Can Tortoises Live With Prolapse?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The prolapse itself is a sign that the tortoise requires emergency help. Yet, some owners will ignore the condition, assuming the prolapse will go away on its own. Is it true? Can tortoises live with prolapse?

Tortoises can not survive with an untreated prolapse for long. Sooner or later, the organ will be infected, leading to rot or necrosis. The surrounding tissues will get affected too, which will impact the overall health of the pets. Hence, experts suggest repositioning the prolapse or surgery asap.

Catch more details below.

Key Takeaways

  • Untreated prolapses can kill the tortoises.
  • Sex-induced prolapses will heal naturally. You must proceed with treatment if they do not vanish within a few hours.
  • Home treatment for prolapses is not recommended. Professional help is required to reposition the protruded organ or an amputation surgery.

Will A Tortoise With Prolapse Die?

Propalpes are not always dangerous. For example, sometimes, a tortoise’s sex organ exits the vent after a mating session, causing prolapse. But such prolapses are reversible and treated naturally.

Again, prolapses caused as a secondary complication of internal infection, straining, organ damage, etc., are also curable. However, the tortoise’s health gets at risk if the owner ignores the condition altogether.

Generally, the unprotected mucosal prolapse tissue will perfuse rapidly, leading to tissue necrosis. Simply put, the nutrient supply in the wounded and surrounding zones will stop. Eventually, the sick tortoise will die if the treatment is not available soon.

What Is Prolapse In Tortoises?

Sometimes a tortoise’s organs (sex or internal organ) slip outside the body via the cloaca or vent. The condition is referred to as prolapse or vent prolapse. Tortoises of all ages and genders can suffer from this health issue.

Generally, prolapses in tortoises can be of several types. For example,

  • Colon/ rectal prolapse
  • Copulatory prolapse
  • Oviduct prolapse
  • Urinary bladder prolapse, etc.

In rectal prolapse, the rectum (lower section of the large intestine) slips outside through the cloaca. Likewise, in the copulatory prolapse, the sex organ of the tortoises (mostly females) is visible from the outside.

The oviduct and urinary bladder prolapses are also severe. In the former, the lower part of the female tortoise’s oviduct turns inside out. Again, the later occurs when the bladder bulges into the vent.

It may seem that only female tortoises suffer from prolapse. But it is not true. The males are equally at risk.

For example, male tortoises use phalluses or penises to mate with their partners. The phallus stays within the vent and comes out only during mating. Sometimes their penises may get stuck outside for whatever reason. This condition also falls under prolapse health conditions.

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What Can Cause Prolapses In Tortoises?

Prolapse is a secondary complication caused by another underlying disease or health issue. Several things can lead to this horrible slip out of internal organs in tortoises. Some common reasons for prolapses are,

1. Severe Internal Injury

Tortoise shells are strong enough to withstand almost 200x the weight of their own. So, when the creatures fall from a height or meet a predator, they can defend themselves very well. But unfortunately, the impact is sometimes too high and causes internal organ injuries.

Take examples of tortoise fights. The tank mates can butt each other or simply flip one another. Such damaged organs or tissues may come outside the body when the tortoises try to poop or urinate.

2. Underlying Health Conditions

Intestine parasites, bladder stones, hypocalcemia, cystitis, diarrhoea, constipation, and infectious diseases are common in tortoises. Sometimes the condition gets worse and inflames the internal organs.

For example, the weakening and stretching of the pelvic floor muscles can cause urinary bladder prolapse in tortoises. Repetitive straining due to constipation or irregular bowel movement is mainly responsible.

3. Dystocia Or Egg Binding

Egg retention is not uncommon in wild or captive tortoises. Apparently, the creatures keep delaying their nesting if they do not find suitable ground. As a result, the eggs get stuck in the reproductive tract, slipping the lower portion of the oviduct out of the vent.

Oviduct prolapse is only seen in females. Building a suitable nesting box for pets can somewhat prevent this issue.

4. Constipation & Impaction

Sometimes people confuse constipation with impaction. Though tortoises struggle to poop in both cases, the causes are different.

Usually, constipation is the result of dehydration and a misplanned diet. A meal without fibers (grass, plants, and proteins) will negatively influence the bowel movement of the pets.

Again, tortoises suffer from impaction if they ingest any unedible substance. You already know these creatures have a name for eating rocks and substrates. Such materials block the intestine and sometimes cause internal damage, interrupting the pooping routine of the tortoises.

In both cases, tortoises try hard to poop but fail. Sometimes the pets strain so hard that the poop or the foreign substance comes out with the internal organs.

5. Interrupted Mating Session

You are not supposed to stop your tortoises halfway through mating. If you do, it can severely affect their health.

For instance, male tortoises can suffer from phallus prolapse because of prematurely ended copulation. Their penises will be stuck out of the vent, exposing them to infectious diseases.

Such prolapses are also common in female tortoises. But in their cases, a rough mating session leads to the inside out of the sex organs. However, the organs will get inside the vent naturally after a few hours or more.

Does My Tortoise Have Prolapse?

There is no way you can overlook the slipped-out organs in your pet tortoises. So, it is possible to diagnose the pet with prolapse just by visual observation.

However, still, you can look for the following signs for confirmation,

1. Exposed & Inflamed Gut

As mentioned, the internal organs slip out of the vent or butt, making the flesh quite visible. The mass becomes pink or red within a few hours because of swelling and inflammation. Sometimes, the prolapse looks like a tiny red ball stuck to the tortoise’s butt.

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Exceptional cases are seen in male tortoises. Evidently, the males often flash their penis to impress the females or sometimes out of sheer boredom. Do not mistake it as a phallus prolapse. In these scenarios, tortoises withdraw their penises after a while.

