It’s probably not your favorite part of keeping a frog or toad but poops are just part of the process. Just like any other creature, frogs and toads need to expel waste and if you’re someone who keeps them as pets then it’s (unfortunately) your job to clean it up.
Ideally, you get into a cleaning schedule but that’s not always easy to do. Frogs are usually eager to eat but that doesn’t always translate to a bowel movement…at least not right away.
What’s going on here and how often do frogs and toads poop?
Frogs and toads will poop on different frequencies depending on the species but most will poop every other day to once a week. Younger frogs and toads poop will poop more often than older ones. However, look for signs of constipation and consult a veterinarian if not pooping is accompanied by other behavior changes.
That’s the quick answer but we’re going to take a closer look at everything you need to know about frog and toad turds. I know, it may not be a glamorous subject but it is an important one.
Understanding The Frog and Toad Digestive System
The digestive system of frogs and toads has several similarities, but also some big differences when compared to humans. Like humans, frogs and toads have a stomach, large intestine, and small intestine. But instead of the “exits” that we have, frogs and toads have a cloaca which is also commonly referred to as a vent. This is where waste (both liquid and solid) is removed from the body.
Even though frogs are quite small, and so have a relatively short digestive tract, the digestive process still takes roughly 24 hours. But that doesn’t mean frogs and toads immediately poop out whatever they’ve eaten at that stage. Instead, it’s more common for frogs and toads to continue eating and they won’t produce a stool for several days or longer.
Some digestive processes can take even longer, which makes sense when you consider that frogs and toads eat their prey whole with no chewing. That means the digestive system has a lot more work to do in order to keep up compared to animals that chew (or cook like us).
While 24 hours may not seem like a long period of time, when compared to the rapid digestion of other species like rats (which can digest and defecate in only a few hours), it’s a very long time considering the small size of most frogs and toads.
Frogs and Toads Have Very Large Poops
But eating very large meals doesn’t just cause digestion to take longer, it also changes what comes out and frogs and toads have extremely large stools.
I mean extremely large and it’s not uncommon to see stools that are roughly a quarter of the animal’s size from snout to vent. For the first time frog or toad keeper, this can be more than a little concerning and if you’re the brave sort, you can check out a video of an especially large stool from an ornate frog here. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.
5 Factors That Impact Stool Frequency In Frogs and Toads
There are a lot of variables that impact how frequently a frog or toad will poop ranging from diet and temperature down to individual variation. Let’s look at a few of the common variables and it’s important that you pay attention to these throughout the life of your frog or toad and see how they impact your pet.
In general, smaller animals poop more and have a quicker digestive system. If you’ve ever had a puppy, then you immediately know this to be true but it’s not just mammals that this rule applies to and younger, smaller frogs or toads will typically poop more than older and larger ones.
This can be somewhat confusing if you buy your frog or toad as a baby since you’ll notice their stool frequency decrease as they age but just know that this is normal.
Frogs and toads are primarily insectivores and will happily eat an array of small insects for their entire life. Insects have hard exoskeletons and even though frogs and toads have adapted to digest them, too much exoskeleton can still cause problems. Some frogs may be more sensitive to some insects than others and I’ve had my own experience with a Pacman frog and too many crickets that have plenty of hard exoskeleton.
No impaction occurred but it did appear to cause some constipation after too many large crickets.
Additionally, some frogs like Pacman frogs, are able to eat much larger prey like pinkies or even adult mice. As you’d expect, there can be a big difference in the digestion time for a few crickets compared to an adult mouse.
Over time, you should get a feel for how different diets impact your frog or toad’s digestive system so you have a better idea of what’s normal.
3. Temperature and Water
Temperature preferences will vary between frogs but warmer temperatures are more likely to promote bowel movements and this is especially true when it comes to water.
Soaking in warm water can help warm and loosen things up and it’s very common to see frogs and toads specifically use their water bowls for bowel movements. I usually see this in larger frogs or toads and some smaller frogs like the poison dart frog generally avoid water for both swimming and pooping.
But for most frogs and toads, providing a bowl of lukewarm water is a great way to encourage a bowel movement. Some keepers even work this into their regular routine and when they know their frog or toads are ready for a bowel movement they make sure that a warm bowl of water is available. While it’s a bit gross, it does make clean up easier since everything happens in the bowl.
