Overview of Canine Rectal Prolapse
Rectal prolapse is an uncommon condition in dogs in which rectal tissue protrudes through the anal opening. It appears as a tubular piece of tissue attached to the anus. The rectum is the part of the large intestine that ends just inside the anus. Rectal prolapse typically occurs in puppies and kittens under 6 months of age. The cause of the prolapse is usually not ever determined, but many veterinarians feel that gastrointestinal parasites are an underlying cause. The affected animal typically strains and strains and eventually part of the rectum is pushed out the anus.
Older animals can also develop rectal prolapse. In these situations, the underlying irritation causing the straining and eventual prolapse is often associated with injury to the rectal lining or rectal tumors.
Animals with rectal prolapse have a fair chance of recovering with appropriate treatment. It is crucial to take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect rectal prolapse. Dogs and cats do not get hemorrhoids so any tissue that protrudes from the anus is abnormal. Try to keep the tissue moist with warm wet washcloths and do not allow your pet to lick or chew at the tissue. Keeping the tissue moist and free of trauma will give it the best chance of being repaired.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Rectal Prolapse in Dogs
The diagnosis of rectal prolapse is made during physical examination. A rectal prolapse must be differentiated from a prolapse of the small intestine, which is a much more serious problem. Your veterinarian will likely take a thermometer or blunt probe and insert it around the edge of the tissue. If the probe easily passes, then the tissue is likely small intestinal and the animal will need surgery. If the probe doesn’t pass very far, it is likely rectal tissue.
In addition to determining if the tissue is small or large intestine, your veterinarian will likely try to find the underlying cause of the prolapse. A fecal exam should be performed to determine if any gastrointestinal parasites are present. Abdominal X-rays may also be recommended.
Treatment of Rectal Prolapse in Dogs
Early treatment is crucial. If the tissue appears to still be alive and not too traumatized, your veterinarian will try to push it back into normal position. A suture is then placed around the anus to make sure the tissue does not come out again. The suture must be loose enough to allow stool to pass out. This suture is generally left in for 48 hours and then removed.
If the rectal tissue is dried, severely traumatized or appears to be dead, surgery will need to be performed to amputate the damaged part of the intestine. The remaining tissue of the large intestine is sutured to the anus. Surgery may also be necessary if the prolapse returns after attempting to push it back inside and suturing.
It is best to avoid surgery since amputation of the rectum is fraught with complications. Serious infection and fecal incontinence can occur. Animals treated with surgery have a guarded to poor prognosis.
Home Care and Prevention
There is no home care for rectal prolapse. Keep the tissue moistened and do not allow your pet to lick or chew at the tissue. After treatment, animals are often prescribed stool softeners for a period of time. In some cases, a gel is recommended to be placed in the rectum to reduce pain and irritation.
Since the underlying cause of rectal prolapse is often not known, it is difficult to prevent. Have your pet dewormed routinely and have fecal examinations performed. Keeping your pet parasite free is one measure you can take to help prevent rectal prolapse.