gray tree frog on a branch with green background

Are Gray Tree Frogs Poisonous to Dogs?

Gray tree frogs are a common sight in many parts of the eastern half of the US. Chances are you’ve encountered one when out and about with your dog or in your backyard. They’re the type of creature that dogs seem to find so fascinating, but are gray tree frogs poisonous to dogs?

Gray tree frogs aren’t poisonous to dogs. Like most frogs and toads, gray tree frogs secret toxins from their skin. Although unpleasant, these secretions are unlikely to cause serious harm to dogs. As some toads secrete venoms poisonous and can be fatal to dogs, avoid amphibian-dog contact.

So, how do you tell a relatively harmless gray tree frog from a potentially dangerous toad? Unless you’re a herpetologist, it’s challenging, but we’ve highlighted some differences below. Additionally, you can find out what effect an encounter with a grey tree frog can have on your dog and how to deal with it. 

What’s the Difference Between a Gray Tree Frog and a Toad?

It might sound like a trick question or the lead-in to a joke. But, it’s no laughing matter, and if you want to keep your dog safe, it’s something you’ll need to know.

What Does a Gray Tree Frog Look Like?

There are, in fact, two types of grey tree frogs native to the US. They inhabit the eastern half of the US, extending west to central Texas, north to Manitoba and south to northern Florida.

The first is Cope’s gray tree frog or Hyla chrysoscelis, and the second is the gray tree frog or Hyla versicolor, also known as the eastern gray tree frog.

They were once thought to be the same because they look identical. But they are genetically distinct species.

Despite their name, these tree frogs aren’t just gray. They can change color, and those colors can vary from green to brown and near black. They both also have a distinctive bright orange coloring on the inside of their hind legs. It contrasts with their white-ish underbelly.

You can see these features in this video and hear the mating calls of each, which is the only way you’ll tell them apart:

The name’s a giveaway when it comes to the grey tree frog’s natural habitat. These tree frogs are arboreal and are well-equipped for tree-climbing. In fact, their sticky round toe pads mean they can scale all types of surfaces, not just trees. 

So, don’t be surprised to find them climbing the wall of your house or even the windows.

Their skin is typical of frog skin, slimy, mucusy, and moist.

How Does a Gray Tree Frog Differ From a Toad?

Scientifically speaking, toads and frogs are the same, coming from the same amphibian order, Anura. So, often, the distinction between frogs and toads is blurred.

But, generally, a toad has drier, wartier skin compared to frog skin. But this isn’t definitive as some grey tree frogs do have warty skin, and some toads have slimy skin. So, skin type doesn’t help if you’re in a hurry to tell them apart.

Grey tree frogs tend to live in trees or shrubbery near water, but not exclusively. Toads usually live on the ground, away from water, but they gravitate towards it when mating. 

In reality, grey tree frogs and toads can end up in similar environments, some of the time. So, you’re as likely to encounter either, whether you’re out and about or in your backyard.

Still, one notable difference is toads tend to get around by crawling and hopping. In contrast, frogs leap or jump.

You can see the differences in this video, which shows a grey tree frog and a toad side by side. It highlights the differences mentioned above, plus a few others:

In reality, you’re unlikely to be able to tell the difference in a hurry. So, unless you saw your dog’s amphibian play toy leap from a tree rather than ambulate across the ground, you’ll struggle to tell if it’s a gray tree frog or a toad.

Why Is the Difference Important?

The reason the difference is significant is that grey tree frogs are relatively harmless to your dog. Contrastingly, some toads can be deadly.

But, that’s not to say it’s OK to let your furry friend lick, bite or eat grey tree frogs.

Because grey tree frogs are no different from other frogs, they secrete substances from their skin. In the case of grey tree frogs, these secretions are to ward off predators.

The secretions contain toxins similar to snake venom. While that sounds rather nasty, these substances are unpalatable rather than deadly.

So, the grey tree frog’s secretions aren’t pleasant. Your dog is likely to foam excessively from its mouth to get rid of them. If it swallowed a grey tree frog, it might vomit to expel it from its system.

All this can look distressing, but it’s a natural bodily reaction, and there should be no lasting damage.

Toads also produce these unpleasant skin secretions, which can have the same effect on your dog. 

But some toads also have glands that secrete a venom that goes beyond being unpleasant. The venom is poisonous and can potentially be lethal to your dog.

There are two main culprits. One is the cane toad, which is generally found in some parts of Florida, Texas, and Hawaii. The other is the Colorado River Toad found in Arizona, New Mexico, and California.

The secretions from these toads contain bufogenins and bufotoxins. They have a fast-acting effect when ingested by your dog through licking or biting one of these toads.

Like frog secretions, these toxins can cause excessive foaming at the mouth and vomiting. But, they can also cause other more severe problems. Examples are seizures, lack of coordination, difficulty walking, and irregular heartbeats. These toxins can quickly lead to death.

What to Do if My Dog Had Contact With a Grey Tree Frog or Toad?

Unless you live in one of the states where toxic toads are prevalent, it’s unlikely that the secretions your dog has ingested are lethal. It’s more likely your dog has been sparring with the relatively harmless grey tree frog.

If your dog’s mouth is foaming excessively, it should get the secretions out of its system quickly. 

To help things along, you could wash its mouth out with water. But you’ll need to take care to ensure that your dog doesn’t swallow any of the water. So point it’s snout downwards as you wash out its mouth.

If you do happen to live or be in an area where toxic toads are prevalent, washing your dog’s mouth with water should be your first step. But you should then seek veterinary help immediately. Delaying doing so can be fatal to your dog.

It’s particularly dangerous if your dog has swallowed a toxic toad as the amount of toxins ingested will be higher. But in the case of smaller dogs, even licking or biting a poisonous toad can be lethal.


Gray tree frogs aren’t poisonous to dogs. But, their secretions can cause some discomfort to your canine friend. The good news is your dog’s natural response to ingesting these secretions should enable a full recovery from the experience.

Still, if your dog does have an encounter with a grey tree frog or any other amphibian, err on the side of caution. 

Once you’ve washed out its mouth, get it over to the vet as soon as possible for a full check-up. 

This is a necessity if you live in an area where toxic toads are present. Their venomous secretions can be deadly to your dog.

When it comes to our canine companions, better to be safe than sorry.

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