Why is my frog having difficult catching prey? Why is its mouth always hanging open?

“I stumbled upon your website, and was wondering if you might possibly know what is wrong with my Green frog. I am from Illinois and caught my frog as a tadpole last summer in a neighborhood pond. I did a lot of research and took very careful care with him and his environment to make sure they would be as clean and natural as possible. He grew to be a very healthy and normal frog (as far as I can tell).

For over 6 months he remained happy and healthy in his new frog body. Then a few months ago I started to notice he didn’t seem as active or happy. I also noticed that it seemed like he was using his tongue less and less to catch bugs (instead he was diving at them with an open mouth like a turtle or something). Over the next few weeks I started to notice that his mouth was starting to hang open a lot of the time, almost like it was more comfortable for him to just let his lower jaw hang down. I’ve tried adjusting his diet, the set up in the aquarium, and water cleaning supplements. He’s starting to seem more active and happy again, but he never croaks or chirps anymore, and his mouth is almost always hanging open.

It almost seems like he’s somehow lost use of his tongue… I feel terrible for somehow causing this. Any suggestions or ideas would be most appreciated.”

There are three symptoms that lead me to suspect an issue related to nutrition:

  1. The frog seemed healthy and in good condition for more than half a year and slowly developed the condition, which progressively got worse.
  2. The frog is having problems with its tongue.
  3. There are problems with the jaw.

A vitamin A deficiency has been linked to symptoms that include a lack of stickiness of the tongue, making it difficult for them to catch prey in the normal way. This has been dubbed “short tongue syndrome” and is best avoided by using a vitamin supplement that contains vitamin A (and make sure it has vitamin A in it and not beta-carotene which it is not known whether or not amphibians can convert to vitamin A like humans). If you have not been using a powdered nutritional supplement on the food I would guess this could be the problem.

Related to the jaw, a drooping jaw can be a symptom of metabolic bone disease. This is also a nutritional problem that occurs when the frog does not have enough calcium in its diet or is unable to metabolize the calcium. To avoid metabolic bone disease (often abbreviated MBD) make sure the nutritional supplement you use on food items contains calcium, vitamin D3, and is phosphorus free. There is also increasing evidence that for some frogs, exposure to ultraviolet B lighting is important in a similar way as it is to reptiles and helps frogs use the calcium provided in their diet.

If you have not been using powdered vitamin and minerals for herps on food before feeding, then this is very likely the cause of the problems.

Amphibian nutrition is complex. The ideal diet varies from species to species and ailments that seem to affect some types of amphibians don’t seem to be as common in others.

Because of this, it is difficult to know what exactly is the best diet for your frog, but a general guideline to follow is to use a varied diet (do not rely on only one or two food sources) and supplement the diet using a high quality powder nutritional supplement created for reptiles and amphibians.

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