Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Three things I learned: frogs as veterinary patients

Did you know that around 11 thousand Australian households incorporate a pet frog? I found out via a fantastic webinar by Dr Shane Simpson about amphibian veterinary medicine. The webinar, hosted by the Australian Veterinary Association’s Unusual Pet and Avian special interestgroup, provided an excellent overview about the health and wellbeing of these magnificent creatures.

Unfortunately, in our practice, the frogs I see are generally wild frogs like Brown Striped Marsh Frogs that have been mauled by dogs and cats. Climate change and diseases like the fungal disease chytridiomycosis have been associated with a global decline in frog populations.

So what did I learn about frogs?
  • Nutritional metabolic bone disease is one of the most common conditions seen in pet frogs, and is due to a poor diet and suboptimal husbandry leading to derangements of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D3. This can lead to fractures, scoliosis, cloacal prolapse, tetany and/or paralysis. Getting the husbandry and diet of frogs right, including their preferred optimal temperature zone, is crucial for their welfare. (Interestingly, another nutritional disorder seen in pet frogs is obesity).
  • Frogs are the Labradors of the amphibian world. They eat voraciously, and are capable of ingesting large prey – as well as foreign bodies including plastic plants and substrate from their enclosures.
  • They have anatomical quirks. Frogs can evert their stomach if they don’t like the taste of something. The first time I saw this I was horrified. Apparently, this is a common frog reaction to ingestion of the antibiotic enrofloxacin (a good reason to use alternate routes of administration). They have a urinary bladder but you can’t get a sterile sample of urine from it as the bladder receives urine from the kidneys via the cloaca, which is of course contaminated. And they have a very absorptive patch of skin on their ventral abdomen referred to as the ‘drinking patch’. If you want to rehydrate a frog, oral fluids are a waste of time – sit them in water and let their drinking patch soak it up.

It was a good reminder too that frogs are fragile creatures with very delicate, absorptive skin. Thus it is important to minimise handling and handle frogs only with clean hands or, preferably, with non-powdered gloves.
You can read about Dr Simpson on his website or follow him on facebook here.