Amphibians have poison glands in their skin, secreting a bitter substance to defend themselves against predators.
Harbouring pests as pets has been on my mind a lot lately. Making a mention my friend Jason’s eight-legged friend (my fiend of course) in last week’s post, and my colleague’s bearded dragons (which I kind of find cute, but I am really afraid of catching Salmonella) in the first “pests as pets” saga, I am really not as open-minded as I thought. Now I understand where the saying “pet-peeve” comes from…
But, do you know what? I have thought about it again and wondered that if people like the idea of having arachnids or reptiles as pets, what else would they possibly consider to be a pet? Well, this is a strange choice, but some people prefer housing amphibians. “Those little croaky characters that eat flies for a living?” you might ask. Well, yes, exactly those. Some people have been reported to build houses for frogs. A man in Florida (US) has realised that a lot of frogs are attracted to his swimming pool. To keep them out of the pool, he has built a “tree frog house” where frogs can be sheltered during the day. This is not really what I would call getting rid of frogs!
Frogs and toads have a slimy mucus lining on their skin, which enables them to absorb oxygen and offers them a layer of protection. If you have a frog as a pet, then you would have to constantly ensure that their environment is damp. Furthermore, the croaking sounds you may hear can be heard from more than a kilometer away, so they can be very noisy to have around – not a good idea for the light sleeper!
As a child, I always believed that upon kissing a frog, Prince Charming would instantly appear, and off into the sunset we would ride. As an undercover cynic, and in the theme of Valentine’s Month, I will be the voice of reason and declare frogs anything but your (or your real pets’) prince-to-be!
Dangers of frogs and toads to your dogs and cats:
It turns out that toads expel fluids when they are threatened that can be toxic to dogs and cats. All amphibians have poison glands in their skin, but not all of their poison is potent enough to discourage predators. The poison glands of toads are situated behind their eyes which allow them to secrete toxins trough a paratoid gland. A milky substance is released which has a bitter taste ensuring that their attackers drop them immediately. If this is the case of your dog or cat getting hold of the toad in question, it will then mean that the toxin will react with their mouth’s mucus lining, causing foaming – making them look rabid. Furthermore, some toxins can cause hallucinations, vomiting, weakness, seizures and fever, depending on the type of amphibian.
Should it happen that your dog or cat has come into contact with a frog or toad, be sure to rinse their mouth with water and take them to your local vet as soon as possible.
Dangers of frogs and toads to humans:
In most cases, toxic secretions are not harmful to humans, but they can cause temporary shortness of breath or a rash. If you are a lover of amphibians, be sure to wash up after coming into contact with them. Other than that, pet amphibians pose risks of spreading Salmonella to their owners, as a study by the US Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed in 2011.
Having frogs as pets might not be such a good idea! If you really have to have one, be sure to handle them with precaution and wash your hands directly after handling them.
What to do if you want to get rid of frogs and toads that inhabit your garden?
- As frogs and toads are attracted to moisture, be sure to remove where possible, any areas of water – such as buckets, any open containers, water in gullies or in low-laying bird baths. Amphibians also breed in still standing water, so it is a good idea to ensure they don’t have access to water. They will then be forced to search for alternative harbourages.
- Also be sure not to over-water your plants. Frogs and toads love scuffling into dark and damp spots during the daytime. Also, keep your grass moved and short, as long grass and weeds are also a hiding spot.
- Spray a salt water solution in areas where you see them frequent. This is not harmful to them, but will sting their feet and make them move away.
- Get rid of their food sources: by removing stagnant water (as mentioned in the first point), you will also get rid of mosquitoes, which also breed in water. Install fly traps to get rid of flies, and remove garbage bins that attract them. Also be sure to burn a citronella candle to keep insects away.
On the other hand, frogs and toads can be great pest control agents to have in your garden, as they eat crickets, mosquitoes and the occasional fly. But, after talking about the health hazards, the subject makes me a bit jumpy (excuse the pun!) I would rather avoid the health risks and leave them to run in the wild, or should I say – hop along!