In reptiles, the ends of the digestive, urinary, and reproductive tract combine to form a common chamber and a single opening to the external environment. This structure is called the cloaca or vent. A reptile’s cloaca can become infected and inflamed, a condition known as cloacitis.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms of cloacitis include:
- Swollen tissue around the vent
- Bloody discharge from the cloaca
Cloacal infections can spread to other regions of the body (e.g. into internal organs or under the skin) if not caught early and treated appropriately.
Any condition that disrupts the normal protective barriers of cloacal tissues can allow an infection to set in. Internal parasites or stones that develop within the cloaca because of vitamin and mineral imbalances in the diet are other possible causes for an infection.
A veterinarian can usually diagnose a case of infectious cloacitis based on a reptile’s symptoms and a physical exam. Fecal examinations are necessary to diagnose any internal parasites that may be involved.
If a stone is present within the cloaca it must be removed for the infection to resolve. Intestinal parasites are treated with medications that kill or help the body eliminate them. Treatment of the cloacal infection itself can include the surgical removal of damaged tissues, cleaning the affected area with an antiseptic, applying a topical antibiotic ointment, and oral or injectable antibiotics.
Living and Management
With aggressive therapy, most reptiles with infectious cloacitis will recover fully. If the infection has spread elsewhere in the body, the prognosis is more guarded. Any underlying conditions (e.g. dietary imbalances) must also be addressed or the condition is likely to return.