Are All Frogs Poisonous? [Complete Guide]

Frogs are beautiful creatures that can be highly toxic, and sometimes fatal to humans. Some of the smallest frogs in the world are the most poisonous, toxic, and dangerous. But what about that frog you found hopping around your backyard?

Most frogs in North America are not poisonous to humans and those that are only cause sinus irritations. The world’s most poisonous and potentially fatal frogs are located in South America. However, frogs can carry salmonella, and toads commonly found in backyards can be fatal to pets.

Though they may be interesting to look at, you might want to think twice before you touch or pick up a frog. Keep reading below to learn which frogs are poisonous, why they are poisonous, and how to handle them safely.

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Not All Frogs Are Poisonous to Humans

Not all frogs are poisonous or toxic to humans. However, all frogs potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans like salmonella. Therefore it is imperative to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 sec after touching a frog.

Contrary to popular belief, not all frogs are poisonous or toxic to humans even if they all have glands that secrete mucus. However, like many other wild animals, frogs can carry viral diseases. Frogs can carry salmonella which can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, headaches, and in rare cases, death.

The CDC estimates there are 15.2 cases of deaths related to salmonella infections per 100,000 people in the United States.

So you may not die from a frogs’ poison but could get a viral infection from a frog making them somewhat dangerous to humans if they are not correctly interacted with (CTNF). Watch the video below to learn about the different types of frogs including Tree Frogs (arboreal), Aquatic Frogs (live in water) and Terrestrial Frogs (toads) since we will distinguish between them to know which are poisonous.

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Keep reading to learn more about which kinds of frogs are poisonous, and how to safely handle them.

List of Poisonous Tree Frogs

As a general rule, most tree frogs located in North America, Europe, and Australia are not poisonous and those that are cause sinus irritations and discomfort. The world’s most poisonous and fatal Tree Frogs are Poison Dart Frogs and can be found in South America.

PoisonousMain Location
Cope’s Gray TreefrogYesNorth America
Cuban Tree FrogYesFlorida
Poison Dart FrogsYesSouth America
Spring PeeperNoEastern North America
Gray Tree FrogNoEastern North America
Pacific Tree FrogNoWestern North America
Squirrel Tree FrogNoSouthern North America
American Green Tree FrogNoSouthern North America
Green Tree FrogNoSouthern North America
Barking Tree FrogNoSouthern North America
Red-Eyed Tree FrogsNoSouth America
Australian Tree FrogNoAustralia
White Tree FrogNoAustralia
Australasian Tree FrogsNoAustralia

No tree frogs found in North America are highly toxic to humans. However, some of them including the Cope’s Gray Tree Frog and Cuban Tree Frogs can highly irritate sinuses if the mucous from their skin enters the eyes, mouth or nose.

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs, Spring Peeper, American Tree Frogs, Australian Tree Frogs, Green Tree Frogs, Squirrel Tree Frogs, Pacific Tree Frogs, Barking Tree Frogs, and White Tree Frogs are not poisonous to humans.

Learn more about poisonous tree frogs in the dedicated guide on our blog.

Cope’s Gray Tree Frogs Can Irritate Your Sinuses

The Cope’s Gray Tree Frogs are not poisonous to humans, however, their skin secretions can be irritating to sinuses. It is essential to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 sec after touching a Cope’s Gray Treefrog and to avoid contact with your eyes, mouth, nose, or open wounds.

Cuban Tree Frogs Can Irritate Your Sinuses

The Cuban Tree Frogs are not poisonous to humans, however, their skin secretions can be extremely irritating to sinuses. It is essential to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 sec after touching a Cuban Tree Frog and to avoid contact with your eyes, mouth, nose, or open wounds.

Poison Dart Frogs Are The Most Poisonous Frogs on Earth

There are 100 species of Poison Dart Frogs which are the most poisonous frogs on Earth. Most of these frogs live in South America. Golden Poison Dart Frogs are the most toxic frogs on Earth as one frog has enough poison to kill 10 humans or 20,000 mice.

Some Frogs Are Venomous

Frogs generally are not venomous since out of over 7,000 frog species, there currently are only 2 known venomous frogs: Bruno’s Casque-Headed Frog (Aparasphenodon Brunoi) and Greening’s Frog (Corythomantis Greeningi). Calculations suggest 1 g (0.03 oz) of A. Brunoi venom could kill 80 humans.

All Toads Are Poisonous

Wild toads might be something you should aim to admire from afar due to the danger lurking behind their eyes, literally. All toads have parotoid glands located behind their eyes on top of their backs that can secrete poison.

