Are Tiger Salamanders Poisonous to Humans?

WARNING: None of the content below is medical/veterinary advice, nor should it be taken as such. Please consult with a medical doctor/veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about tiger salamander poisoning.

In nature, bright colors and high-contrast patterns are often synonymous with toxicity. These visual warning signals alert predators that a particular prey may pack a noxious punch! Tiger salamanders owe their name to the striking black and bright yellow patterns on their skin. As a result, many people wonder if tiger salamanders are poisonous.

Here’s what I discovered:

Tiger salamanders are poisonous and can be dangerous to humans. When tiger salamanders feel threatened by a predator, granular glands in the skin of their tails secrete a sticky, white milky substance containing toxins. However, tiger salamanders typically aren’t dangerous to humans when handled carefully. 

In addition, people also wonder what the symptoms of tiger salamander poisoning are and whether or not they are poisonous to pets such as cats or dogs. Keep on reading below to find out more!

Table of Contents

Tiger Salamander Poison

What Are Tiger Salamander Poisoning Symptoms?

It is believed that most brightly colored, rough-skinned salamanders contain a toxin called tetrodotoxin (TTX) at different concentrations. TTX is a neurotoxin (i.e., it acts on the nervous system) and one of the most dangerous toxins in nature. TTX may be present in their mucus, skin, and/or muscles.

Whilst I could not find confirmation of the presence of tetrodotoxin in the toxic secretions of the tiger salamander, it’s safer to err on the side of caution and assume the presence of the toxin. If you have more information that can elucidate this point, please don’t hesitate to share it with us!

The main danger with salamander toxins in general, and tiger salamander toxins in particular, is ingestion. The potential symptoms, in increasing order of severity, may be:

  • Numbness of the lips and tongue.
  • Numbness of the face, arms, and legs.
  • Dizziness, drooling, and muscle weakness.
  • Paralysis, including the respiratory muscles.
  • Death.

Based on my research, tiger salamander toxins are not absorbed through the skin. However, they can cause mild to serious irritation if they come into contact with breaks or cuts on your skin and the mucous membranes in your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Are Tiger Salamanders Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

The secretion of toxic substances is one of the main defense mechanisms of tiger salamanders. In nature, these toxins deter predators such as rodents, reptiles, and birds. In a domestic setting, tiger salamanders can be poisonous to cats and dogs.

Cats and dogs may come into contact with tiger salamander toxins in different ways, most often by trying to play with or bite the creature.

If the toxin comes into contact with the mucus of the nose or eyes, your cat or dog may swell up. Their eyes may become red and watery, and their eyelids swell and close up. 

If a cat or dog bites a tiger salamander, it’s likely to release it immediately. Indeed, tiger salamander toxins taste foul. Shortly thereafter, your cat or dog may begin to drool, spit, and/or foam at the mouth. Whilst the toxin generally isn’t fatal if ingested in small quantities, it can really make your pet sore and sick.

Tiger salamanders are also known to use their large tail to slur their toxins onto the face of a potential attacker or predator.  

Can You Touch a Tiger Salamander?

It is possible to touch a tiger salamander. However, it is preferable not to touch them often, or even at all. The fun with tiger salamanders comes from observing them, not from handling them. As a result, tiger salamanders are not really considered to be child-friendly pets.

There are several things to consider when touching a tiger salamander.

The first is that tiger salamanders have very sensitive skin. In particular, their skin is thin and porous. This is to allow them to breathe and drink water through their pores. As a result, their skin may easily absorb oils, salts, bacteria, parasites, and even chemicals such as detergent, cosmetics, or sunscreen present on your hands. This may cause them to become sick or injured. Whilst you may not realize it, you may actually be a threat to the animal.

Secondly, tiger salamanders can excrete a toxic substance when they feel threatened and are defensive. In those situations, they tend to curl their head and tail together, and the toxic substance will begin to ooze from the skin on their tail. Whilst most pet salamanders rarely display this behavior, and it’s something to look out for.  In such situations, you should not touch them as you may come into contact and/or potentially ingest their toxins.

How to Safely Handle a Tiger Salamander?

Whilst touching a tiger salamander is not recommended, there are times when it’s inevitable. For example, you may own one as a pet and need to clean out its terrarium. Or, you may find one migrating across the road and wish to move it out of harm’s way. Whatever the reason, there are precautions you should take to handle a tiger salamander safely.

1. Consider wearing gloves. Indeed, tiger salamanders have very sensitive skin, which can easily absorb oils, salts, bacteria, parasites, or even chemicals present on your skin that may make it sick or irritate it. Therefore, it’s recommended that you wear surgical-type gloves and try to avoid latex or powder-coated gloves.

2. If you don’t have gloves, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling, paying particular attention to rinsing off any excess soap.

3. Wet your gloves or bare hands. Indeed, the skin of tiger salamanders should be kept moist and humid at all times. Wetting your hands and gloves will help prevent them from drying out.

4. Tiger salamanders can be pretty active and may try to escape from your grasp. They also have voracious appetites and are very food-driven. They may mistake your fingers for food and try to bite them or even snap at the air. Not all individuals behave in the same fashion; some are more docile than others. However, it’s worth being prepared.

5. Whilst your handling the tiger salamander, and also once you’re done, make sure not to touch your face. You don’t want to risk smearing toxins onto your mouth, nose, or eyes, for example. Make sure to rinse your hands with cold water initially. After a few minutes, you can apply soap and switch to warm water to finish rinsing off any remaining mucus. Warm water dilates pores on your skin and the blood vessels below – and would therefore encourage the penetration of potential toxic secretions into your body.


Are Tiger Salamanders Venomous?

Tiger salamanders are not venomous (irrespective of species or subspecies). Venenous applies to creatures that bite or sting to inject their toxins, known as venom. However, tiger salamanders are poisonous, meaning that they unload toxins when eaten, and/or these toxins come into contact with skin or mucus.

Are Tiger Salamanders Dangerous to Humans?

Tiger salamanders are typically not dangerous to humans if handled correctly. They are not aggressive but may occasionally deliver a mild bite if they mistake your hands/fingers for food. Moreover, tiger salamanders have the potential to excrete a toxic substance via granular glands on the skin of their tails. They generally only display this behavior when they feel threatened. Certain precautions should therefore be taken to handle the creatures safely, and they should never be eaten.

Can You Get Diseases From Tiger Salamanders?

Like most salamanders, tiger salamanders may carry salmonella. Salmonella causes an infection called Salmonellosis. Salmonella bacteria can reside in their intestinal tracts and mouths and be transmitted to humans through handling, bites, and feces. It’s recommended to immediately disinfect any breaks, cuts, or bites to the skin and also thoroughly wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap after handling these creatures. It’s also advised to disinfect the surfaces that the animal may have come into contact with, such as tabletops or countertops for example. However, on the whole, humans are a bigger threat to the survival of tiger salamanders than the opposite.

Do Tiger Salamanders Bite?

Tiger salamanders can bite. However, they are generally docile creatures and tend not to be aggressive. Biting may occur if the animal is hungry or mistakes your hands and/or fingers for food. Tiger salamander bites generally don’t hurt. 

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Hello and welcome to Pets From Afar. I'm Glen. My daughter Siri and I are mad about axolotls. I created this website to document our findings and experiences, as we learn more about these amazing amphibians. Follow along and enjoy the fun!

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