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 the issue.

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.

Secondly, there 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.

The following 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 a frog.

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

Isolate the 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 frog.

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.
................................Henry Capobianco

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 I can.
.............................Becki Nelson


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