As a general rule, all toads are poisonous to pets and Cane Toad poison can be lethal to humans. Effects include drooling, struggling to breathe, dark red gums, vomiting, frantic behavior, severe pain, disorientation, collapsing, convulsions, seizures, paralysis, and in some cases death.

Here is a general idea of how toxic these toads can be to humans. Keep in mind the effects of toad poison may vary from person to person, depending in part on prior health conditions and amount of poison that was ingested. Also keep in mind that all toads are highly toxic to pets.

Highly Toxic to HumansMain Location
Cane ToadYesFlorida, Australia, South America
Colorado River ToadYesSouth-West. North America
Fowler’s ToadNoEast. North America
American ToadNoEast. North America
Western ToadNoWest. North America
Colombian Giant ToadNoSouth America
Gulf Coast ToadNoSouth America
Canadian ToadNoCanada
Common ToadNoEurope
Natterjack ToadNoEurope
European Green ToadNoEurope
Asian Giant ToadNoAsia
Asiatic ToadNoAsia
Japanese Common ToadNoAsia
Asian Common ToadNoAsia
African Common ToadNoAfrica

All toads have parotoid glands on the sides of their head behind their eyes that can secrete toxins in case of perceived danger. Toads naturally secrete one or more of the following toxins: Bufotoxin, Bufotenin, 5-MeO-DMT, Bufotalin, and Bufalitoxin that can be dangerous to humans and pets. 

Toad poison is a thick, creamy white substance that is released by parotoid glands located behind a toad’s eyes and sometimes generally by warts on their skin. Toad toxin is usually released when a toad is stressed, perceived danger, is squeezed, or swallowed causing its muscles to contract and produce the toxin to defend itself. Each species of toad has a specific type of toxin that is secreted during an attack. 

Check out this list below to see which toad you can find in your location and what toxin they may carry:

Type of ToadActive Toxin
Cane ToadBufotoxin, Bufotenin
Colorado River Toad5-MeO-DMT, Bufotenin
American ToadBufotoxin
Gulf Coast ToadBufotoxin
European Green ToadBufotoxin
Colombian Giant ToadBufotoxin
Fowler’s ToadBufotoxin
Western ToadBufotoxin
Oak ToadBufotoxin
Asian Giant ToadBufotoxin
Asiatic ToadBufotoxin
Asian Common ToadBufotoxin
African Common ToadBufotoxin
Common ToadBufotalin, Bufalitoxin, Bufotoxin
Japanese Common ToadBufatolin, Bufotoxin

In the event of contact with a wild toad poison, wash your hands immediately and contact a qualified medical provider. Keep reading below to read about the possible effects of these toxins on humans and pets.

American Toads Are Poisonous to Pets

Generally, American or Canadian Toads are not poisonous to humans, however, they are extremely poisonous to pets. If your cat or dog ingests or licks any kind of toad, be sure to promptly clean and wash out its mouth and head to the vet.

If you are unsure if they interacted with a frog or a toad, check out the following guide on our site that contains the difference between toads and frogs (CTNF).

Cane Toads Are Invasive And Toxic to Humans

Cane Toads are poisonous and even fatal to humans and pets. They are one of the rare toads located in North America that can have severe health effects on humans if their toxins enter the bloodstream. Cane Toads are native to South America and are invasive species in Florida and Australia.

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Learn more about Cane Toads on our blog.

Toads Eggs And Tadpoles Are Poisonous

Toad eggs and their tadpoles are poisonous since all toads are poisonous, but generally at lower levels than adult toads. Not all frogs are poisonous so not all frog eggs or tadpoles are poisonous. Having poisonous eggs and tadpoles can provide toad with a certain survival advantage over frog. 

Toads Are Not Venomous

Although all toads are poisonous and can secrete poison from the glands on their backs located behind their eyes, no known toads are venomous since toads do not have teeth. Only two frogs are known to be venomous among over 7,400 species.

What to Do if Your Cat or Dog Ingests Toad Poison

Although not all frogs are toxic to humans, toads are generally poisonous to cats and dogs. Effects include drooling, struggling to breathe, dark red gums, vomiting, frantic behavior, severe pain, disorientation, collapsing, convulsions, seizures, paralysis, and death.

Toads can have severe health effects on pets. If they licked or ingested a toad, be sure to:

  • Completely wipe out your pet’s mouth with a clean rag
  • Wipe all the sticky poison off their gums, and teeth
  • Wash your pet’s mouth with a garden hose for 10 minutes
  • Keep their snout down so they do not ingest the water
  • Head to the vet to obtain further assistance, they may need to induce vomiting

Immediately call a vet and tell them what kind of frog your pet ingested while you are cleaning out your pet’s mouth if possible. This will give you tailored help while you simultaneously assist your pet. A veterinarian will be able to assist your pet one-on-one so be sure to consult for more help.

