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Amphibian and Reptile Emergencies – Prolapsed Cloaca

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,


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