What is Vent Prolapse?
The vent of a turtle is what is known as the turtles “butt”. In typical, normal situations, you should not be able to see any type of fleshy material protruding from the area. However, a turtle can experience vent prolapse, meaning an organ can be accidentally pushed through or fall out of the opening. It is a condition obvious to the bare eye and can be diagnosed by just looking at it. There are multiple different organs that can prolapse out of the vent, all of which need to be treated immediately. Treatment typically requires manual reduction of the organ or surgical correction if needed. The sooner your turtle has the prolapse reduced the better his prognosis of recovery.
If you see some type of fleshy material or structure protruding out of your turtle’s vent, you need to get him to a veterinarian. This condition is considered a medical emergency and your turtle needs professional help. If your turtle is suffering from some type of vent prolapse, you should wrap the area with a clean, damp cloth and get him to a veterinary clinic immediately.
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Symptoms of Vent Prolapse in Turtles
Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the prolapse. Symptoms may include
- Large, fleshy mass protruding from the cloaca
Different body parts can prolapse through the vent depending on the situation and sex of the patient. In females the oviduct can prolapse, in males the penis. In either sex, the colon and urinary bladder can prolapse. No matter what organ or body part is prolapsed through the vent, you need to get your turtle to a veterinarian immediately.
Causes of Vent Prolapse in Turtles
Prolapse of a body part or tissue from the vent can be from multiple causes. Prolapse can be due to infection, swelling, forced separation during copulation, constipation, and even neurologic dysfunction. In females, vent prolapse can also be a result of egg binding.
Diagnosis of Vent Prolapse in Turtles
The veterinarian will begin by performing a complete physical exam on your turtle. Her goal will be to figure out what type of material is protruding from the vent; it could be multiple different organs protruding. If it is the intestinal tract, it is a muscular material with a lumen with fecal material present. If it is the bladder, it is thin walled and fluid filled. If your turtle is male, it could be the penis which would be muscular solid tissue mass with a central groove. If your turtle is female, it could be the oviduct with would be lumen with no fecal material. The veterinarian may recommend blood work to ensure your turtle is not deficient in any vitamins or minerals. This will give her an idea of how to proceed in her treatment recommendations.
Treatment of Vent Prolapse in Turtles
To treat prolapse from the vent, the veterinarian will need to sedate your turtle in order to clean, lubricate, and gently replace the tissue into the cloaca. Sedating him will keep him still so the veterinarian can do her best job and while sedated he won’t feel as much pain or discomfort versus if he was awake for the procedure. The veterinarian will then need to suture the vent with a purse-string type of closure to attempt to prevent the recurrence of the prolapse. In some cases, amputation of the prolapsed tissue may be necessary if the tissue has become necrotic.
If the tissue cannot be reduced manually by the veterinarian, she may choose to enlarge the vent with an incision. This creates a larger opening so the prolapsed tissue can be reduced easier. Afterwards, the veterinarian will suture to prevent the prolapse from recurring.
In addition to treating the obvious issue of the prolapse, the veterinarian will also want to treat any underlying issues such as nutrition deficiencies and husbandry problems. The blood work results will give her an idea if your turtle is deficient in any vitamins or nutrients. If so, she may be able to give him an injection in addition to giving you recommendations of how to change his diet. If it is the environment causing the issue, she may also have some recommendations on how to fix it as well.
Not all veterinarians are trained to treat exotic pets like a turtle so be sure you have a veterinarian that knows how to treat this situation.
Recovery of Vent Prolapse in Turtles
The sooner the veterinarian is able to reduce the prolapse, the better the outcome. The longer the tissue stays prolapsed through the vent, the higher the chance of infection and tissue death. If there are no complications with the reduction process, your turtle should recover without a problem although you should always monitor for recurrence just in case. In cases where there is tissue necrosis and a portion needs to be amputated, the prognosis of recovery is still favorable.