Rectal and Anal Prolapse in Ferrets
Anal or rectal prolapse is a condition in which one or more layers of the rectum are displaced through the anus, the opening which allows digestive waste to leave the body. More specifically, anal prolapse is when only the lining of the rectum protrudes through the opening, and rectal prolapse is when all the layers of the anal tissue, along with the lining, protrude.
It can be caused by a variety of factors, including disorders of the digestive, urinary, or genital systems, and typically occurs in young ferrets, ages 2 to 6 months. In fact, these conditions rarely occur in adult ferrets.
Symptoms and Types
Ferrets with rectal prolapse will demonstrate persistent straining and pain while passing stool (or defecating). In an incomplete prolapse, a small portion of the lining of the rectum will be visible during excretion, after which it will subside. In a complete prolapse, there will be a persistent mass of tissue protruding from the anus. In the chronic stages of complete prolapse, this tissue might be black, blue, or red in appearance.
A ferret may develop rectal or anal prolapse if it strains while passing stool, or if it undergoes surgery to the lower digestive organs. Other contributing factors for these two conditions include:
- Disorders of the digestive system that cause diarrhea, straining while passing stools, presence of worms or other parasites in the digestive system, and inflammation of the small or large intestines
- Disorders of the urinary and genital systems, such as inflammation or enlargement of the prostate, inflammation of the bladder, urinary stones, and abnormal labor or birthing process
- Chronic constipation, presence of sac-like protrusions in the intestine, rectal or anal tumors, or deviation of the rectum from its usual position
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your dog, including a blood and urine analysis. Further diagnostic procedures include X-rays or ultrasounds of the abdominal area, which may demonstrate a large prostate, foreign bodies, thickening of the bladder walls, or kidney stones.
Your doctor will also conduct a manual rectal examination to feel for displaced tissue masses. During pathological examination of the tissue (for biopsy), it may appear swollen, and will ooze red blood when incised. The tissue, if dead, appears dark purple or black and oozes bluish blood when incised. An examination of stools samples, meanwhile, may reveal the presence of parasites.
If your ferret has a concurrent bacterial or viral infection, or a parasitic infestation, your veterinarian will need to treat it first with an appropriate antibiotic or anti-parasitic drug. Once the underlying cause of the prolapse has been identified and treated, your veterinarian will first need to decrease the swelling and return the displaced tissue to its proper location inside the dog's anus.
This may be done manually by performing a gentle massage on the area, or by using lubricating gels or topical agents (e.g., a 50 percent dextrose solution), which aids in the reduction of the swelling. An anesthetic agent may be administered to relieve pain and discomfort. The anesthetic most commonly used is an epidural; however, your veterinarian will make his decision based upon your ferret's individual needs.
Next, your veterinarian may choose to stitch the protruding tissue in its proper location to keep the tissue in place and to prevent a recurrence of a prolapse. Purse string sutures are the likeliest choice for this procedure, and the stitches will be left loose enough to allow room for excretion.
Living and Management
Watch the site in which the ferret had surgery for the first five to seven days, as there is a possibility of splitting and reopening, especially when the ferret defecates. After surgery, there is also a chance that your ferret may lose control over its bladder and bowel, and have involuntary "accidents." Making sure your pet has plenty of opportunities to go outside may help avoid any accidents or related stress.