On the other hand, the phallus being stuck outside for a long period is a sign of prolapse. The penis will appear red and swollen because of the inflammation.

2. A Dehydrated & Dull Look

Dehydrated tortoises are at a high risk of suffering from prolapses. Therefore, you may notice some physical changes in the pets. Such as,

  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Wrinkled skin
  • Dry scutes
  • Sunken eyes, etc.

3. Irregular Bowel Movement

In most cases, constipation and impaction can lead to prolapses in the tortoises. Therefore, your pets will show irregular bowel movements.

As the tortoises can not poop for days, they will always feel full on the leftovers. Such an imbalance in the digestive tract may make the creatures lose interest in food.

4. Straining

By straining, I indicate the struggle of the tortoises to release their waste. In all prolapse types, the pets experience an irregular bowel movement and mostly strain to poop. One of the common signs of straining is that the tortoises retract to the shell to add extra effort.

How To Diagnose Prolapses In Tortoises?

Though we can spot a prolapse just from visual inspection, a thorough examination is still required. Otherwise, you can not proceed with the treatment. The medication may vary depending on the type of prolapse the tortoise suffers from.

A vet usually looks for the following traits to diagnose the tortoise,

  1. The protruded organ is an intestine tract if it is made of muscular material. You can see the lumen or the intestine cross-section clearly. In most cases, poop is also present in the tract.
  2. Thin-walled organs covered in fluid indicate bladder prolapse.
  3. Solid muscular tissue with a central groove is a sign of phallus prolapse. It occurs in male tortoises.
  4. The oviduct tract looks similar to the intestine, except no fecal material is present. Only female tortoises suffer from oviduct prolapse.

Sometimes vets suggest a blood test for better analysis.

Can You Treat Tortoise Prolapses At Home?

I strongly suggest against prolapse home treatments. The protruded mass can pose future damage to tortoises if not appropriately treated.

But yes. As an owner, you are responsible for ensuring a better healing environment for sick tortoises. Such as,

1. Separate The Tortoise

Well, it is no secret that tortoises can be a bully when they live together. Biting, nibbling and head bobbing each other is an everyday thing for them. This is why the sick tortoise needs to be quarantined in a separate well-arranged tank.

Otherwise, the other group mates will pick up on the sick tortoise, biting its protruded organ. It can make the prolapse worse and increase the risk of infection.

2. Maintain Hygiene

The exposed prolapse makes the tortoises vulnerable to many diseases. Hence, you need to be extra careful about enclosure hygiene and decoration. For the starter, remove any sharp-edged product from the pen that can scratch on the prolapse. Next, clean the tank every day until the pet recovers.

Remember, you have to focus on the tortoise’s hygiene too. For example, flush the prolapse with cool water to remove filth or bacteria. Then let the pet roam under the heating lamp, which will air dry the wet prolapse.

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3. Ease The Pain

Tortoises suffer from immense pain due to prolapse swelling and inflammation. Vets sometimes suggest lubricants and topical medication to ease the discomfort.

Concentrated sugar like honey is a home remedy to reduce prolapse swelling. The experts suggest applying the sugar to the protruded organ and leaving it for 30 minutes. After that, wash it away with water and let the prolapse air dry under the lamp. 

How To Treat Prolapse In Tortoises?

You have to take the tortoise to a vet for accurate prolapse treatment. Transportation can cause the pet more pain. Apply some lubricant on the prolapse and cover it with a damp cloth to reduce the discomfort.

The vet will remove the cloth and clean the prolapsed area thoroughly. After diagnosis, the expert will proceed with the treatment. In most cases, the vet sedates the pets so that they can not resist further procedures.

At first, the vet tries to restore the organs to the correct position and purse-string the vent with a suture. This way, there is no chance of recurrence of the prolapse.

If the restoration is not possible and tissues start to rot, the vet will perform an amputation surgery. Sometimes he cuts open the vet so that the reduction becomes easier. Finally, the vet will close the vent by suturing after repositioning the prolapsed organ.

Tortoises do not feel a thing as they have been sedated. But later, the pets may feel a surge of pain. Vets prescribe antibiotics for quick healing and minimizing pain.

Admit your tortoise to the hospital for better observation and to avoid complications.

Do Prolapses Heal Naturally?

The answer depends on the type of prolapses. Usually, sex-induced prolapse in female tortoises goes away within a short time. But the other kinds need proper treatment for healing.

You should not ignore prolapses in tortoises. The pets can die if the protruded tissue is exposed for a long period.

Can You Prevent Prolapse In Tortoises?

Of course, you can not guarantee the prevention of prolapses in any pets. But avoiding the causes minimizes the risk of having this health condition. Some tips are,

  • Keep your tortoises hydrated.
  • Add plenty of grass, vegetables, and plants to the regular diet of the pet to avoid constipation.
  • Arrange toys in the pen so that the tortoises do not eat rocks or substrates out of boredom. It cancels the risk of impaction.
  • Soak the tortoises at least twice a week to influence a healthy bowel movement.
  • Build a suitable nest inside the enclosure for the gravid tortoises. If you fear egg binding, take the pet to a vet. He will do an x-ray to confirm the situation and perform surgery to remove the eggs.
  • Offer the tortoises enough privacy during breeding. Never interrupt them when they are mating.

Before You Go…

It is not just prolapses, but any untreated diseases may kill your tortoises. Hence, I recommend picking up the hints when you have time. Go through the below-mentioned link to learn more about it.

10 Signs That Your Tortoise Is Dying [With Treatment]

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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