Your little kitten comes trotting up for a snuggle when you notice something odd. There's a strange red bulge pushing out from his behind. Before your kitten can utter a single meow, you're on the phone, frantically dialing your vet. Good call, as a rectal prolapse requires medical attention.
That bright red bulge sticking out from your kitten's behind doesn't mean he ate some chewing gum that's working its way out. It's his rectum protruding through his anus. As cringe-worthy as it is to read about and look at, it's also a quite serious medical issue that requires immediate attention. Anytime an internal part of the body protrudes through to another, or in this case, outside the body, it can result in blood restriction and tissue death. If left untreated, that protruding tissue could die, which can make your kitten ill and ultimately be fatal.
How It Happens
In most cases, your kitten develops a rectal prolapse through abnormal bathroom habits. That doesn't mean he's trying to go while standing on his head, just that he's not as “regular” as he otherwise could be. Straining too hard during constipation or suffering from digestive disorders that cause diarrhea can cause his rectal lining to push out as he goes. If he's in the litter box numerous times, this can continue to aggravate his lining, causing a prolapse. Other causes include parasites, inflammation in the bladder or prostate and urinary stones. Generally speaking, anything that affects his digestive system and ability to easily relieve himself could leave him susceptible to suffering from rectal prolapse.
You may be tempted, as gross as it seems, to try and gently push the tissue back in. Resist this urge. You could cause more damage and it won't solve the problem. Since rectal prolapse is always caused by another issue, the underlying cause must be identified and treated before the prolapse itself is dealt with. Your vet performs various tests to identify the hidden cause to develop a treatment plan based on the findings. De-wormer kills any intestinal parasites, while antibiotics help heal urinary tract infections. Once the cause is tended to, the prolapse is corrected through gentle massage back into place or through surgery. In some cases, your kitten may require a few stitches to prevent the tissue from making another unexpected appearance while he uses the litter box.
Although you no doubt would do everything in your power to avoid seeing another rectal prolapse on your kitten, the truth is that you cannot completely eliminate the possibility of it happening again. You can, however, reduce the likelihood by addressing the underlying causes and controlling those. Keep your kitten parasite free by using a monthly treatment to prevent fleas and worms. Offer him fresh, clean water at all times to prevent constipation, and watch him for signs of urinary tract infections and other digestive or gastrointestinal problems. See your vet for tests and treatment if you notice your kitten straining or avoiding his litter box.
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