American green tree frogs are small, smooth-skinned frogs found in the central and southeastern United States. Their coloration varies from grayish-green to dark green to bright green. Many have white, yellow, or sometimes iridescent stripe along each side of the body, with strong black borders. But are green tree frogs poisonous?
Green tree frogs are not poisonous. They do not produce any skin secretions that are harmful to humans, dogs, cats, or any other pets. The only real threat they pose is that, like many amphibians, they can be carriers of salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans if proper hygiene is not practiced.
Green tree frogs are normally very harmless creatures, provided they are handled carefully. Just practice a sufficient level of hygiene (such as washing your hands after handling any green tree frogs), and you will be fine.
Before washing your hands, do not touch your face, or put anything in your mouth.
Green Tree Frogs Do Not Have Poisonous Skin Secretions
However, the lack of a skin toxin does not mean green tree frogs are defenseless when it comes to fending off predators. They have other ways to protect themselves.
Green Tree Frogs Are Not Venomous
People often use the words “poisonous” and “venomous” interchangeably, but you should know that these two terms mean very different things.
Sure, they both refer to toxins that can be harmful to us, but the difference lies in how the toxins are delivered.
- If an animal has to bite or sting you to inject its toxins, it is venomous (think rattlesnakes)
- If an animal secretes its toxin on its skin, and you absorb that toxin when you touch the animal, it is poisonous (think poison dart frogs)
In other words, venom is actively injected usually through fangs or stings. Poison on the other hand is passively delivered – an animal releases toxins on its skin, which are then absorbed by animals (or humans) that come in contact with it.
Green tree frogs do not secrete toxins on their skin and neither do they have the ability to inject any toxins. For this reason, they are neither venomous nor poisonous.
How Do Green Tree Frogs Defend Themselves?
Since leopard frogs do not have any poisonous secretions, they may seem defenseless when it comes to fending off hungry predators. However, they have a few tricks to keep predators away.
As the first line of defense, green tree frogs have a coloration that helps them camouflage or blend into the leaves and other debris in their environments, escaping the notice of most predators.
However, sometimes camouflage alone is not enough, so green tree frogs also have very quick responses. If they see a predator getting too close, they can use their powerful hind legs to quickly leap away.
They are very acrobatic and will often jump between branches to get away from a predator.
Are Green Tree Frogs Dangerous to Humans?
Since green tree frogs do not produce any poisonous skin secretions, they are generally harmless to humans. That being said, it is important to note that almost all frogs can carry salmonella bacteria, which can be harmful to humans.
Green tree frogs can carry salmonella bacteria in their digestive tract and excrete it in their waste. The bacteria do not cause any illness in the frog – so a green tree frog carrying salmonella bacteria can look clean and healthy, but the bacteria can be transmitted to humans.
Humans can be exposed to salmonella by direct or indirect contact with a frog, its waste, or anything the frog came in contact with. (For example, you touch a green tree frog, its droppings, or water where the frog has been, then stick your fingers into your mouth without first washing your hands).
Exposure to salmonella can cause an infection called Salmonellosis which is characterized by stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and sometimes vomiting.
Most infections only cause mild illness, but sometimes, the bacteria can spread to the bloodstream leading to serious illness.
Fortunately, merely touching a green tree frog will not give you a salmonella infection. The bacteria can only cause illness when they are ingested.
Therefore, thoroughly washing your hands immediately after touching any green tree frogs should keep you out of harm’s way.
Are Green Tree Frogs Poisonous to Dogs or Cats?
Green tree frogs do not have any toxins so they are typically harmless to dogs, cats, or other pets, even if eaten. However, as mentioned earlier, frogs can carry salmonella bacteria so a dog or cat that mouths, bites, or eats green tree frog may consume the bacteria and develop an infection.
Also, many frogs can carry tapeworms and other parasites. This means if a dog eats a green tree frog, it may also consume parasites and develop a parasitic infection.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep your pets away from any frogs, even if they are not poisonous, they can still be harmful when eaten by a dog.
Safety Precautions to Take When Handling Green Tree Frogs
Generally, it is not a good idea to handle amphibians. This is because they have a very delicate absorbent skin that allows liquids and gases to pass through.
This means that oils, salts, lotions, perfumes, soap, insect repellents, sunblock, and other substances you might have on your hands can pass right through their skin and end up inside their body.
For this reason, it’s advisable to observe amphibians from a distance, without physically touching them.
If you never have to handle a green tree frog, take the following precautions to protect both you and the animal.
- Thoroughly wash your hands so they are very clean, and rinse them EXTREMELY well. Not just clean from dirt, but from perfumes, lotions, or any other substances that could harm the frog. Make sure to completely wash off any soap residue so it does not remain on your skin (it can harm the frog).
Even better, you could wear protective gloves (powder-free vinyl gloves or nitrile gloves).
- Keep the frog away from your eyes nose and mouth and, be very careful not to rub your eyes, or touch your nose, or mouth.
- As you handle the toad, do it very gently and with care so you do not injure or stress the frog in any way. Avoid squeezing the frog too hard, or applying too much pressure on it.
Amphibians should only be handled for a short time. Handling a frog too long can cause stress to the animal and dry out its skin.
What to Do After Handling:
- Wash your hands with antibacterial soap under running water.
As earlier mentioned, green tree frogs can carry bacteria so wash your hands for your own safety. Before washing your hands, do not touch anything (you could spread bacteria) – and remember not to rub your eyes, touch your face, or put anything into your mouth.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are green tree frogs poisonous to touch? Green tree frogs do not produce any poisonous skin secretions and are not poisonous to touch. However, touching a green tree frog could expose you to salmonella bacteria, which can be harmful when it gets into your body.
Are green tree frogs poisonous to dogs? Green tree frogs are not poisonous to dogs. They do not produce any poisonous skin secretions and are typically harmless to dogs, even if eaten. The only real danger these frogs pose is that they can be carriers of salmonella bacteria or parasites which can be passed on to dogs.
Are green tree frogs poisonous to cats? Green tree frogs are not poisonous to cats. However, they can be carriers of salmonella bacteria or parasites which can be passed on to cats, when the frogs are eaten.
Do green tree frogs bite? Green tree frogs can bite but this is very rare. They will only nip at a human if they are being handled in a way that causes them a lot of stress. Their bite is nothing to be worried about because it is
unlikely to hurt and is not venomous or anything of that nature.
Green tree frogs are beautiful amphibians that are usually harmless to humans. The only real threat they pose is that they can be carriers of salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans if proper hygiene is not followed.
When handled with proper care and hygiene, these frogs are nothing to be worried about.