Are Salamanders Poisonous or Dangerous?

Tiger salamander / Ambystoma tigrinum on the ground

Written by Taiwo Victor

Updated: November 7, 2023

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Quick Answer:

  • Yes, salamanders are poisonous or dangerous to humans.
  • They carry poisonous toxins in their skin. All 600+ species have varying levels.
  • Most poisonous salamanders will not kill you but can make you ill.

Salamanders are colorful and fascinating amphibians often seen in the wild and as pets. These animals sport various sizes, shapes, and appearances, and each species has its unique characteristics. Some salamanders are more beautiful than others and are tempting to hold and handle, but before doing that, you might want to read this article first. Salamanders may look beguiling (they are indeed docile and non-aggressive), yet, these amphibians are poisonous and dangerous around humans and other animals. Most people often associate the word “poisonous” and “dangerous” to animals that are known to be aggressive, such as snakesbearskomodo dragons, and more. However, some animals can be poisonous and dangerous just by existing alone. Salamanders are living proof of this. But what makes them harmful to humans? And do they bite?

Do Salamanders Bite?

close up of a fire salamander

When threatened, salamanders can bite.

All animals with teeth, beaks, or pincers can “bite” humans and other animals when they feel threatened or provoked, and so do salamanders. Salamanders can bite when they think they are in danger, but they would usually do this not to induce grave harm but to warn the person or threat to back off.
Fortunately, while there are over 600 species of salamanders on the planet, none of them contain venom in their bite, making salamander bites harmless. Salamander bites may hurt a little, but not too much, as their teeth are not sharp enough to leave deep puncture wounds. Some smaller salamander species can’t even penetrate human skin. 

Salamanders are generally docile, shy, and timid, both in the wild and in captivity. Whenever salamanders are frightened, they would rather hide and run than attack or fight back. Salamanders only bite to grab and hold their prey, and they only do this in self-defense as a last resort. If a pet salamander bites you, it may mean that they are uncomfortable. Salamanders often avoid confrontation, but they can lunge and bite to get away when cornered. 

There is nothing to worry about salamander bites, though, as their bite will only leave you scratches or tiny bite marks. Their bites are not likely to penetrate through your skin, but if they do, you need to wash the wound with warm water and soap so it won’t be a target of bacteria. Since salamanders do not have any venom, people bitten do not develop allergic reactions.

Are Salamanders Dangerous to Humans?

barred fire salamander on top of grassy area

Salamander skins are dangerous to humans.

Most non-aggressive animals, especially animals that don’t have venom, are harmless. But not the salamander. While salamanders have zero amount of venom and do not bite unless provoked, these amphibians are equipped with harmful toxins all over their bodies. Salamanders are dangerous to humans, but they do not need to bite to make them dangerous as their skins themselves are the ones that carry poison. All 600 plus species of salamanders have varying levels of poison in their skin, and no species of these amphibians are toxic-free. However, most poisonous salamanders will not kill you but can get you very sick.

While salamanders don’t possess very high degrees of poison to kill humans, they still have poison that makes humans ill. Salamanders should not be handled often or at all. It is believed that salamanders acquire their poison from absorbing potent bacteria and secreting these toxins over their skin. You must wash your hands after handling a salamander as its toxins can cause serious illnesses when ingested. 

Ingestion of toxins from salamanders can numb some parts of the body, starting from the lips, tongue, the whole face, then going down to the arms and legs. Numbness will be followed by dizziness, muscle weakness, and excessive drooling. These symptoms can lead to paralysis of the entire body, affecting the respiratory muscles. As the respiratory muscles are paralyzed, the poisoned person will experience difficulty breathing. 

Are Salamanders Poisonous?

Fire Salamander with red belly sitting on wood.

Though salamanders are not venomous, they are poisonous.

Salamanders are poisonous, but they are not venomous. These amphibians may not cause any harm when they bite, but their skins are poisonous when handled. 

Most people confuse the terms “poisonous” and “venomous.” However, the two are very different. Venomous animals inject their venom through their bite or sting. On the other hand, poisonous animals excrete toxins that may be harmful to humans or animals when ingested or touched. As for the salamander, handling them and putting your hands on your face, eyes, nose, or mouth afterward can cause severe poisoning symptoms. 

Fortunately, salamander poison is not usually lethal, but it depends on the species. Some salamanders can be taken in as pets, and there are ways to avoid getting poisoned by their skin as well. Some species of salamanders, like those in pet stores, are less poisonous than species in the wild. Salamanders are also shy and passive, and they do not pose any other threat to humans apart from their toxic skins. So as long as you keep your bare hands away from the salamander’s poisonous skin, you will be safe.

Are Salamanders Poisonous to Dogs?

Most species of salamanders have less toxic levels than others. However, the more poisonous species can be fatal to dogs when ingested. As curious as they are, dogs will sometimes try to poke or eat salamanders. Most salamanders will only give dogs a foul taste and nothing more. Yet, some salamanders may cause more severe complications. More poisonous salamanders like the fire salamander and rough-skinned newt have lethal toxins that can kill dogs when ingested in sufficient amounts.

How to Avoid Salamander Poison?

Since salamanders are naturally not aggressive, the only risk they pose to you is when you touch them with your bare hands. The best way to avoid getting poisoned by salamanders is to refrain from touching or handling them. This will keep not only you safe but the salamander as well. As the salamander skin is very absorbent of chemicals and germs from your hands, they can absorb toxic amounts of chemicals and germs that may be bad for their immune system. 

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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