TECHNIQUE

Feeding of Casualty Amphibians (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty & Convalescent Feeding which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Triturus cristatus - Northern crested newt, Triturus helveticus - Palmate newt, Triturus vulgaris - Smooth newt, Bufo bufo - Common European toad, Bufo calamita - Natterjack toad, Rana esculenta - Edible frog, Rana ridibunda - Marsh frog, Rana temporaria - European common frog

These species are from the families Bufonidae, Ranidae, Salamandridae

Adults of these species all eat invertebrates. See individual species pages for more information.

Fluids (water):

  • Water should be freely available at all times unless the casualty is unconscious or severely debilitated and unable to hold its head up.
  • (V.w5, V.w26)

Short term Maintenance Diet:

Suggested short term maintenance diets include:

  • Live, moving prey required: mealworms, crickets, earthworms, "clean" maggots (maggots which have been starved for long enough to have no food in the gut. If present this is visible as a dark line along the maggot). 
  • Placing food near the amphibian may encourage feeding as the amphibian sees the prey moving. (B189.6.w6)
  • Toads: waxworm larvae taken readily; 
  • Frogs: may take crickets or other foods;
  • Newts: generally take small worms and waxworm larvae.
  • Aquatic invertebrates such as Daphnia, Asellus, mosquito larvae may be provided in the water if available.
  • Live food may be cooled down in a refrigerator for 15 minutes to slow down movement before feeding.
    • This makes it easier for debilitated amphibians to catch the prey.
  • Earthworms should be presented which are suitable in size for the individual to be fed, i.e. small worms for a small animal, larger worms for a large individual.
  • Dust with calcium/phosphorus supplement (e.g. Cricket Diet Calci-Paste, International Zoo Veterinary Group, or Nutrobal, Vetark Animal Health).
  • Avoid giving excess food which may die before being eaten as this will pollute the accommodation.
  • N.B. Frogs often refuse to eat in captivity.

(B151, B189.6.w6)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Fresh drinking water should always be available in a container of an appropriate size and type for the species concerned.
  • Fluid replacement therapy other than oral fluids may be required for casualties which are extremely dehydrated on admission or are unable to take in and absorb oral fluids.
    • Fluid therapy should continue until the animal is no longer dehydrated, even if it is self feeding.
  • Feeding of convalescents should take into account their requirement for additional nutrients for healing as well as maintenance requirements.
Notes
  • The required fluid intake for maintenance should be considered when designing convalescent diets.
  • Energy requirements for maintenance and healing should be calculated and used to determine the quantity of food required for both convalescence and short-term maintenance diets.
  • Convalescent diets should be easily absorbed/digested.
  • Care should be taken not to under or over supplement with vitamins/minerals.
  • The natural diet should be considered when deciding on suitable ingredients, including consideration of taste/smell.
  • Fresh food must be provided daily.
  • Regular cleaning of food and drinking water containers (e.g. daily) is important to reduce the risk of disease.
  • Food and water containers should be sited to minimise the risk of contamination with droppings/faeces/urine. 
  • Diets suggested on this page are intended for short term use for wildlife casualties; they are not necessarily suitable for long-term use or in individuals which are breeding.
  • Diets suggested on this page are not necessarily suitable for feeding juveniles.
  • If naturally-available food items are gathered for feeding to casualties it is important to be aware of the possibility of contamination with chemical such as herbicides and pesticides.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • No diet, however well balanced nutritionally, is useful if the animal does not eat it, for example because it is not recognised as food.
  • N.B. Frogs in particular commonly refuse to eat in captivity. (B189.6.w6)
  • An appropriate size of earthworm should be offered relative to the size of the amphibian casualty. Large earthworms should not be offered to small amphibians as they will be unable to eat the worm.
  • Avoid giving excess live food which may die before being eaten as this will pollute the accommodation.
  • Ingestion of food should be monitored, not assumed. This may include weighing food before presentation and weighing waste food after removal, and periodic weighing of the animal.
  • Monitoring of weight/body condition is particularly important for group housed/group fed animals, within which some individuals may take more food and others not get the food they require.
  • Diets suggested on this page are intended for short term use for wildlife casualties; they are not necessarily suitable for long-term use or in individuals which are breeding.
  • Diets suggested on this page are not necessarily suitable for feeding juveniles.
  • If naturally-available food items are gathered for feeding to casualties it is important to be aware of the possibility of contamination with chemical such as herbicides and pesticides.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Earthworms may be obtained by digging or by looking under stones and similar objects.
  • Cricket Diet Calci-Paste, International Zoo Veterinary Group, Keighley, West Yorkshire.
  • Nutrobal, Vetark Animal Health, PO Box 60, Winchester, SO23 9XN
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • No particular expertise is required.
  • For further advice on wild UK amphibians contact Froglife.
Cost/ Availability
  • Food items gathered from the garden or pond cost only time but are not always available.
  • Live food is generally available from e.g. pet shops and is not expensive if only small quantities are required.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Under the Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000 it is an offence not to provide animals (including captive wild animals) with necessary food and water.(J35.147.w1, B156.21.w21, B223, P19.2.w1)
  • Care should be taken not to let an individual become accustomed to a single food item as this may result in difficulties in feeding the animal if the food item becomes unavailable, and in preparing it for release.
  • Every effort should be made to provide appropriate natural, locally available foods to animals which have been maintained in captivity for prolonged periods before they are released, in order to re-accustom them to a natural diet and reduce the chance of digestive problems following release.(P24.233.w11)
  • The release of animals which, by virtue of an inadequate or inappropriate diet whilst in captivity, are not fit to survive when released may be considered an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act, 1960.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman
References

Return to Top of Page