Most Aquatic Frogs Are Not Poisonous

Most aquatic frogs found in North America and in Europe are not poisonous to humans. Many of the larger species of aquatic frogs are used for human consumption or dissections, and do not contain poisons or toxins.

PoisonousMain Location
Pickerel FrogYesEastern North America
American BullfrogsNoEastern North America
Green Mink FrogNoEastern North America
Blanchard’s Cricket FrogNoEastern North America
Green FrogNoNorth America
Leopard FrogsNoNorth America
Common Green FrogNoEurope
Pixie FrogsNoAfrica

Bullfrogs Are Not Poisonous

Bullfrogs are not poisonous to humans and their legs are often consumed as a delicacy in various parts of North America. Bullfrog legs are generally served fried, grilled, or stewed in Southern parts of the United States such as in Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.

Learn more about frogs you can eat in this article on our blog.

Pickerel Frogs Are Poisonous to Predators

Pickerel Frogs are one of the only poisonous frogs native to North America that secrete a poison with a foul smell that can irritate predators like skunks and snakes. Pickerel frogs are generally not highly toxic to humans or pets, however, they can carry salmonella.

Possible Effects of Frog & Toad Toxins on Humans

Ingesting toxic frog poison like Poison Dart Frog or Cane Toad poison can lead to paralysis, severe pain, hallucinations, and sometimes death in humans. Poisonous frogs generally carry Batrachotoxin that can affect the victim’s neurological, musculoskeletal, respiratory, or gastrointestinal systems. 

Here is an non-exhaustive list of effects frog and toad poison could have on humans. Keep in mind these effects may vary from person to person, depending in part on prior health conditions and amount of poison that was ingested.

ToxinPropertiesNon-Exhaustive List of Possible Effects
BatrachotoxinExtremely Potent Cardio- And Neurotoxic Steroidal AlkaloidAnimal: Salivation, Nausea, Vomiting, Cardiovascular Symptoms, Death
Human: Nausea, Vomiting, Cardiovascular Symptoms, Death in Some Cases
BufotoxinSteroid LactonesAnimal: Salivation, Head Shaking, Seizures, Vomiting, Collapse, Cardiac Arrhythmia
Human: Intoxication, Gastrointestinal issues, Abdominal Discomfort
BufoteninAlkaloid, Tryptamine DerivativeAnimal: Cardiotoxicity, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Death
Human: Psychedelic effects, Tightening in chest, nausea, High Blood Pressure
5-MeO-DMTPsychedelic Tryptamine DerivativeAnimal: Nausea, Vomiting, Collapse, Death
Human: Hallucinogenic, Death in Some Cases
BufotalinCardiotoxic SteroidAnimal: Cardiotoxicity, Collapse, Death
Human: Cardiac Effects, Increased Cancer Cells if Injected
BufalitoxinSteroidAnimal: Salivation, Head Shaking, Seizures, Vomiting, Collapse, Cardiac Arrhythmia
Human: Cardiac Effects, Gastrointestinal Issues

Depending on the frog species, contact with milder toxins may only result in swelling, nausea, vomiting, or irritation. The degree of severity varies depending on the species, the amount of Batrachotoxin or Bufo toxin ingested or that entered the bloodstream, and other factors such as pre-existing health conditions.

Contact a qualified medical professional in your area if you or your pet ingested frog or toad poison.

Unfortunately, there is no known antidote to Batrachotoxin at this time. In the event of contact with a poisonous frog, wash your hands immediately and contact your closest medical provider (CTNF).

List of Common Poisonous Frogs

Here is a list of types of frogs, if they are poisonous, with a general idea of how toxic they are to humans. Keep in mind that all toads are highly toxic to pets.

