies where they can swim. It is important to cover your swimming pool when it is not in use to discourage salamanders from coming onto your property.

This will also protect the salamanders as chlorine from the pool water can be very dangerous or even lethal to them.

7. Use a Raised Water Bowl and Change the Water Frequently

Dogs can ingest a salamander’s toxin just by drinking water it has come in contact with. Use a raised water bowl so salamanders or any other potentially dangerous amphibians can not get in, and remember to change the water every day.

8. Clear Dead Leaves and Other Vegetation in Your Yard

Salamanders love to hide under dead logs and leaf litter on the ground. Getting rid of these will discourage salamanders because they will not have any cover in your yard.

9. Keep Your Grass Short

Tall grass provides the perfect cover for salamanders and other small animals. It also attracts bugs and other salamander “food”. Keeping your grass short will discourage salamanders from coming onto your yard.

It will also make it easy to spot the salamanders that do end up in your yard so you can get rid of them before they cause trouble.

10. Be Vigilant During the Wetter Seasons of the Year

Salamanders and other amphibians are most active in the wetter months when the temperatures are warm. Be alert during this time of the year and keep a close eye on your dog.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are salamanders poisonous to cats? Salamanders are just as poisonous to cats as they are to dogs. A cat that has mouths or eats a salamander will, for the most part, have the same symptoms of poisoning a dog would have.

However, since cats are smaller than most dogs, the symptoms may show up much quicker and be more intense.

Are newts and salamanders the same thing? Newts are a type of salamander and are part of the salamander family. Essentially, all Newts are salamanders, but not all salamanders are Newts.

Conclusion

Though salamanders pose some risks to your dogs’ health, it’s not an emergency every time your dog bites or mouths one. However, if your dog seems to not be feeling well after an encounter with a salamander, contact a vet right away.

It is also a good idea to learn about the types and toxicity of salamanders and newts common in your area. A dog biting a rough-skin newt will be a much bigger problem than a dog eating a  Red-backed salamander.