How to Recognize Chytrid Fungus
We sometimes answer our phone and the voice on the other end says, "I just found a frog with that chytrid fungus" but that is seldom what the problem is. Its just all the media publicity that makes people think there is only one disease out there so this frog they found HAS to have chytrid. There are a lot of disease problems around and sometimes they need to use some of the same symptoms to express themselves. For example, weight loss can be caused by a list of items including chytrid. Skin irritiation and excessive sliming can be caused by a suite of bacterial and fungal problems as well as chytrid. Curling toes and other nervous system damage can be caused by poisoning as well as disease.
It really depends on where you are as to the chances of your finding a sick frog that is being attacked by chytrid or having chytrid in your captive frogs. First of all, this disease is a cool climate pathogen. It prefers a temperature of 15 C (59 F) to 23 C (73 F) so if you are in a place that is experiencing these temperatures, it is possible that chytrid might have reached your region. So northern hemisphere folks should look for signs of chytrid during your autumn and winter (about September to about May). Southerm hemisphere folks should be vigilant from about April to September. The closer you are to the equator, the shorter your cooler season.
In Australia, the top end of the country is normally too hot for chytrid but there are 'windows of opportunity' in some places. On the tropical north coast, the high altitude mountain tops can be affected by chytrid for a large part of the year; the Tablelands plateau needs to worry during the winter months; and the lowland coastal plain has mostly escaped the onslaught, although chytrid has been found in at least four suburbs in the last few years. Any place with high altitude areas will have more available growing time for chytrid than places near sea level.
So once you have established that you are in the right temperature range, how will you determine it might be chytrid and not one of the myriad of other frog disease problems killing frogs and toads? The symptoms on the body itself can be extremely cryptic - more so than other subtle indications we see for each of the local diseases. It will be more likely that you'll notice the changes in the frog's/toad's behaviour.
As the disease progresses, you'll notice that the frog/toad is losing weight but, if it has only just picked up the disease, the weight loss won't have started yet so don't use weight loss alone as a sign of chytrid. Frogs and toads do stop eating when they get this disease but this alone is not enough to determine chytrid as any illness will suppress appetite. Chytrid is also microscopic so if you see discolouration or other oddities on the surface of the skin, these are not chytrid but something else that will need attention.
Chytrid is an aquatic pathogen so it needs to have water to live. It can live in any body of water including a stream, a dam, a river, a pond, a ceramic water feature, a dog bowl - anything that holds water. It can be transmitted by anything that gets wet or moves water such as the runoff from rainy weather, on bird's feet, fisherman's waders, frog enthusiasts' shoes and hands, collected plants, exchaging pond items with other pond owners, hikers walking through multiple puddles, and frogs moving throughout the neighbourhood looking for food and drink. Chytrid can be moved around with contaminated tadpoles, be they captive raised or wild caught.
It took a long time for chytrid to reach Cairns but it has now been confirmed from Crystal Cascades, Brinsmead, an isolated water body at Bayview Heights (which means it was carried there, not from runoff), and Machans Beach. More suburbs will undoubtedly pick this up in the future.
If you suspect the presence of chytrid on your property, please contact us QUICKLY. Chytrid can be cured in frogs but there is definitely a time limit. Once you have turned in a frog from your property that has been diagnosed with chytrid, we can provide you with ways you can help to reduce to the spread to other frogs you have.
We also have treatment instructions for those in remote areas who want to save frogs on their properties but please phone us to discuss whether it really is chytrid or another problem before you start treatment. The symptoms of disease in frogs are extremely cryptic and can easily be mistaken.
If you want more information generally about chytrid fungus, see the general chytrid page.