African dwarf frogs are usually low-maintenance pets but they are still living creatures who can get a plethora of diseases. African dwarf frog dropsy is one of those diseases.
What is Dropsy?
The word dropsy is technically another word for edema. If your exotics vet refers to dropsy as edema, hydropsy, or ascites, he or she is probably referencing the same thing.
Dropsy (edema, hydropsy, ascites) presents as severe bloating in your pet frog. Your African dwarf frog may look like a balloon that will just float away if given the opportunity but he is not filled with air. The reason why your frog is so bloated is due to all the fluid that has built up inside his body. This fluid may even have seemed to appear overnight.
What Causes Dropsy?
This disease process isn’t fully understood, meaning we don’t really know what makes your frog get dropsy. But we do know that edema is caused by the lymphatic system.
In the case of dropsy, lymph, the fluid substance that circulates in the lymphatic system, fills the lymph nodes, and does other jobs inside the body, does not drain properly, builds up outside of the normal tissue it usually stays in, and fills the abdominal cavity of the frog.
How Does Dropsy Hurt My Frog?
Just like the pressure that fluid puts on an eyeball with glaucoma, lymph fluid causes extreme pressure on almost all the internal organs of your frog with dropsy. The kidneys, liver, spleen, and other organs suddenly have an extreme amount of pressure put on them. Imagine a water balloon, filled to the maximum with water. If you overfill it it will pop, rendering the balloon unable to do its job of holding water. Similarly, if so much fluid is pushing on an organ, it is so stressed that it cannot do its designated job. As you can imagine, and as anyone with glaucoma can attest, this extreme pressure is painful. It may cause your frog to be very lethargic and stop eating and obviously your frog cannot survive without eating.
Can Dropsy be Cured?
Since we don’t know exactly what causes dropsy we cannot necessarily cure it. But we can definitely treat the symptoms. This often includes your exotics vet draining your African dwarf frog’s abdomen of the excessive fluid. This will alleviate the pressure put on the organs and definitely make your frog feel better almost instantaneously. Some people recommend adding salt to your freshwater enclosure but this is very dangerous. More often than not the salt kills your frog. The idea behind the salt is that it helps to draw some of the excess fluid out of your frog, but since they are not saltwater amphibians, African dwarf frogs usually die from the addition of the salt.
What Can I Do at Home?
Unfortunately there is nothing you can safely do at home. If you add salt you run the risk of causing a painful death. If you try to drain the fluid yourself you could puncture something that can’t be fixed. Therefore, this is a disease that requires the expertise of an exotics vet. Euthanasia may be an option discussed with your vet if they do not feel as though there is much hope for your frog.
Can I Prevent My Other Frogs ?
Since we don’t know what exactly causes dropsy it is hard to say how to prevent your frogs from getting it. It is not contagious (as far as we know), and some thought has been directed towards the electrolyte balance of the water causing the disorder. Regardless, it is never a bad habit to keep your water as clean as possible, remove the chlorine from the water, and test the pH to maintain a neutral level (7.0-7.2).
Of course never assume your frog has dropsy without first consulting an exotics vet. There may be another reason why your frog is swollen, such as rock consumption or over feeding.