Amphibian Diseases: Crash Syndrome

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A common problem in newly imported amphibians is a sudden decline soon after purchase, which is popularly known as crash syndrome. Some newly imported frogs and salamanders initially appear healthy and might remain that way for the first week or two weeks, but then crash, or become sick and die. Hobbyists experienced with crash syndrome implement protocols that include quarantine of new animals and preventative treatment with parasiticides and antibiotics.

One interpretation of the cause of crash syndrome is that stress, overcrowding, and exposure to pathogens between capture and importation eventually taxes the frog’s or salamander’s immune system until it finally starts to fail. As a result, varying percentages of amphibians become sick and die during their first weeks in captivity. This initial “die-off” occurs with many imported amphibians. The number of animals that die varies greatly and depends on the species and the conditions it faced between collection and its final home.

To help prevent crashes, the first step is to quarantine newly purchased frogs and salamanders and to optimize environmental conditions, providing appropriate ranges of temperature and humidity, shelters, and regular feeding. The experienced hobbyist chooses two courses in dealing with potential crash syndrome. One is to wait and see what problems arise, addressing each problem as it appears. The other is a preventative approach, providing prophylactic treatment to newly acquired amphibians with parasiticides and/or antibiotics. Because many species tend to adjust well to captivity, the wait-and-see approach is recommended unless the animals already appear weakened and compromised.

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