Help Frogs / Help Us

Rehab/Recovery Techniques

We have wanted to publish a manual on the medical side of frog rescue, diagnosis, rehabilition and release strategies for many years. This would be of global significance as there are still extraordinarily few people involved in this worldwide. However, we are simply not getting enough financial support for this. A very rough ball-park figure to produce this information as an internet based medium is at least $20,000 AUD. A printed manual or a series of pdf files on a CD would be even more expensive although it could be sold to recoup some of the development costs.

Until a financially endowed resource takes interest in our work, what we will use this page for is to highlight some simple procedures that we often recommend to folks in long distance diagnosis situations. This will be added to over time.

Betadine (10% Povidone iodine)

This is one of THE most useful chemicals for assisting frogs, not only as a part of the disinfection process but also in treating the animals themselves. However, we point out here that you should never use betadine on a frog unless we have told you to. Many folks will read about using betadine on a sick frog, use it and then contact us later to ask for a diagnosis. It doesn't work that way! If you plan to bring the frog to a vet or to contact us for a long distance diagnosis, then DON'T use this on the frog first. It will remove key clinical symptoms from the animal so the diagnosis you get from us or the money you spend at the vet's to get impression smears or swabs cultured will be useless.

The next thing to keep in mind about using betadine for disinfection or on the animals themselves is what species you are handling. There was a paper published many years ago in the US to say that it had been determined that soaking tanks overnight in betadine solution was lethal to Dendrobates (the brilliantly coloured small frogs from the Amazonian rainforest). We don't know the concentration of betadine that was used or the type of material being soaked (which plastic? glass? something else?) so the problem might not have been the betadine but the absorbing capacity of the material. The paper did specify that the tanks were soaked overnight which might have also been the problem - we only soak for five or ten minutes when a 500 ml bottle is used in about 40 litres of water AND they are rinsed well. Just because we have used betadine with Australian frogs safely since the early 2000's, doesn't mean this is a safe chemical for the species you might have overseas. Particularly if you have small species such as rainforest specialists, try to find other published information about betadine and your species before you start using this chemical.

To use betadine as part of disinfection:

Why is betadine so useful for this task? There are several reasons. Betadine gets rid of a range of bacteria and fungi so it helps keep your captive or rehab enclosures and components much cleaner for the animals they will house. Another reason is that disinfection with bleach does not kill fungal spores so these will remain on anything you've bleached. A third reason is that bleach or other chemicals such as F10 do not rinse off particularly well so an item cleaned with them could still poison the next occupant. Using betadine as a finishing process "fixes" any residues from other chemicals which didn't rinse off properly. As you rinse off the betadine, you are rinsing off any other residues as well. Lastly, if you are doing disinfection regularly and need more than a day to get through a load, then items are sitting in the air waiting their next process. They are picking up airbourne bacteria and fungi so the betadine as a finishing process removes these other contaminants which could have been picked up after the bleach process.

Wash your hands before doing this task. If you have a small amount of items to clean, you can pour the betadine straight from the bottle into your item and wipe around with a sponge for several minutes. Then rinse well and towel dry. If you have many items or need to do this regularly, you can use a large storage container (at least 50 litres) with a snap on lid and fill about 4/5's of capacity with water. Pour a 500ml bottle into it. The water should be the colour of very strong coffee. Submerge all your items into it and leave soaking for up to ten minutes. If your items are too big to be submerged, then do five minutes on one side and turn over to do five minutes on the other side. Rinse well afterwards and wipe off with a new sponge any brownish film that is seen on the item. Towel dry. This method is useful also for areas where water conservation is critical as the same vat of betadine can be used over an extended period (keep out of sunlight!). More betadine can be added if the bath colour starts to fade.

Betadine as an animal treatment process

Betadine can be used on Australian frogs but it is heavily diluted first! And betadine should never be used if you plan to seek a diagnosis from us or a veterinarian before starting any treatments.

How far the betadine is diluted depends on the size of the frog as measured from snout to vent (measured under the frog, not over like you would measure a turtle!):

tadpoles we have not used this on tadpoles
metamorphs and small species up to 3cm S>V (1.25 inches) one part betadine to 400 parts water; for metamorphs, this can be put into a spray bottle and the morphs sprayed very briefly
sub adults or frogs/toads up to 5cm (2 inches) one part betadine to 250 parts water
adults and larger anurans over 5cm (over 2 inches) one part betadine to 200 parts water

Once the betadine bath has been prepared in a small bowl or takeaway tray, the frog/toad can be placed into it and the solution poured over the back - avoid the face entirely. Do not get the bath into the nostrils or eyes. Only leave the animal in the bath for a period of 30 to 60 seconds. If removed in this time period, no rinsing is required.

Betadine baths should only be used when neccessary - not as a regular function. An appropriate time for a betadine bath to be given is when a wild caught frog arrives for care. It can be given the bath before being placed into a clean tank. Another time is when a frog in care is being removed from a dirty tank and placed into a new or disinfected old tank. 

Please note however that a betadine bath should NEVER be given to a frog or toad with any type of skin breaches on it including ulcers, gouges, or burnst. If a frog or toad has been poisoned, it depends on the nature of the poison (man made chemical or bacterial/fungal) as to whether betadine will reduce the problem or exacerbate it. Also, animals with severe gashes in the skin or broken bones with bone extruding need to be given pain relief at least 30 minutes before having a betadine bath and you might do this using a pipette or syringe to rinse intact skin and avoid the damaged areas.

Highly diultued betadine baths can also be used for chytrid fungus cases. See our pages on chytrid in this diseases section for more info.

If you are unsure about the procedures for using betadine, please contact us.

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