Birdsafe California Bird Nerds
James Harris, DVM

Cloacal prolapse can be hard to cure

Over the last nine months, my female umbrella cockatoo has had six surgeries for cloacal prolapse. They have been making the vent smaller. The last one she had was last week, and today she pushed it out again and it stays out. It almost looks dry, and sometimes seems to get stuck in the feathers. If poop comes out it's dry and stringy.

I was told that birds do not get constipated because the urine and poop are from different sacs and they mix on the way out, but there has to be a reason that this is occurring all the time. My vet says it's because she is in the mood to mate. Are there other reasons for a bird to push hard enough to cause a prolapse? She has had a complete checkup from an avian vet and she's very healthy and looks good except for this problem. Any additional information would be greatly appreciated.

-- Cathy

Cloacal prolapse can be serious problem for female birds. If not treated, the victim can easily die. Prolapse means a body part has slipped down from its usual position. In cloacal prolapse, the wall of the vent, the wall of the cloaca, the oviduct (reproductive passageway), or even the lower segment of the intestinal tract can protrude from the vent.

As you've noticed, the prolapsed parts, normally kept moist inside the body, can lose their blood supply and dry out and die. The underlying causes of a prolapse can be difficult to pin down, but include bacterial or viral infections, parasites, breeding activity and diet. And it's not uncommon for the prolapse to occur over and over again.

Reducing the size of the vent opening might solve the problem. However, sometimes the only way to prevent prolapse, also called eversion, is to attach the cloaca to the ribs and body wall. But this involves extremely invasive surgery that requires cutting open the bird's belly. Here, too, the bird can die if the surgery takes too long and internal organs remain exposed to the air for too long.

Scoping the cloaca is sometimes helpful in determining what tissues are involved and the underlying causes of your bird's prolapses. Then your veterinarian can determine whether surgery is necessary. Good luck.

Dr. James Harris James Harris, DVM is owner and medical director of the Mayfair Veterinary Clinic in Sandy Bay, Tasmania, Australia. He founded Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, Calif., and has served as medical director and chairman of the board for the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Berkeley. Dr. Harris' numerous professional honors include California and National Bustad Companion Animal DVM Awards. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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