I'm not sure if I mentioned on here that I've tried to contact PetSmart on the corporate level regarding their practices regarding the chytrid fungus and the frogs that they sell. I thought I had reached a dead-end, but I got a call from their corporate veterinarian - Dr. Nick St.Urn.
He seems to be a very knowledgeable person, very aware of the chytrid fungus, and well versed in the condition, signs, and treatment of it, and claims to have given many lectures over the last few years on this condition and how to treat it to veterinarians and pet stores to increase awareness of this awful disease.
He says that ALL FROGS SOLD FROM PetSmart come from a single
breeder. They are tested for chytrid and Salmonella at least two times BEFORE EVER REACHING THE STORE!
If they test positive, the entire 'batch' is immediately treated, then tested again.
Dr. Nick says that this has been the practice since the problem first came to his attention several years ago, and at that time
the frogs sold by PetSmart were, in fact, infected - according to their tests. Since then, they have taken great care to ensure that their livestock is tested multiple times, and treated if necessary before it ever reaches the store level!
First the breeder tests them, and he is being audited by PetSmart staff on a continuous basis to ensure the health of their livestock. Additionally, they test ALL of the ADFs at their testing and distribution center AGAIN
before sending them off to local shops for sale. He pulled the reports for the most recent 'batch' and claims that there were NO
infected frogs, and that the breeder has been doing a fantastic job keeping his stock fungus-free.
Their frogs are treated with Benzalkonium chloride - not something that I can easily lay my hands on should the need arise, I suspect. . . but he did offer me several other methods of treatment, These are very simple, actually, and I wanted to share them here, in the hopes that they can help others.
First, let me try to explain the effects of the virus as it was explained to me, and as I have come to understand it through my research. (forgive me if any of this is a bit off!) This fungus lives by consuming the Keratin in the frog's skin, which causes the skin to grow thicker and makes it more difficult (and eventually impossible) for the animal to breathe through it's skin. But ADF's can also take air from the surface, so while this may make them uncomfortable, they
aren't dying due to lack of oxygen. The side-effect of the thickening skin that is deadly to ADF's is that the frogs electrolytes pass through their skin. The lack of Keratin caused by the fungus, and the subsequent skin-thickening makes it increasingly impossible for the frog to regulate it's internal electrolytes, causing a build-up of potassium, sodium, and other electrolyte salts. This build up makes their hearts beat very irregularly, and ultimately - stop.
Should a pet frog get have this fungus, the first
thing to do is soak them in an electrolyte solution. This is treating the symptom, not the cause, but it will keep the frogs alive while treatment is being given.
He recommended soaking them in an electrolyte solution (while monitoring them) for 30 minutes 2-3 times daily to ease their discomfort greatly and 'fix' the problems that the virus causes temporarily - offering the frog some relief. He recommended lactated ringers as the best option. If unable to find them, saline 0.9% solution will also be very beneficial (both of these should be easily available to the public at a medical supply store, and even some chain pharmacies carry these.)
To treat the disease itself, he said betadyne can be used (I didn't get the details on this), but the EASIEST WAY TO TREAT CHYTRID FUNGUS AT HOME is simply to raise the temperature in the tank. The Chytrid fungus lives and grows best in temperatures up to around 25 Celsius (which is 77 degrees or thereabouts - he said there's a bit of give-or-take in this number). The fungus CAN NOT LIVE in temperatures higher than 'normal' aquarium temperatures. He recommended heating the tank to 32c (which is 89.6f) for a period of 96 hours (4 days). He says that it is a temperature that is
too warm for the frogs, but that if they are closely monitored, keeping them at this temperature for four days should not kill them, though they won't appreciate it. This temperature treatment will kill the virus in the tank and on the frog, so no re-contamination should be able to occur. You must be very careful when treating with the heat method to disinfect the lid of the aquarium both before and after treatment, and also to be sure that the water is right up to the rim of the tank, or the fungus will still remain in these places, and reinfect the tank and the frog.
I've been in touch with the person who wrote this article
on the Chytrid fungus (which is linked on the first page of this post), and he agrees that the information given to me by the veterinarian is sound, though he's had far better luck curing infected frogs at home using the Lamisil treatment
. This medication is very easy to find over-the-counter in US pharmacies (though unfortunately is not available in Canada) Specifics can be found by following the link, and I've read many, many testimonies stating that this treatment has worked brilliantly in curing pet ADF's from this killer fungus. The biggest problem is keeping everything sterilized and thoroughly dried between treatments, to prevent re-infection, as this fungus is very difficult to kill.
Another bit of VERY useful information to keep in mind when dealing with a Chytrid outbreak is that once the frog is removed, the fungus will NOT
be gone from any damp or wet areas until a quarantine period of 3 months has passed. Should you have removed your sick frog for treatment, or if it has died, the frog's tank, water, and other inhabitants (fish, snails, etc) will still be able to transfer the fungus until three months has passed without a frog in residence. Be sure to be VERY careful when disposing of dirty tank water that an affected frog has been living in, as it would be very easy to introduce this deadly fungus to your local area by dumping it in the garden, etc. It is recommended to add bleach to such water before disposing of it down a drain, where it can possibly can come in contact with other aquatic frogs, and never dump Chytrid-infected water in the yard!
One thing that I forgot to ask the Doctor when I had him on the line was what had been done at a STORE LEVEL
to disinfect the tanks that had carried infected frogs in the past. I'm going to try to get in touch with him again in regards to that, but on the whole I'm feeling fairly confident that my PetSmart frog is NOT infected, and that PetSmart has taken great strides over the last few years in the way they care for their frogs, and have been making all attempts possible to ensure that the livestock they sell will come to their customers fungus-free.