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Rectal Prolapse in Dogs

What Is Rectal and Anal Prolapse in Dogs?

Rectal and anal prolapse in dogs refer to a condition where rectal tissue protrudes through the anus. This typically occurs due to repeated straining during defecation or urination. There are two main types of prolapse:

  • Partial Prolapse: In this type, only a small section of anal and/or rectal tissue is visible as it protrudes through the anus. This portion may only be noticeable during straining and usually returns to its normal position afterward.
  • Complete Prolapse: Here, all the anal tissue along with some rectal tissue and lining protrude from the anus, regardless of whether the dog is straining or not. This tissue doesn’t retract spontaneously.

Prolapsed tissue often appears bright red due to fluid accumulation, resembling a swollen tube. If left untreated, partial prolapse may progress to complete prolapse. Without proper intervention, the tissue may dry out and change color, typically becoming blue or black, indicating compromised blood supply and potential tissue death.

Symptoms

Symptoms of rectal and anal prolapse in dogs usually include a hunched posture during attempts to defecate or urinate. During these episodes of straining, you might observe a cylindrical mass of tissue protruding through the anal opening.

In cases of partial anal prolapse, the exposed tissue may retract to its usual position once the straining stops. However, in instances of complete anal prolapse, the tissue typically requires medical or surgical intervention to return to its normal state.

Causes

The primary causes of rectal and anal prolapse in dogs often include:

  • Straining during defecation due to severe diarrhea
  • Chronic constipation
  • Presence of parasites
  • Inflammation affecting the intestinal tract

Other contributing factors may involve:

  • Straining during urination due to urethral obstruction or an enlarged prostate gland
  • Bowel obstruction resulting from ingestion of unusual objects or foreign materials
  • Straining during pregnancy, particularly in cases of difficult births (dystocia)
  • Birth defects affecting the dog’s anatomy
  • Presence of rectal polyps (abnormal cell clusters)
  • Tumors located in the rectum or anus

Diagnosis

Diagnosing rectal and anal prolapse in dogs typically involves a thorough physical examination, including manual assessment of the rectum. In cases of severe complete prolapse, visibly protruding tissue through the anus in a elongated tube shape may be observed. These tissues can exhibit swelling or discoloration depending on the duration of exposure.

X-rays and/or ultrasound examinations of the dog’s abdomen serve as crucial diagnostic tools. These tests help veterinarians identify:

  • Bowel obstruction or masses
  • Presence of kidney or urethral stones
  • Thickening of the bladder wall
  • Enlargement of the prostate in male dogs
  • Retained fetuses in recently whelped female dogs

Additionally, a fecal examination is necessary to screen for parasites. Bloodwork is often conducted to detect elevated white blood cell counts, which can indicate inflammation or systemic infection.

Treatment

The primary objective of treating rectal and anal prolapse in dogs is to restore the displaced tissue to its normal position, minimizing damage and the potential for tissue death.

General anesthesia is typically necessary to address the prolapsed tissue. Once the dog is anesthetized, the veterinarian will gently massage the exposed tissue using lubricant gels or a topical application of 50% dextrose solution to reduce swelling. This aids in returning the prolapsed tissue to its normal position through the anus.

Following the reduction of the prolapse, a purse-string suture is usually placed around the anal opening for 5-7 days to prevent recurrence of the prolapse. This specialized stitch helps maintain the integrity of the anal opening and decreases the likelihood of the prolapse happening again.

Severe Rectal Prolapse

In instances of severe rectal prolapse, surgical intervention may be necessary to address dead or dying rectal tissue. The veterinarian may perform resection, which involves removing the affected tissue, and anastomosis, which entails reconnecting the ends of the rectum where the dead tissue was excised.

This surgical procedure aims to eliminate necrotic tissue, minimize the potential for additional tissue damage, and decrease the risk of sepsis, a severe inflammatory response.

Treating Underlying Causes

Addressing underlying causes of rectal prolapse in dogs is crucial and may involve simultaneous treatment with the prolapse:

  • Bowel obstruction: If the prolapse is due to a foreign body obstruction in the bowel, addressing it concurrently with the prolapse treatment is necessary to prevent additional tissue damage elsewhere in the bowel.
  • Urethral obstruction: While the dog is under anesthesia, urethral obstructions should be attended to to prevent ongoing straining and potential damage or rupture to the urinary bladder and urethra.
  • Dystocia (difficult birth): Pregnant females experiencing difficulty delivering a puppy require surgical intervention, such as cesarean section, to safely extract the puppy. Prolonged straining during dystocia can result in maternal exhaustion, uterine rupture, and even death of the puppy.
  • Enlarged prostate: Intact male dogs with rectal prolapse should undergo evaluation for an enlarged prostate, which may cause straining as it partially obstructs urine flow through the urethra.

Recovery and Management

After resolving the prolapse, recovery and management strategies should target the underlying causes:

  • For intact male dogs with an enlarged prostate, castration (neutering) may be recommended. This procedure results in a gradual reduction of male hormone levels, leading to a decrease in the size of the prostate gland.
  • If a fecal examination detects parasites, deworming treatment is necessary. Additionally, your dog should be placed on a monthly oral or topical heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention regimen to minimize the risk of reinfection.
  • Stool softeners and a low-residue diet may be advised during the post-surgical period to facilitate easier bowel movements for your dog.
  • In instances of recurrent rectal prolapse, long-term management may involve a colopexy. This surgical procedure involves attaching the dog’s colon to the left side of the abdominal wall, preventing it from protruding through the anus.

Rectal Prolapse in Dogs FAQs

What does rectal prolapse look like in a dog?

Rectal prolapse in dogs is characterized by the protrusion of rectal or anal tissue from the anal opening. In partial prolapse, it may resemble a doughnut-shaped ring, while complete prolapse appears as a solid, tubular structure. The tissue might appear swollen and red initially, but as it progresses, it may turn blue or black as tissue damage occurs.

Can a rectal prolapse heal itself in dogs?

Mild cases of incomplete anal tissue prolapse may resolve spontaneously once the underlying cause of straining ceases. However, complete prolapse typically necessitates medical or surgical intervention.

How do you fix a rectal prolapse?

Rectal prolapse treatment usually involves anesthetizing the dog to manually reposition the prolapsed tissue through the anus, restoring it to its normal position within the pelvis. Gentle handling and cleansing of the exposed tissue are crucial. Lubricant gel or a rinse of 50% dextrose solution may be used to reduce tissue swelling and aid in repositioning. Following repositioning, a purse-string suture is placed around the anal opening to allow bowel movements while preventing further prolapse.

What is the difference between rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids in dogs?

Rectal prolapse involves the protrusion of rectal and anal lining and tissues through the anus. Hemorrhoids, on the other hand, are swollen blood vessels in the rectum or anal area. Unlike humans, dogs typically do not suffer from hemorrhoids due to the horizontal orientation of their gastrointestinal system, which reduces downward pressure on blood vessels in the rectum and anus, a common factor in hemorrhoid development.

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