Stress can impact bowel movements in either direction. Some frogs and toads may poop as a result of a stress response but more often stress causes constipation. Identifying stress isn’t always easy in frogs or toads but it’s safe to assume that changing enclosures or a recent escape into the real world could be a causes of stress.
So don’t expect your frog or toad to immediately enter their new enclosure and settle in for a bowel movement.
There’s a lot of debate in the reptile and amphibian world around the impact of the substrate on the digestive system. The idea is that herps could accidentally eat the loose substrate in the enclosure either because they’re confused and think it’s food (frogs aren’t the smartest) or because they ingest it while trying to eat their usual meal. Once ingested, the material can slow down or even completely stop digestion.
You’ll hear arguments on both sides but it should be obvious that some substrate shouldn’t be eaten. Do your research on the appropriate substrate for your particular species of frog or toad and always play it safe.
Additionally, feeding with tongs can help decrease the chance that a frog or toad accidentally ingests substrate while eating their prey.
When Should I Worry About Impaction Or Constipation?
Even though we know that it can be normal for frogs and toads to go several days (or longer) between bowel movements it doesn’t make it any less stressful when your pet is off their routine.
So when should you worry about bigger problems like constipation or even full-on impaction? We’ll look at some things to watch for but if you’re ever not sure it’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian. Most of the time, an experienced veterinarian can feel an impaction or firm stool and provide a rapid diagnosis…and peace of mind.
But let’s break down some of the other factors you can look for at home.
Straining Or Struggling To Defecate
Even though reptiles and amphibians have been left out, scientists have determined that it takes mammals of all sizes around 12 seconds to defecate. That had to be quite the crossover study!
While we can’t directly translate this to frogs and toads, it’s safe to say that if your herp is spending more than a dozen seconds trying to produce a stool and nothing is coming out then there’s likely a problem. It’s not a cause for immediate concern but continue to watch your frog or toad over the next few hours.
Spending More Time In Water
Depending on the species, it may or may not be normal for them to spend a lot of time in the water. But a constipated frog or toad is likely to spend more time in the water as they try to produce a bowel movement. This may or may not occur at the same time as straining to defecate.
If you notice your frog or toad soaking more, try helping them out by keeping their water fresh and comfortably warm.
Visible Or Palpable Change In Stomach
In more severe cases of impaction, you can actually see a visible bulge on the frog or toad. The digestive system spans both sides of the body so depending on where the impaction occurs you may see it more visibly on either the left or the right.
You may also be able to feel the impaction or firm stool but that’s a task better suited for a veterinarian. Not only can it be very difficult to know what you’re looking for if you haven’t done it before but it can also be quite painful for the frog or toad.
Avoiding Food Or Behavior Changes
Frogs and toads are often referred to as walking stomachs and it’s a reputation that’s well deserved. Many frogs will happily chomp down on your finger just to double-check that you aren’t food so when a frog stops eating and stops pooping it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian.
Other changes in behavior like decreased activity or hiding when they’re usually active are also a cause for concern and a good reason to consult your veterinarian.
How To Help A Constipated Frog Or Toad With A Water And Honey Soak
When it comes to mild constipation you may be able to help your frog or toad move things along but as always if you’re ever not sure it’s best to consult your veterinarian for advice.
We’ve already talked about the benefits of warm water and many suggest adding honey to the mix to further facilitate the process. The honey is optional, and something to discuss with your veterinarian, but warm water has well-established benefits for helping frogs and toads poop.
You can see this in action (don’t worry it’s not especially graphic) in this video:
While transporting your frog or toad to a bucket is an easy way to make this work, it’s not required. You can help a lot just by regularly adding warm water to a bowl within the enclosure and letting your frog or toad figure out the rest.
It’s impossible to say how often every species of frog or toad should poop. There’s just too much variation between species between age, size, diet, and more. But in general, frogs and toads should defecate every few days to every week.
However, it’s important for you to get a feel for what’s normal for your individual frog or toad and adjust from there.
Some strategically placed warm water can help the process along but if you’re ever worried or your pet’s lack of poops is accompanied by other changes like a lack of appetite or other behavior changes then it’s time to consult your veterinarian.