What is Vent Prolapse?

A prolapse of the vent may occur as a secondary condition resulting from issues such as straining to defecate, behavioral issues (attachment to handler), and abdominal tumors. Veterinary intervention is necessary in order to prevent life threatening complications such as infection or trauma to the area. Successful treatment will range from behavior modification to surgical intervention.

Vent prolapse, also known as cloacal prolapse can be the result of a loss of cloacal sphincter tone. The progression of the condition can lead to serious consequences; an evaluation by the veterinarian is warranted without delay.

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Symptoms of Vent Prolapse in Birds

  • Depression – A typically lively bird may appear to lose some of his personality 
  • Straining – Your bird straining to defecate or lay eggs 
  • Lack of defecation
  • Blood in droppings – In the minimal amount of droppings you may notice blood or traces of blood near where he is sitting 
  • Reduction in vocalization
  • Open-mouthed breathing 
  • He may excessively groom around his vent area and appear to pick at that area often 
  • Mass protruding from his vent area that is visible to you 
  • Feces in the feathers around the vent due to his difficulty defecating

Causes of Vent Prolapse in Birds

There is no known universal reason for why your bird will develop vent prolapse, however the list of possible causes have been found to be common denominators in birds with vent prolapse. 

  • Hand raised birds
  • Delayed weaning
  • Holding of feces for long periods of time (if a bird is “potty trained” this can lead him to hold his feces for unnecessarily long periods of time)
  • Close attachment to one person (if your bird is attached to any one person and treats that person as a mate or parents, they may continue to strain resulting in ongoing prolapse issues) 
  • Straining
  • Loss of normal cloacal sphincter tone (in the event your bird loses his ability to control his sphincter muscle, it may be difficult for him to have control of his entire cloacal area) 
  • Poor nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Cloacal papilloma
  • Chronic egg laying

Diagnosis of Vent Prolapse in Birds

Diagnosis of vent prolapse will result in a veterinarian visit where a physical exam will be necessary. The physical exam will help to identify the extent of the prolapse. Possibly, a fecal wet mount and Gram stain will be ordered as well as a chemistry panel and complete blood count. 

Imaging, such as x-rays or endoscopic viewing, may reveal an abdominal mass responsible for the prolapse. There may also be an in depth inspection of your bird’s entire cloacal area while he is under anesthesia to ensure there are no other issues that were missed, in addition to palpation of the abdomen. Often, a tissue culture of the cloacal area will be done at the same time.

If the prolapse is suspected to be due to behavioral issues, the veterinarian will discuss your bird’s environment and his relationship or attachment to family members in the home.

Treatment of Vent Prolapse in Birds

Treatment of the prolapse will be determined by the state of the tissues that are outside of the body. If the tissues remain healthy, not exposed to air for long periods of time and are not dried out, the odds will be better for long term prognosis. If the tissue can be placed back into the body, it must be done as quickly as possible and the underlying cause of the prolapse treated concurrently. 

If the tissues appear to be dead or infected, they will often need to be removed. Once the tissues are removed, the area will need to be cleaned and treated for any secondary infections as a result of the prolapse. Surgery will often be done once the tissue is either removed or placed back in the body. One type of surgery sometimes performed involves placing sutures to ensure the organs and tissue remain in the body. These sutures can stay for a few days or until the tissue is healed. 

Behavioral modifications may also need to be made in order to reduce the risk of further prolapse. These modifications can include teaching the bird to not treat their human as a mate or parent, (they will stop straining as much). Allowing the bird to defecate as he needs to rather on command, will be recommended, therefore “undoing” the potty training he has received. 

Depending on the extent of the prolapse and the sex of your bird, surgical intervention will vary in degree and type.

Recovery of Vent Prolapse in Birds

If caught early enough, your bird has a good prognosis for long term recovery. Your veterinarian will discuss with you how to treat any surgical wounds and sutures and will talk about any other changes that should be made to further benefit his recovery. Behavioral changes may be necessary such as no longer petting your bird along his back and no longer offering him warm food. These may be hard to do as your bird is your pet and you love him dearly, however it is important to remember he needs a certain lifestyle to thrive. Follow up will be directed as needed by your veterinarian.