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.
You can read an excellent article on other amphibian emergencies at the web site of the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital:
Until Next Time,