PoisonousHighly ToxicMain Locations
Cane ToadYesYesFlorida, Australia, South America
Colorado River ToadYesYesSouth-Western United States
Poison Dart FrogsYesYesSouth America
Golden Poison Dart FrogYesYesSouth America
Pickerel FrogYesNoEast. North America
American ToadYesNoEast. North America
Fowler’s ToadYesNoEast. North America
Western ToadYesNoWest. North America
Oak ToadYesNoSouth. North America
Canadian ToadYesNoCanada
Common ToadYesNoEurope
Natterjack ToadYesNoEurope
European Green ToadYesNoEurope
Colombian Giant ToadYesNoSouth America
Gulf Coast ToadYesNoSouth America
Asian Giant ToadYesNoAsia
Asiatic ToadYesNoAsia
Japanese Common ToadYesNoAsia
Asian Common ToadYesNoAsia
African Common ToadYesNoAfrica
Tomato FrogYesNoMadagascar
American BullfrogsNoNoEast. North America
Green Mink FrogNoNoEast. North America
Leopard FrogNoNoEast. North America
Spring PeeperNoNoEast. North America
Gray Tree FrogNoNoEast. North America
Bronze FrogNoNoEast. North America
Carpenter FrogNoNoEast. North America
Blanchard’s Cricket FrogNoNoEast. North America
Pacific Tree FrogNoNoWest. North America
Northern Cricket FrogNoNoSouth. North America
Squirrel Tree FrogNoNoSouth. North America
American Tree FrogNoNoSouth. North America
Green Tree FrogNoNoSouth. North America
Barking Tree FrogNoNoSouth. North America
Gopher FrogNoNoSouth. North America
Cuban Tree FrogNoNoFlorida
Squirrel TreefrogNoNoFlorida
Wood FrogNoNoNorth America
Pacman FrogsNoNoSouth America
Glass FrogsNoNoSouth America
Common Green FrogNoNoEurope
Australian Tree FrogNoNoAustralia
African Dwarf FrogNoNoAfrica
Pixie FrogsNoNoAfrica

Poison Dart Frogs are the most poisonous frogs on Earth and one Golden Poison Dart Frog has enough poison to kill 10 humans or 20,000 mice. However, when not fed alkaloid foods, these frog’s poison is less lethal.

What Makes Frogs Poisonous?

In nature, Poison Dart Frogs’ food is generally composed of alkaloid-containing ants that are made up of toxins and chemicals. As a frog digests its meal, the toxins are absorbed by their body making them poisonous to the touch.

Research suggests that in captivity, some of the most dangerous frogs can be kept as pets, as they are usually fed crickets or fruit flies that do not contain alkaloids and in turn do not make them poisonous. The age-old adage of “you are what you eat” could not be truer for these amphibious creatures.  

The alkaloid toxin that makes these frogs the most poisonous, batrachotoxin, is only found in frogs that consume alkaloid-containing insects, and so most frogs are not poisonous. 

How Frogs Poison Can Be Useful

Here are a few ways frog poison can be useful to frogs and to humans.

Frogs Use Their Poison For Self-Defense

Frogs have hundreds of predators and have adapted over the years to live to remain alive. Frogs  use many defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators like snakes, skunks, fish and other animals that might try to eat them. 

Generally, poisonous frogs secrete toxins through their skin and are bright colored to fend off predators. All toads are poisonous since they can secrete poison through the parotoid gland on their back when stressed or in danger making them unappealing to predators (CTNF).

Frogs Poison Can be Used For Medical Purposes

Frog skin has been scientifically proven to have antibiotic-resistance properties and pain-killing properties. Frog skin is also used in a variety of traditional folk medical practices, as well as modern-day rituals like Kambo.

Frog skin can have incredibly beneficial medical properties that can help humans. Dr. John Daly of The U.S. National Institutes of Health studied the toxins of an Ecuadorian frog and found “epibatidine.” They discovered it was 200 times more potent than some of the strongest pain killers. However, the frog has since been classified as endangered and they are no longer able to analyze its toxins.

How to Spot Spot the Most Poisonous Frogs

There are a number of species of frogs that can do some major damage to whatever it comes in contact with. Luckily, they can be easy to identify.

Here are some things you can consider if you would like to know if a frog is poisonous:

  • Bright Primary Colors: If you see a frog that is yellow, blue or bright red, take that as nature’s sign to stay away. Typically, bright colors are an instant identifying feature, however, some less poisonous frogs have learned to mimic those colors and patterns to detract predators.
  • Smaller Size: The most poisonous frogs are usually the smallest frogs generally ranging from 0.59 in (1.5 cm) to 2.4 in (6cm).
  • Located in South America: The most dangerous frogs are native to South America. They thrive in warm and humid environments such as rainforests and tropical regions.

Poison Dart Frogs have very few, if any, predators since the color of their skin is a tell sign to predators that they are poisonous and should not be eaten.

How to Safely Handle Poisonous Frogs

Before you handle a frog, whether it is in nature or captivity, take care to do these things to protect both you and the frog from harm.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before. Remove all soap, detergent, sunscreen, etc. Your hands should remain wet while handling the frog.
  • Wear non-powdered vinyl gloves. This will protect you from getting salmonella and protects the frogs from absorbing any chemicals on your hands.
  • Do not squeeze a frog. If you squeeze too hard, it can cause severe pain and death. Hold the frog between your thumb and index finger.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after. Even if you are wearing gloves, washing your hands after handling a frog is the best practice.
  • Limit the time you hold the frog. Frogs become stressed when you are holding them, so it’s best to keep the interaction to a minimum.

