What To Do If A Frog Bites You

Frog bites are a rare occurrence that can cause surprise, fear, and sometimes panic. Luckily, frog bites generally do very little harm, and treatment is easy. Still, there are some common questions around what to do after a frog bite, what kinds of frogs may bite and why.

If a frog bites, stay calm and wait for the frog to release its bite. It will eventually do so naturally. Inspect the wound for blood and wash well with soap and water. Clean and bandage the wound with antiseptic to avoid infection. Keep an eye out for signs of salmonella in the coming days.

Luckily, frog teeth are not meant to do serious damage, and toads do not have teeth at all. So most frog bites are easy to deal with. Some bites, however, may require more attention. Keep reading as we take a look at the different types of frog bites and how to deal with them.

Why Do Frogs Bite?

As a general rule, frogs bite out of self-defense when they are agitated or threatened. Some species may also bite if they mistake a body part with food. The vast majority of frog bites cannot harm a human, but some danger is possible due to viral or bacterial diseases frogs can carry.

All frogs can bite, but only some species are likely to. More aggressive and larger species tend to bite more, given their increased bite force and size. This is great news for everyone who spends significant time around frogs. Simply avoid bothering frogs or wiggling your finger in front of them if you want to avoid being bitten.

If you do get bit by a frog, most will not harm you. Most frogs only have small teeth inside their mouths to hold back prey. Toads do not have teeth at all. However, some larger species – like the Pacman Frog or African Bullfrog – can deliver enough bite force to hurt.

Precautions to Take if a Frog Bites You

If a frog bites you, stay calm. Wait for the frog to unlatch your finger and assess the damage. Avoid shaking your finger if the frog is attached as you may hurt it. Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and tend to the wound if there is one.

If any skin was broken, put antiseptic on and bandage the area. Watch for signs of infection or salmonella from the frog. Frogs can carry viral or bacterial diseases so it’s important to make sure to monitor your health over the next few days. Most frog bites are harmless as they have very little power and lack strong teeth.

The Various Bite Forces Of Different Frogs

As expected, frog bites vary greatly between species. The larger the frog, the stronger its bite is a good general rule, but there are some exceptions. The power of a bite is measured in bite force, given in Newtons (N). This is measured by placing a meter wrapped in leather between the jaws of an animal. The device reads the pressure reached by the bite and records it. Researchers then take the bites from a sample group of the same species and average them together.

While bite force is measured as its own statistic, it is strongly tied to head and jaw size. They are so intrinsically linked, in fact, that “scaling” experiments are common. This is where researchers calculate the bite force of larger members of the same species by adjusting the head width. Most frogs have not had their bite force measured, as they are simply not worth doing. However, there have been a few notable studies that produced the following results:

Frog SpeciesBite Force in Newtons
Small Horned Frogs30 Newtons
Large Horned Frogs500 Newtons
Beelzebufo (extinct)2200 Newtons

A study by Lappin (2017), explored the bite force of a small horned frog first before scaling to a large horned variety. The difference between bite force is so large thanks to the extreme difference in head sizes. Small horned frogs have a head width of about 4.5cm, while large horned frogs may be as large as 10cm.

The Beelzebufo was a giant frog that is theorized to have eaten small dinosaurs. Its bite force has been estimated based on the large horned frog, as it is a precursor to the current species. For context, 2200 Newtons is roughly the same as a modern wolf. Thankfully, we do not have to worry about giant frogs. While a bite from a small or large horned frog could seriously hurt, they are the exception to the rule. Most frog bites are so weak that they will not hurt. 

Do Pacman Frogs Bite?

Pacman Frogs are one of the few frog species that are known to bite. This may be due to their large size and available prey, as they can even eat small lizards, birds, and bats. There are a few other reasons they may bite.

Pacman frogs may bite out of self-defense when they feel threatened or particularly aggressive. Due to their large size, these bites can hurt but will rarely cause serious damage. Pacman frogs also have a tendency to bite if they mistake fingers for food.

Unlike smaller frogs, Pacman frogs may actually use their teeth as a defense mechanism. They also happen to have some of the largest and sharpest teeth among various frog species, two facts that are likely intertwined. They are also quite powerful, with a bite force of 30 newtons. That’s equal to roughly 3kg or 6.6 lbs – a sizeable quote for their small frames (CTNF).

Are Frogs Bites Venomous?

There are over 7,400 known frog species on the planet. While there are quite a few poisonous frogs, venomous frogs are much rarer.

There are only two known venomous frog species in existence: 

  • The Bruno’s Casque-Headed Frog (Aparasphenodon Brunoi) 
  • The Greening’s Frog (Corythomantis Greeningi) 

These venomous frogs are particularly interesting for the strength of their poison and the delivery method. The bony spine that extends onto the frog’s head is the main way the venom can enter your body. With the force of their headbutt, the spines can break the skin and serve as an injection point into other animals.

The venom both of these frogs secrete is also quite strong. The venom from the Bruno’s Casque-Headed Frog is about 25x as strong as a pit viper’s venom. Venom from the Greening’s Frog is about 2x as strong – still a powerful kick. 

While all of this together may make you afraid of venomous frogs, remember that they are extremely rare. Only two species out of over 7,300 are venomous, and both are native to eastern Brazil, and no toad species are venomous.

It is much more likely that you will run into a poisonous frog instead – thankfully, they are much less dangerous in North America.

More About Frog Bites

Find out more about frog bites, teeth, and how to handle frogs with care in the following articles on our blog:

Sources

Davit-Beal, Tiphaine & Chisaka, Hideki & Delgado, Sidney & Sire, J-Y. (2007). Amphibian teeth: Current knowledge, unanswered questions, and some directions for future research. Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 82. 49-81. 10.1111/j.1469-185X.2006.00003.x. 

Carlos Jared, Pedro Luiz Mailho-Fontana, Marta Maria Antoniazzi, Katia Cristina Barbaro, Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues, Edmund D. Brodie Jr., Venomous Frogs Use Heads as Weapons, August 06, 2015, Volume 25, Issue 16, P2166-2170, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.06.061

Lappin, A.K., Wilcox, S.C., Moriarty, D.J. et al. Bite force in the horned frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli) with implications for extinct giant frogs. Sci Rep 7, 11963 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-11968-6

Wiens, J.J. (2011), Re-evolution Of Lost Mandibular Teeth In Frogs After More Than 200 Million Years, And Re-evaluating Dollo’s Law. Evolution, 65: 1283-1296. Https://Doi.Org/10.1111/J.1558-5646.2011.01221.X

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.