This article was written by Melissa M. who holds a Bachelors of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, and a Master Herpetologist certificate. The article was edited and published by Daniella, Master Herpetologist and owner of this website.
I work as a vet assistant in an exotic pet clinic and to be honest, my colleagues and I were stumped when it came to knowing if frogs can get ICH.
Many online searches are dead ends leading to forums where people claim contradictory answers.
After asking the Amphibian Foundation for some guidance, we found a scientific study that addresses this question:
Frog tadpoles can technically contract ICH when exposed at severely high levels of the pathogen. Whether or not ICH can grow on and infect adult frogs is still unknown. Exposure levels are required to be high in order to infect frog tadpoles.
This article is based on the report by Gleeson published by the Journal of Parasitology in 2015.
Much is still up for debate in the scientific world as a lot of unknowns exist.
The experiment in question used hand-reared tadpoles that were culled after parasite exposure and incubation time.
Exposure was done at low and high levels and included freshwater fish species.
We will first define what ICH is and describe Gleeson’s 2015 experiment.
Then we will discuss other diseases that can affect frogs.
We will end with knowing what to do if you believe your frog is sick and ways to try to prevent sickness.
What is ICH?
ICH, pronounced like ‘ick’, is a parasite that almost exclusively infects freshwater fish species.
The scientific name for the parasite is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.
It occurs mainly in temperate and tropical regions as it requires a warmer temperature to incubate and grow to maturity.
This parasite is easy to identify on freshwater fish species.
It appears as white spots over the fish’s body and fins.
There are many commercial products meant to treat the water and fish infected by the parasite in a control setting.
ICH can be very common in pet fish tanks.
Many fish that are brought to pet stores come from mass breeding facilities.
Transport can cause stress, and some species are mixed together or kept in greeted numbers.
Spread of ICH in a fish tank can be rapid.
Treatments are made to submerge fish nets used to catch the fish to reduce spread from one tank to another.
If tank systems are connected to one filter line, the infection is likely to spread to all tanks.
ICH can cause mass fatalities among pet store fish.
If a tank at someone’s house becomes infected, it is likely to kill all the fish as well.
Water should be treated before introducing new fish.
How ICH Affects Fully Aquatic Frog Tadpoles
As we mentioned early, the effects of ICH on frogs is still largely unknown.
In Gleeson’s experiment in 2015, 15 tadpoles of the same species were exposed to high and low levels of the parasite as well as a controlled tank that was not exposed at all.
It took very high amounts of the parasite to actually be evident on the tadpole after necropsy.
The amount of parasites on the frog host were significantly less than what was seen on fish hosts.
Gleeson’s experiment culled the tadpoles after a few days, so they were not able to grow through metamorphosis.
ICH infection on adult frogs may be likely if they were infected as tadpoles.
It is also possible the parasite loses infection ability as the frog transitions from an aquatic to terrestrial lifestyle.
It is not known if the rate of infection is enough to kill a tadpole before it reaches adulthood.
Other Types of Frog Infections
Frogs can be affected by other types of disease.
ICH can occur at high rates in captivity communities of fish.
Chytrid fungus occurs in wild populations of adult frogs.
This disease is not typically seen in captive populations, but was thought to be introduced to wild populations by released captive frogs.
Chytrid fungus causes lethargic and body abnormalities and is almost always fatal to the frog once infected.
Redness and ulcers will display over the frog’s body and be paired with whole body convulsions.
Unlike ICH, chytrid fungus prefers cooler temperatures.
It is, however, waterborne. It is one of the diseases contributing to the global amphibian population decline.
Spindly Leg Syndrome can affect frog mortality rates.
This disease comes around if captive rearing conditions are not adequate for the developing tadpole.
It causes rear legs to become abnormally shaped and to display multiple defects.
What to do If Your Frog Has an Infection
We often stumble upon wild frogs in our yards or maybe when we are out and about.
If you see one in need, you may want to do your best at identifying why you think it is in need of help.
Many frogs can be left alone to let nature play its course.
If it has a fungus or other type of infection, you will likely see it on its skin.
Infection can spread through wild frog populations quickly once introduced.
If you believe your pet frog to be sick or show signs of infection, it is best to find an exotic veterinarian.
This veterinarian may also treat wild frogs, which could help our friends mentioned above.
Signs of infection include any visible marks on your frogs skin.
Lethargy and unwillingness to eat are also signs of something going on medically.
Exotic veterinarians can be hard to find, so locate one sooner rather than later.
How To Prevent Sickness With Your Pet Frog
The first step is to ensure proper husbandry.
This is not guaranteed to never cause infection, but it greatly reduces it!
Providing your frog with the proper set up keeps it happy and hopefully healthy.
You can take precautions at home as well!
Wash your hands before and after handling your frog, or wear damp gloves.
Gloves help keep the frog’s skin moisturized and free of oil our human hands can produce.
Supplements and vitamins provided with food items helps to add nutritional value to your pet frog’s diet.
This helps keep them hearty, along with a proper nutritional diet!
A frog can experience many ailments, and some may be unavoidable, but we can do all we can to keep them as healthy as possible.
This article was written by Melissa M. who holds a Bachelors of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, and a Master Herpetologist certificate. The article was edited and published by Daniella, Master Herpetologist in the author profile below.
Gleeson, D. J. (2015, October 21). Experimental Infection of Striped Marshfrog Tadpoles (Limnodynastes peronii) by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis . The Journal of Parasitology .