Rectal Prolapse in Dogs

Jack Russell terrier cocking head at camera.
Straining to defecate is a common reason for rectal prolapse in dogs.

Getty Images/shorrocks

Rectal prolapse can occur in any dog and, as the name implies, involves the rectum. This condition is actually the symptom of another problem and the underlying issue will need to be addressed in order to treat the prolapse. Knowing how to recognize this condition and how to help deal with rectal prolapse in your dog can help prevent even bigger problems from developing.

What Is Rectal Prolapse in Dogs?

Rectal prolapse occurs when the last part of a dog's intestinal tract protrudes from the rectal opening. The rectal tissues turn inside out and appear as a cylindar or tube of pink tissue sticking out of a dog's anus. The condition more commonly occurs in farm animals such as pigs, cows, and sheep but is also seen in dogs.

Symptoms of Rectal Prolapse in Dogs

Signs

  • Pink or red cylindrical mass coming from the anus
  • Scooting the hind end
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding from the hind end

Dogs with rectal prolapse have an obvious fleshy, tubular mass protruding from the rectal opening. Feces are usually the only thing that comes from this opening so a pink or red mass is hard to miss. Your dog may scoot its hind end if it has a rectal prolapse and if this tissue tears or gets too inflamed and irritated, blood may also be seen.

Causes of Rectal Prolapse in Dogs

There are several reasons why a dog may develop a rectal prolapse but one of the most common reasons is due to straining to defecate. Straining can occur because of diarrhea, constipation, or in an attempt to pass a foreign object.

Intestinal parasites can also cause a rectal prolapse due to the irritation and diarrhea they may cause along with the straining that results from passing some of the long worms.

Cancer involving the colon or rectum as well as prostatic disease in male dogs may also result in a weakening of the structures that keep the rectum in place.

Finally, female dogs that are having a hard time giving birth (referred to as dystocia) may experience a rectal prolapse from straining to pass a puppy.

Treatment of Rectal Prolapse in Dogs

Rectal tissue should always be kept moist if it is prolapsed. Water, saline, petroleum jelly, or water-based lubricating jelly can be used at home to prevent the tissue from drying out until it can be replaced. Gentle, firm pressure can be applied to the tissue to push it back into the rectum. If it cannot be gently and easily be pushed back into the rectum or if it will not stay in the rectum after being replaced, your veterinarian will need to address it.

Manual replacement may be done while your dog is under anesthesia and special sutures to hold it in place may be needed temporarily. A special sugar solution may also be applied to the tissues if they are too filled with fluid to be replaced in the rectum. This helps to shrink them back to their normal size. If the tissue has been severely damaged or dies while it is outside of the body, then surgical resection of this part of the intestinal tract will be necessary.

In order to successfully and permanently treat a rectal prolapse in a dog though, the underlying cause of the condition needs to be addressed. Diarrhea may need to be treated with antidiarrheals, probiotics, antibiotics, and even antiparasitics if it is because of intestinal parasites. Dietary changes may be required to treat constipation. Foreign bodies may require removal via surgery if they are unable to be passed in the stool and a cesarian section may need to be performed if a dog in labor is unable to give birth naturally. Cancer of the rectum or colon may need surgical resection or steroids to manage and prostatic disease will most likely require a dog to be neutered.

How to Prevent Rectal Prolapse in Dogs

The best way to prevent a rectal prolapse from occurring in your dog is to get it help if it is straining to defecate. Diarrhea and other reasons for straining may need medications, special diets, or supplements and the sooner the straining is addressed, the less likely it is for a rectal prolapse to occur.