Dangerous Eats Out In The Yard

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - March 31, 2010
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It had been raining off and on for a week in Manoa, where our practice is situated. Accompanying this weather are medical concerns related to the wet environment. Respiratory infections, aggravated muscles and arthritis by slippery surfaces, and dogs poisoned by Bufo toads are a few of the things that graced our appointment schedule.

Then in walked Mrs. Kida with Peanut, her 2-year-old female Jack Russell terrier.

“Well, Doc,” started Mrs. Kida, “Peanut’s been at it again. She is a natural at hunting things that scurry in our yard.”

“Don’t tell me, did she dig her teeth into another Bufo toad?” Peanut was rushed to our hospital for a previous encounter with the poisonous amphibian.


“No, Doc, I think she may have learned her lesson from the last time. This morning she found a cute little green-and-black frog. After the initial bite, she immediately dropped it on the ground. I don’t think Peanut liked how it tasted. I brought it with me.”

With that, Mrs. Kida took out a glass jar with Peanut’s victim.

“What we have here is a poison dart frog,” I explained. “In their native environment in South America some species are considered poisonous. Here in Hawaii, they don’t ingest the insects needed to make them dangerous. Peanut should be fine.”

“Actually, I kind-of figured that out because it’s been more than five hours since the incident and Peanut is just as healthy as can be.”

“Then why are you here?” I asked.

“Doc, I’m concerned about the frog. I think Peanut broke its leg. Can you fix it?” queried Mrs. Kida. “I’ll pay for its care.”

At first I stood in disbelief, then realized that she was serious. I proceeded with the exam and found that Peanut did indeed break the frog’s leg.

Now, mind you, the frog was all of 5 cm and the fractured leg no thicker than the plastic that encircles the end of a shoelace. My mind wandered a bit as I tried to remember if that part of the shoelace had a name. Mrs. Kida mistook my contemplation as me pondering the impossible repair.

“Well, Mrs. Kida,” I replied, “I can sure try, but I can’t promise miracles.”

For the next four weeks I fed “Speedy” insects and kept him safe from predators. Basically that was all I could do since he was so small. Soon, Speedy could climb the glass of the aquarium with no problem and the leg appeared anatomically healed. I asked Mrs. Kida if I could keep him for awhile to share his story with the various elementary school classrooms that I visit.

She not only consented, but caught another frog to accompany Speedy. After about a year of “wowing” students, Speedy and his friend Hoppy were released back into the wild.

Just when I think I’ve seen it all, in comes a poison dart frog with a fractured leg. I may need to write to my veterinary school professors to include a chapter in poison dart frog medicine. I’m not sure how many of my colleagues treat these critters, but I guess anything’s possible when you work on the wild side.

Pet tip: Pets often chase and catch critters that are found on your property. It’s in their nature. Know what exists in your environment so that you can be prepared for the accidental exposure.

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