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Although frogs are incredibly flexible and adaptive, they are fragile little creatures and a broken leg can greatly hinder their ability to move. Frogs can heal from various injuries, but some frogs may not live long with a broken leg.
Generally, frogs can survive a broken leg with treatment. A qualified veterinarian can help decide the best treatment for a frog’s broken leg which may include leaving the injury untouched, surgery, medication, amputation, or putting the frog down.
Seeing a frog with a broken leg is undoubtedly devastating and concerning, as these innocent creatures may not recover as quickly or thoroughly as one may believe. Here is what can happen if a frog breaks its leg, what to do, and more information on their chances of survival.
A Frog With a Broken Leg Can Be Treated by a Vet
Vets can conduct an X-ray of the frog’s leg to understand the type of bone injury and recommend the best treatment for pet frogs. Wild frogs may be treated pro bono by veterinarians offering such wildlife treatment services.
In some areas, it is illegal to rehabilitate wildlife without a permit, so if you find a frog in the wild, be sure to contact a qualified vet or a local Wildlife service for help.
Qualified exotic pet vets may be able to provide a safe and enclosed shelter for recovery, and adequate nourishment to keep the frog alive until medical assistance is available. Do not try to treat an injured frog yourself.
Other than leaving the injury untreated (which is an option depending on the situation), here are some things a qualified vet could do or may recommend to help a frog with a broken leg:
Frogs with fractured leg bones may be medicated on pain relievers and casted with tiny splints made of silicone tubing. Chances of recovery will fully depend on the severity of bone damage and positioning of the injury, as fractures and minor bone damage may be treatable. But, frogs may never fully recover from a broken leg, even with such treatment.
Vets may recommend amputating the frog’s injured limb at the break site, as amputations tend to heal faster than broken bones. This approach is drastic, but it may be less traumatic for the frog compared to bone surgery. In many cases, a leg that will never truly heal will likely hold the frog back more than a missing leg would.
In the worst cases where these options seem impractical or ineffective for the specific injury, vets may recommend putting the frog down to relieve it of its suffering (CTNF).
These extraordinary little creatures are extremely delicate. It is heartbreaking to know that a broken leg may have no positive outcome for the life of an innocent frog. Avoiding such injuries (notably as a pet owner) is the biggest motive for proper amphibian care and handling. Still, there may be hope for your little froggy friend. Contact a vet as soon as you notice any leg injury to increase their chances of survival.
Why Do Frogs Have Broken Legs?
Generally, the main reasons frogs may have broken legs in the wild include predator attacks, parasites, and falls. When humans are involved, frogs can get caught in nets, or fall from our hands and break their legs.
If you find a frog in the wild, some of the main reasons they may a broken leg include:
- Predator attacks
- Parasites and sicknesses
- Interaction with humans
If your pet frog has a broken leg, some of the main reasons this may happen include:
- Interaction with humans
- Interaction with pets (cats, dogs)
- Parasites and sicknesses
Be sure to avoid all harm to your pet frog by not handling them or handling them with extreme care. If you find a wild frog with an injured leg do not touch it.
Can a Wild Frog Survive With a Broken Leg?
In the wild, there generally are little chances of a frog surviving with a broken leg since this makes them vulnerable to predators and sicknesses. A frog in captivity, that has a broken leg and is treated immediately by a qualified vet will have much higher chances of survival.
Although the surface skin of the injured area should heal fairly well, frogs’ bones take a very long time to heal naturally. In the wild, some frogs can survive and live relatively normal lives without one of their legs, but the odds depend on numerous factors like how well the wound heals without intervention.
I found the toad in the photo above and below on a sidewalk close to a field. It was on the same sidewalk every night I checked on it this Summer eating any bugs that run past it under the street light. It has a broken leg with missing fingers, but can still get around. Yet, this toad is very slow to hop away and is vulnerable to the cats, skunks, raccoons, and the dogs in the area.
To be honest, its injury looks painful, especially when it jumps, and the frog looks sad. I called the local Wildlife service in my area and, unfortunately, they told me that they could not offer this American Toad help since it is not an endangered, protected, or watched species in my area.
On the bright side, although it is injured, this toad survived the entire Summer and feasts on an abundant amount of bugs that scurry across the sidewalk right at its tongue’s reach. Hopefully it will find an existing hole to burrow in this Winter so it does not have to dig, and I will get to see it out and about feasting on bugs again next year.
Some frogs are born missing one of their legs, an uncommon yet explainable occurrence in the wild. This generally happens when dragonfly nymphs feed on tadpole legs, leading to deformities once surviving frogs fully develop. These deformities include incomplete, missing or extra limbs.
Still, many frogs, like the one in the photos above, can adapt to survive with their disabilities and live a relatively long and normal life in the wild. They just need to be even more careful of predators than most frogs with fully functional limbs.
Can a Frog’s Leg Grow Back?
Frog tadpoles can generally regrow lost limbs, however frogs lose this ability at the adult stage. African Clawed Frogs are an exception as this species is somewhat able to regenerate lost limbs in such a way that it resembles a claw or a spike of cartilage.
African Clawed Frogs cannot not regrow a fully functional limbs like Axolotls for example. Scientists were able to find a way to try to trigger further regeneration in the African Clawed Frog using progesterone. In the wild, tadpoles are able to regenerate limbs such as their tail. However, frogs lose this ability as they age, and are unable to naturally regenerate limbs once they are fully mature.
Herrera-Rincon C, Golding AS, Moran KM, Harrison C, Martyniuk CJ, Guay JA, Zaltsman J, Carabello H, Kaplan DL, Levin M. Brief Local Application of Progesterone via a Wearable Bioreactor Induces Long-Term Regenerative Response in Adult Xenopus Hindlimb. Cell Rep. 2018 Nov 6;25(6):1593-1609.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.10.010. PMID: 30404012; PMCID: PMC6317729.
Rina Otsuka-Yamaguchi, Aiko Kawasumi-Kita, Nanako Kudo, Yumi Izutsu, Koji Tamura, Hitoshi Yokoyama. Cells from subcutaneous tissues contribute to scarless skin regeneration in Xenopus laevis froglets. Developmental Dynamics, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/dvdy.24520
The Carins Post, Daniel Bateman, Injured frog “hop-fully” back on the mend after having leg slammed in door
BBC News, Earth News, Matt Walker, Legless Frog Mystery Solved