Due to my own
personal experience with losing two frogs to Redleg, I feel compelled
to share the knowledge I have gained through my experience and research
of this condition. I hope it will not only help in the proper and
fair treatment of frogs affected by it, but also aid in the prevention
of frogs becoming infected by it.
Redleg is a
difficult topic. It is a syndrome - a collection of symptoms - not
a specific disease. Most all available information on it is theoretical
and differing theories and opinions result in much controversy on
To start, the
name itself is confusing since redness in the legs has little or
nothing to do with it. Several species of frogs have a red tint
to their legs which is perfectly normal and certainly no indication
of illness. The reddening which can occur with this condition is
as a result of the rupturing of blood vessels which causes a collection
of pooling blood under the skin. This is most evident and visible
in the legs and belly due to the light color of the skin allowing
the red color of the blood to show through the skin. So it's important
to point out that red legs are not a clear indication of this condition.
is still some debate as to the specific pathogen that causes this
condition. It is most commonly believed to be caused by Aeromonas.
It is believed that the causing pathogen is an opportunistic bacteria
which lies dormant in the frog's system waiting for a chance to
overtake it. A healthy frog's immune system can effectively fight
off the bacteria. Any stressing factor, such as: improper temperature
and/or humidity regulations, unclean tank conditions, infrequent
water changes resulting in dirty water, unnecessary handlings, mixing
species, exposure to toxins, another illness, etc., can result in
a weakened immune system. Once the immune system is weak and not
functioning properly, it can no longer hold the bacteria at bay.
The bacteria then multiples and overtakes the system resulting in
infection and the frog having "redleg". Although several antibiotics
and various other treatments have been tried, there is no known
cure. Therefore, prevention of this condition is very important
as preventing it from occurring is much easier than treating and/or
curing it as few frogs survive the illness.
information on redleg was given to me by Henry Capobianco, an experienced
and highly knowledgeable fellow frog keeper.
Red Leg is a
stress disease. The stressor may be wrong temps, mixed-species tank,
handling or toxic exposure, which includes medication. But think
about this. A long term, acclimated frog is able to endure many
environmental maladjustments, whereas a newly acquired (within 6-9
months) frog will succumb if anything is the least bit off. This
is because, in my opinion, the frog is able to make himself sick
with his fear. Just as a rabbit or bird can die of fear, so can
Before I understood
this I lost many frogs to Red Leg. My vet and I went through many
different treatments. In some cases we caught the disease at the
very first indication -- at a point where most people would not
have seen it yet. And we lost every single one we treated. No matter
what medication was given. Others claim to have succeeded with some
treatment or other. I cannot make that claim. The only thing that
seems to work, and it only works 1 out of 20 times, is to correct
the environment and leave the frog alone. They heal themselves very
well when we don't interfere.
Red Leg Rx
patient and correct the environment. Check temps, humidity and lighting.
I feel that most newcomers keep their frogs too warm, too humid
and too bright. Remove any suspected toxin sources such as new plants.
If the tank
is located where people can be seen, tape paper to the tank sides
to provide privacy. Also provide hiding places within the tank.
Do not handle
the frog. Summon your best self control and do not handle your new
Do not forcefeed.
The frog is probably not eating because he is not digesting; his
immune system is working overtime and requires all his energy. The
handling and stress of forcefeeding is counterproductive. There
are illnesses in which forcefeeding is indicated; this is not one.
Do not clean
the tank. Except for providing clean water, do not disturb the frog
or the tank in any way. You may pick up scat (turds) if it can be
done quickly and quietly, but even this is not critical right now.
In cleaning the waterbowl, use only hot water; no cleanser or soap.
You can scrub the bowl with a new scrub pad or brush but the scrubber
must be used for no other purpose to avoid spreading disease.
Keep the frogs
considerably drier than their natural environment. It will require
some experimentation to decide what level this is, depending on
species, but White's, Leptopelidae, Waxies, most domestic Hylidae
(Barker's, Green TFs) and similar species can be kept at ambient
humidity. No misting. In winter, in a heated home, this means humidity
will be below 25 percent. It may sound like blasphemy but it works.
The lower humidity inhibits the growth of pathogens in the tank.
It also encourages the frog to rehydrate in the waterbowl which
is filled with fresh water every day. Consequently, the frog will
void in the waterbowl so you are easily able to dispose of almost
all waste. If the tank were more humid, the frog would void all
over it and would rehydrate anywhere he found water droplets. Consequently
he would take up his own waste continually.
Do not handle
the frog especially in the first six months. Don't mix species.
Don't use cleaners for the tank or waterbowl. Do not use plants
unless you have grown them at least six weeks out of the tank to
eliminate pesticide. Do not believe any grower who says his plants
are pesticide-free. Do not make the mistake of believing that "organic"
means non-toxic. Arsenic is organic, as are many other poisons.
I hope this
has helped in explaining redleg, it's treatment and prevention measures.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact
me by the link provided below, and I will gladly help in any way