A prolapse of the cloaca (the organ into which the digestive and excretory systems empty, and which houses the penis) is a situation that most herp keepers face at one point or another. I have observed it most commonly in frogs, less so in salamanders and reptiles. In a prolapse, the cloaca protrudes through the anus, and is dragged about behind the animal. If untreated, the tissue dries out and becomes necrotic (basically, the tissue dies). A veterinarian may be able to remove the organ, but often the animal cannot be saved at this point.
A cloacal prolapse should be treated immediately upon discovery. A long-established and often effective measure that you can take is to place the afflicted animal in a shallow bath of sugar water. The amount of sugar is not very important – go with 1 tablespoon per 3 ounces of water if you prefer to measure. The sugar will draw fluids from the cloaca, allowing the animal to withdraw the organ. You can assist with a Vaseline-coated cotton swab.
If this does not help within 20 minutes, your pet should be taken to a veterinarian (a follow-up visit is a good idea even if you are successful). It is important that you then look at the conditions that may have led to the prolapse – dehydration, constipation, straining to expel eggs and trauma caused by scent marking (rubbing the cloaca along the substrate) – are most common. Of course, environmental conditions must be evaluated with each species’ biology in mind – conditions that are suitable for a White’s Treefrog may cause dehydration in a Budgett’s Frog, for example.
Please write in if you have encountered this condition among your pets, and I will try to help in finding the root of the problem. Thanks, until next time, Frank.
You can read an excellent article on other amphibian emergencies at the web site of the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital:
Until Next Time,