There are 3 common types of prolapse: rectal, penile, and intestinal. This occurs when the organs slip out of the turtle’s cloacal opening and become stuck there. This is very dangerous and requires immediate action, as the affected tissue can become traumatized, desiccated (dried out), or suffer other ill effects from compromised blood flow. Furthermore, prolapsed tissue may be attacked by tankmates, who may mistake it for something to eat.
- Pink/red/purple flesh hanging out of cloaca and not retracting
- Poor muscle tone
- Old age
- High parasite load
- Ingestion of gravel
- Egg binding
Before you panic, wait to see if the tissue goes back in. This is especially important in the case of penile prolapse, as male turtles seem to like to occasionally “air out” their penis every once in a while, and this is perfectly normal, healthy behavior. This can also occur during stressful events or if the male is sexually excited.
If the tissue seems to be genuinely stuck, your first course of action will be separating the turtle from other turtles (if cohabiting) and scheduling and emergency vet appointment immediately.
While you wait, clean the affected area with cool, room temperature water and place the turtle in a shallow container to soak in a heavy sugar water solution. Sometimes this is enough to encourage the prolapsed tissue to retract.
Before you head to the vet, swab the prolapsed tissue with KY Jelly and place your turtle in a plastic transport container lined with damp paper towels.
If the prolapse is not treated fast enough, surgical amputation of the affected tissue will be necessary. This typically involves placing the prolapsed tissue back inside the turtle’s body and suturing the vent closed while the primary issue is corrected.