Watch any wildlife show, and you’ve likely heard that poison dart frogs are among the most toxic animals on earth. You may have even heard that their toxicity is enough to take down several adults. So it makes sense that you might ask…
Is my dart frog poisonous?
If you’re like a lot of exotic pet enthusiasts, you’ve probably wondered how exactly poison dart frogs become poisonous. Maybe you’ve even wondered what affect, if any, your frog can have on you if you handle it.
The truth is, the information you find about wild dart frogs is not exactly the same for your pet. The simple answer is, no, a dart frog that you buy in captivity is NOT poisonous and poses no harm to you.
Read on to find out why captive dart frogs are safe when their wild counterparts are so deadly.
Scientists’ best answer
The fact is that scientists haven’t conclusively determined the cause of poison dart frogs’ toxicity. That being said, they’re pretty sure it has to do with what these amphibians eat in the wild. That would explain why captive frogs never develop toxicity, as well as why wild frogs lose their toxicity after long periods in captivity.
What could they be eating that makes them poisonous?
Dart frogs are insectivores. That means that if it is in fact diet causing their toxicity, it most likely comes from the bugs they eat. It’s not quite as simple as eating poisonous bugs, though. It’s believed that the origin of the poison is the plants eaten by the insects, which passes through to the frogs.
So can you still call your frog a poison dart frog if it isn’t poisonous? Actually, yes you can because the name comes from the history of certain South and Central American tribes using the frogs to poison the tips of their darts. That means even if your specific frog isn’t poisonous, it’s still a part of this history.
Dart frog handling tips
So are dart frogs safe to handle? Well, it’s safe for you, as long as you have a captive bred frog. Be careful about any frogs caught in the wild; they could still be poisonous and not safe for handling.
In any case, it’s more ethical to purchase captive-bred frogs from a reputable exotic pet store. (You can get a look at the ones we have by coming into The Tye-Dyed Iguana or order dart frogs online. They actually tolerate shipping quite well.)
Of course, just because touching dart frogs won’t kill you doesn’t mean you should be doing it often. Like other frogs, dart frogs breathe through their skin for part of their respiration. And because they are so tiny, the oils and pollutants on your hands can clog their skin fairly quickly or seep into it, which is not healthy for the frog.
Dart frogs make an excellent pet for kids learning to handle responsibilities because they have fairly small maintenance needs. Enroll your kid in our Snake School to learn more before jumping into dart frog ownership.