Herpes Causing Cancer in Amphibians

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 23, 2008

Lucke’s Tumor

Lucke's Tumor, named after the scientist who discovered it, is a renal adenocarcinoma (or cancer) affecting the northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens) found in the wild in northeastern and north-central United States. It was the first tumor proven to be caused by the herpes virus. It is rarely seen in the summer because the virus needs cold temperatures to grow, and is most prevalent in the early spring, as frogs cease hibernating at that time. Also, eggs and young embryos are most susceptible to infection with the herpes virus, and thus are more likely to contract Lucke's Tumor.


  • Lethargy
  • Bloating
  • Tumorous growths


The virus is found in frog breeding ponds and is transmitted through infected amphibian urine.


Your veterinarian will take tissue samples and biopsies of the tumors from the amphibian to confirm Lucke's Tumor. Many times the examinations are done post-mortem, as many amphibians do not survive the viral disease.


Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for this viral disease. Therefore, your veterinarian will usually suggest euthanasia for the amphibian, as to not allow the spread of the disease.

Living and Management

Since transmission of the disease is thought to occur when adults occupy breeding ponds, care should be taken during spring to avoid housing adults and juveniles in the same ponds. Follow proper management strategies, as outlined by your veterinarian.



Because Lucke’s tumor becomes apparent only in mature amphibians, it is nearly impossible to prevent the spread of the disease in breeding ponds. As soon as any adult is diagnosed with renal adenocarcinoma, it should be isolated to prevent further spread of the disease.

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