Frog Diseases: Redleg
The most well-known frog disease is red leg. It is the number one killer of African clawed frogs scientifically known as xenopus laevis. It is not a specific disease but a syndrome meaning a collection of symptoms. This bacterial infection is usually caused by gram-negative bacteria called Aeromonas Hydrophyla, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Proteus Mirabilis and Escherichia Coli (known as E.Coli). Gram-negative bacteria are those that do not maintain crystal violet dye in the Gram staining protocol or the Gramís Method.
One of the first warning signs of red leg disease is the reddening of the skin, most particularly on the belly and underneath the thighs. This redness in the legs is a little bit confusing because several frog species have a red hue on their legs and appear to be normal. It does not also show an indication of illness.
But the reddening related with this condition is the result of ruptured blood vessels causing a pool of blood under the skin. Due to the light color of the frogís skin, the red color of the blood shows through the skin, most evidently visible in the belly and the legs.
Frogs with red leg tend to become lazy and show a loss of appetite. Some of the most common symptoms also noted are swelling, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, anorexia, sluggishness, inactivity, apathy and open sores. These signs are brief and seen before the start of convulsion and unexpected death.
If not treated, blood poisoning or Acute Septicemia will occur. When the frogs show these signs clinically, the case is already terminal. In less severe cases, frogs are sluggish and do not eat. Clogged veins are frequently present on the legs. Other visual signs present are lesions and edema.
But in most cases (even if symptoms are seen at an early stage), the disease is so toxic and exceedingly rapid in overtaking the frogís immune system. Once the immune system is not functioning properly, the bacteria multiplies, thus causing the disease red leg.
Red leg is highly contagious causing high mortality and morbidity in frogs. It is a stress disease. Stress factors like tanks with mixed species, wrong temperature, handling or exposure to toxic are some of them. Maladjustments greatly affect the environment most especially with newly-transported frogs.
In its early stages, red leg can sometimes be treated by immediately bathing the frog daily with sulfamethiazine for two weeks or a solution of potassium permanganate and copper sulfate for the same period. However, if after the first week of treatment, it still does not get better, give oral antibiotics like tetracycline or amino glycosides. When used with antibiotic therapy, the addition of salt to the water may increase survival.
Although various medications and several antibiotics have been tried, there is no known cure. Isolation is the best thing to do. After that, correct the environment including the lighting, humidity and temperature. If you suspect there are sources of toxins, remove them right away.
Do not hold the frog. Control yourself not to touch it with your bare hands. Leave it alone so as to let it heal very well by not interfering.
Do not feed forcibly. Let its immune system work naturally. There are times when force-feeding requires additional energy, thus, creating more stress and illness.
Do not disturb the frog as well as the tank. If the tank is located in a place where there are disturbances, provide some privacy. Cover the tank with paper on the side where it can be seen by people. Also, do not clean the tank at this time that the condition of the sick frog is still critical.
As a general rule of thumb, prevention is better than cure. Here are some preventive measures to be taken in order to avoid the occurrence of such disease:
- Keep the frogs in their natural environment where it is considerably dry.
- Depending on the frogís species, determine the level of humidity where they will be adaptable to.
- To reduce the growth of pathogens or bacteria inside the tank, give a lower humidity. This gives the frogs a chance to replenish their body fluid.
- Dispose of all their wastes regularly. This will prevent them from taking up their own wastes.
- Do not expose them to toxins such as pesticides.
- Fill the tank or water bowl with fresh water everyday. Clean water is a must. Make sure that the water you use is de-chlorinated.
- Avoid over-crowding them. Having too-many as the same tank might lead to bacteria and fungi.
- Remove spoiled food at once.
- Donít use strong cleaners for the tank.
- Do not use plants you have not grown yourself for the past six months.
- Lastly, if it cannot be avoided, handle your frogs with extra care. Some frogs jump out and hurt themselves when you try to handle them. As a form of self-defense, some release fluids which might be toxic to the person handling the frog.