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Related Care Sheets or Articles:
African Spurred Tortoise Care (Geochelone sulcata) - Darrell Senneke
Differentiating Male and Female African Spurred Tortoises - Geochelone sulcata - Ken Carlsen and Darrell Senneke
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The causes for cloacal prolapses in chelonia are myriad, in many cases the causative factor is never determined. Such factors as parasitism, trauma, cagemate aggression, nutritional imbalances, and malformation of tissues can all have a role in this medical dilemma.
The types of tissues that can prolapse are also varied as a number of organs empty into the cloaca. Such tissues as oviduct, bladder, and intestine are all candidates and males will also on occasion have a penile prolapse.
The one factor that all prolapses have in
common is that immediate medical attention
is essential! An intestine that has been outside the animal for a day or so can
dry up rapidly thus often necessitating HIGHLY invasive (often
transplastronal surgery) and hugely expensive surgical techn iques
to try to rectify the problem.
iques to try to rectify the problem.
The following animal was donated to me by it's owner due to the high cost associated with the medical procedure to correct the problem. While I've been offered many a "free" chelonian in my line of work, if there is one lesson I have learned from experience, it is that there is never anything truly free about owning a chelonian! Even a healthy turtle or tortoise has associated costs that are often much higher than the investment in the animal itself. See the following link for some associated costs You are not buying just a turtle
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The patient is a 5 year old approximately 9 inch SCL female Geochelone sulcata. (Care Sheet). The initial pictures from her presentation are below. She was bright, alert, and responsive. And other than a rather large pink mass hanging out of her cloaca, appeared clinically healthy.
There are a number of initial steps in this situation. First and foremost, as a veterinarian, is to figure out what is prolapsed. In this case, it was the intestines. Secondly, attempts can be made to try to replace the tissues without tremendous and potentially invasive intervention. In this case, the swelling was too severe so further steps including general anesthesia were required. The following two pictures were taken while the animal was completely anesthetized.
In the following picture, one can see a number of sterile cotton swabs in various places in the cloaca. These are being utilized to hold the tissue in place while the surrounding tissues are gently manipulated back into the cloaca.
The granular material on the plastron is sugar which has been utilized to help reduce the swelling. Sugar can also provide and excellent growth material though for bacteria, especially on compromised intestinal tissue, so systemic antibiotics are mandated in this situation. For a variety of reasons, this type of procedure should only be performed by a veterinarian. The chances for tearing tissue thus leading to a slow and painful death due to sepsis/"peritonitis" are quite obvious.
Finally, after several hours of sweating and swearing as well as various chemical immobilizing agents and a reversal agent, two assistants to help hold the animal and the tissues and get supplies, antibiotics, flush solutions, sterile surgical instruments, and suture, the following is the final result.
The stitches will be removed one by one over the next several weeks and the patient continually monitored until being placed long term in a home more fitting for it's climactic preferences (Texas, Arizona).
(note: picture was taken outside but the animal is NOT maintained outside due to concerns for myiasis (fly strike) in the compromised tissues)
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