Why Is My Toad Bloated?

Mexican Burrowing Toad

Spend some time digging around herpetology forums and you are likely to see the following question asked more than once: why is my toad bloated? Bloating is one of the more commonly voiced complaints among amateur herpetologists. It can be a confusing issue given the fact that some species of toads might look bloated even though they really are not.

Legitimate bloating can be caused by so many things. As robust and hardy as toads are, their bodies are subject to all sorts of influences that affect everything from body weight to mobility. Even captivity doesn’t necessarily shield them from those things.

If you have ever wondered why a pet toad might appear bloated, consider the following possibilities:

Intestinal Blockage

Toads were not created to live in captivityOpens in a new tab.. This is not to say that herpetology should be avoided. Rather, it is merely to suggest that herpetologists need to do their best to replicate a toad’s natural environment. And most toads do not live and feed in areas with a heavy presence of gravel.

All of this is to say that it is easy for toads to accidentally ingest gravel when feeding. Other enclosure materials, like walnut shells, can be equally problematic. Accidentally ingesting a piece can lead to an intestinal blockage that manifests itself in bloating. In such a case, the bloating is the result of edema – a buildup of fluid in the animal’s body.

The danger of intestinal blockages is that they can be fatal. You would hope that your pet toad passes the blockage naturally. Most of the time it will. But an especially persistent blockage may not pass. If it does not, the toad will die.

Water Impurities

Believe it or not, toads can be stricken with dropsy, a condition that manifests itself in swelling of soft tissue due to the accumulation of water. What would cause dropsy in a toad? Impurities in its water. For example, toads should never be given chlorinated water. Chlorine does not play well with a toad’s internal systems. It can induce dropsy that leads to bloating.

Bacteria and a higher-than-normal phosphorus level can cause much the same thing. On the first signs of bloating, experts generally recommend testing the water. If that is not possible, cleaning the toad’s water dish and refilling it with filtered water is a good idea.

Bacterial Infection

There are not a lot of things that can harm a toad in captivity. When toads do get ill though, the problems can often be traced back to bacterial infections. Bloating can be a sign of such an infection, especially when it occurs in conjunction with open sores or lesions on the skin.

Bloating As a Defense Mechanism

Some species of toads intentionally display bloating as a defense mechanism. It warns predators to stay away. How would you know this is the case with your toad? It would appear intermittently and only temporarily. For example, you might only notice bloating when you have to handle your toad – like when you remove it from its enclosure prior to cleaning.

When to Worry

Bloating does not necessarily indicate that something is wrong. The time to worry is when you notice persistent bloating that doesn’t seem to resolve in a day or two. Also be concerned if your toad is not feeding and defecating. This is a sure sign of an intestinal blockage.

If you are concerned about bloating, a veterinarian with experience in treating exotic pets should be able to help. In the absence of such a vet in your local area, there are online resources that might point you in the right direction.

Photo Credits:

Featured Image (Mexican Burrowing Toad): Pstevendactylus – CC BY-SA 3.0Opens in a new tab.

European Fire-Bellied Toad: Marek SzczepanekOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 3.0Opens in a new tab.

Western Spadefoot Toad: TakwishOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 2.5Opens in a new tab.

American Toad: CephasOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 3.0Opens in a new tab.

Common Spadefoot Toad: Franco AndreoneOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 2.5Opens in a new tab.

Helmeted Water Toad: José Grau de Puerto MonttOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 3.0Opens in a new tab.

Common Midwife Toad: Christian FischerOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 3.0Opens in a new tab.


I am a content creator by profession but exotic animals are one of my great passions in life. Over the course of my adulthood, I have had the pleasure of looking after stick insects, terrapins, an Egyptian tortoise, giant African land snails, a crested gecko, a Chilean rose tarantula, a couple of curly-haired tarantulas, and a selection of millipedes, centipedes and worms!

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