Frog Vomit: Everything There is to Know

Frogs do not throw up unless they are in very specific situations to feel the need to vomit. These situations often revolve around poor food choices.

Generally, frogs and toads vomit because they ate something inedible or toxic, due to extreme motion sickness, or if a food item is too large. Frogs perform full gastric eversion by ejecting their entire stomach and wiping the unwanted item out with their right hand.

Frogs can throw up, but not in a way you may think. Read on to find out everything there is to know about frogs emptying their stomachs, including reasons why this happens, and the process frogs go through.

Frogs Vomit Their Entire Stomach

Frogs vomit by full gastric eversion, meaning they eject their entire stomach when they vomit. When a frog vomits, its stomach is completely outside of its body. The frog wipes out anything inside its stomach using its front right hand.

To make sure its stomach is completely clean, the frog wipes it with its front right hand. Frogs use this hand specifically because their stomach is positioned closer to the right in their bodies. Since frog’s arms are short, it is easier for them to clean their stomach using their right hand rather than their left.

Once the frog is satisfied their stomach is clean they will put it back into their mouth and swallow it. The frog’s teeth do not get in the way because their teeth are just used to retain their food rather than chewing it. This helps aid in getting their stomachs back inside of their bodies safely.

Frogs Vomit For Different Reasons

Frogs may naturally vomit because they ate something inedible or toxic, due to motion sickness, or if a food item is too large. For example, frogs may vomit if they ingest bark, Bombardier beetles, or very large prey they cannot swallow.

If you observe a frog sucking its eyes into its head while it is eating do not worry, this is a normal way they swallow their food. Also do not panic if you observe a frog wiping its head, making strange faces, and eating its dead skin, this is also normal behavior called sloughing.

Frogs May Vomit If They Eat Something Inedible

Frogs may vomit if they accidentally eat something inedible like too much soil or substrate, a large piece of bark, debris, or leaflitter. Frogs and toads eat live food but may accidentally consume indigestible objects while licking up their prey causing them to vomit.

African toad turns out stomach

For example, the frog in the video above clearly ingested a large piece of bark. This is not a digestible object and could make the frog sick if it remains in its stomach. Vomiting out the foreign object will help the frog survive (CTNF).

Frogs May Vomit If Their Food is Too Large

This frog vomit story is from personal experience. As a child, I had a wild pet toad named Toady Wart Face. My favorite thing to do after school was to look for him in the yard and watch him eat bugs. One day, I found him eyeballing a very large worm. 

The worm was clearly way too big for him but he sucked it up anyway, battling to get it down his throat. I must admit this was a pretty traumatizing experience to watch as a child. Toady battled to get the worm down until he gave up and proceeded to vomit the whole thing, including his stomach.

Honestly, I ran away before I could see the whole event unfold because I was traumatized. But it was then and there that I learned that frogs do sometimes vomit if what they are eating is too big for their bodies and they realize it in time. 

If frogs do not vomit a meal too large for them they may get sick, choke, experience impaction, or die. The food may also the food may rot in their stomach before they can digest it making them sick. 

If you are worried about your pet frog, be sure to contact a qualified veterinarian in your area to ask your specific questions. Frogs and toads will generally eat anything that is moving and can fit in their mouths. But sometimes their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

Frogs May Vomit The Bombardier Beetle

Toads will willingly snack on beetles, and the Bombardier Beetles are no exception. An experiment was performed in a laboratory to test the toad toxicity tolerance using Bombardier Beetles and two types of toad species: Bufo japonicus and Bufo torrenticola.

Bombardier Beetles Squirt Boiling Anal Chemicals to Make Frogs Vomit | National Geographic

The experiment found that 43% of the toads vomited the beetles after swallowing them within 12 to 107 minutes. Small toads vomited the beetles more often than larger toads did and all the beetles escaped alive and active (Sugiura et al, 2018).

Bombardier beetles give off a toxic liquid that can burn and sting their attacker which may be why the smaller toads vomited the beetles more often than the larger toads.

Darwin Frogs Are Known as “Vomit Frogs”

Male Darwin Frogs also known as Vomit Frogs have the ability to vomit, and gestate their young. Male Darwin Frogs take care of their babies by swallowing them at the egg stage until they become froglets

Adult male Darwin Frogs ingest their frog eggs into the vocal sac under their tongue. Once the baby frogs become fully formed, the male Darwin Frogs will vomit up their young. 

Darwin Frog Birth | National Geographic Wild UK

Once the baby frogs are completely out of the male frog, the baby frogs will be left to fend for themselves. This version of frogs throwing up happens because this is the reproduction cycle of the Darwin Frogs themselves. These are the only known frogs to do this out of over 7,000 species.

Frogs Can Die From Vomiting in Extreme Conditions

Vomiting is a safety mechanism generally used if frogs eat something harmful or toxic to their bodies. The reaction from the frog to throw up their stomach is automatic when something does not sit right with them. The chances of frogs dying from throwing up are slim but are still possible, especially in extreme conditions, like high-level motion sickness.

A study was done in 2008 involving female frogs and vibrations given off from construction equipment. The vibrations from the construction equipment seem to cause unbalance making the frogs very sick (Felt et al, 2008). Of the 175 female frogs tested, five of them had everted their stomachs. These five frogs had been unable to put their stomachs back into their bodies and died from suffocation.

While this experiment was situational, it proves that frogs or toads that are unable to get their stomachs back into their bodies can die. Based on the experiment, in order for frogs to die from being unable to swallow their stomachs, the situation would need to be more intense than usual. While frogs can breathe through their skin, this would not be enough if the airway to their lungs is blocked.

Do Not Make a Frog Vomit

Never make your pet frog vomit or go searching for wild frogs to purposely make them vomit. I have seen some videos on YouTube of people clearly feeding their pet frogs food that is much too large for them just to get a viral video. This is inhumane behavior that could kill your pet frog, do not do it.

Making a frog vomit on purpose can cause frogs harm. You could kill a frog by making it vomit if you do not know what you are doing. Scientists and researchers have access to controlled environments, knowledge of endangered species, small sterile instruments, and knowledge on how to safely perform their experiments for research.

More About Frog Vomit

The steps taken by frogs to cleanse their stomachs after making a poor food choice can seem odd but is also extremely interesting. There are some other animals that also vomit in similar ways to frogs like sharks.

Learn more about frog anatomy in the guides on our blog below:

Sources

Felt SA, Cowan AM, Luong R, Green SL. Mortality and morbidity in African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) associated with construction noise and vibrations. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2012 Mar;51(2):253-6. PMID: 22776127; PMCID: PMC3314530.

Naitoh, T., Wassersug, R., & Leslie, R. (1989). The Physiology, Morphology, and Ontogeny of Emetic Behavior in Anuran Amphibians. Physiological Zoology, 62(3), 819-843. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30157929

Sugiura S, Sato T. Successful escape of bombardier beetles from predator digestive systems. Biol Lett. 2018 Feb;14(2):20170647. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0647. PMID: 29438051; PMCID: PMC5830659.

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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.