It is always important to know what type of frog you are dealing with before you touch. And even with the mildest cases of frog secretion, wear protective gloves and/or wash hands thoroughly after handling. Overall, avoid handling frogs if possible.

Make sure you use antibacterial cleaning products to disinfect any surfaces the toad may have touched after handling toads. Also, do not touch your mouth or rub your eyes in between when you handle the toads and when you wash your hands so that you can prevent the transfer of any unwanted germs onto other surfaces. 

Learn more about safely catching and handling frogs in our dedicated guide.

Further Reading Related to Poisonous Frogs

If it’s any reassurance, unless you are located in South America, you will likely not come into contact with a highly toxic frog, but if you do, the sooner you can wash your hands, the better. If your pet has an encounter with a toad, which is very common in North America, call your local vet as soon as possible. 

Finding a frog outside and keeping it as an indoor pet is not the greatest idea. While they may not be poisonous (depending on where you live and what species are around you), the frog is bound to have parasites, bacteria, and diseases that aren’t welcome in your home. And, besides, the outdoors is that frog’s true home. 

Here are some guides on our site that are related to interacting with frogs:

Questions Related to Poisonous Frogs

Are all Backyard Frogs Dangerous? Generally, frogs you can find in backyards in North America, Australia, and Europe are not poisonous to humans including Bullfrogs, Common Frogs, and White Tree Frogs. However, all toads are poisonous and can be fatal to pets if ingested.

Can a Frog Poison Itself? Frogs can avoid the fatal effects of the batrachotoxin they produce thanks to a genetic mutation that makes them resistant to the poison. A subtle difference in a frog’s amino acids makes the poison unable to latch onto the frog’s receptors, preventing the toxin from killing the frog that carries it.

Why Are Some Frogs More Toxic Than Others? Generally, poisonous frogs develop and maintain their poison via their diet. For example, wild Poison Dart Frogs mainly eat alkaloid ants and generally lose their toxicity in captivity when they are mostly fed crickets.

How Did Poison Dart Frogs Get Their Name? Poison Dart Frogs get their name from Native tribes of South America that would dab their darts on the skin of poisonous frogs and use the poisonous weapons to hunt.

Will You Die if You Touch a Poison Dart Frog? Wild Poison Dart Frogs are generally highly toxic and can kill a human if enough poison penetrates their skin. However, Poison Dart Frogs in captivity that are not fed alkaloid foods lose their high levels of toxicity and may not kill you if you touch it with bare skin.

Can a Poisonous Frog Kill You? If the right conditions are met, a poisonous frog can kill a human. If enough poison penetrates the skin and no remedies are administered, a human can die from a poisonous frog. One Golden Poison Dart Frog has enough poison to kill 10 humans or 20,000 mice.

Is Frog Pee Poisonous? Frog pee is not poisonous however it may contain bacteria that can cause infections if it is ingested in the sinuses (mouth, nose, eyes) or an open wound (cuts or scrapes). Therefore, it is very important to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap after touching frog pee.

Are Toads Venomous or Poisonous? All toads are poisonous and secrete poison from the glands on their backs located behind their eyes. However, no known toads are venomous since toads do not have teeth. Only two frogs are known to be venomous among over 7,400 species.

Sources

CDC – Salmonella

Cope’s Gray Treefrog, Jonathan Slone, University of Georgia.

Batrachotoxin

The chemistry of poisonous frogs, and how they avoid poisoning themselves

Biologist discovers venomous frog the hard way

Epibatidine: Natural Frog Poison with a Surprising Benefit to Humans

Wikipedia, Poisonous Amphibian, Toxins

Carlos Jared, Pedro Luiz Mailho-Fontana, Marta Maria Antoniazzi, Vanessa Aparecida Mendes, Katia Cristina Barbaro, Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues, Edmund D. Brodie, Venomous Frogs Use Heads as Weapons, Current Biology, Volume 25, Issue 16, 2015, Pages 2166-2170, ISSN 0960-9822, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.06.061

John W. Daly, H. Martin Garraffo, Thomas F. Spande, Chapter One – Alkaloids from Amphibian Skins, Editor(s): S. William Pelletier, Alkaloids: Chemical and Biological Perspectives, Pergamon, Volume 13, 1999, Pages 1-161, ISSN 0735-8210, ISBN 9780080434032, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0735-8210(99)80024-7