By Debbie Russell, Maryland Adoption Coordinator
A cloacal prolapse is a condition where the inner tissues of the cloaca protrude and fall out of the vent. The cloaca is the end of the digestive track, where the bird excretes urates, feces, urine, genital products and even eggs. Did you know that both male and female birds can prolapse? It’s most common is cockatoos, but any bird could have it happen to them. If you have never seen it before it’s very shocking when you do!
There are many reasons a cloaca is strained to the point of prolapse, but the most common reasons are sexual over-stimulation, holding feces for too long, papillomatosis (a virus), excessive egg laying, and even a bad diet. Most commonly, people touch their birds in inappropriate ways, sending sexual signals to the bird that cannot be completed, leading to chronic mastubatory behavior. Since we are not our bird’s mates, this behavior can cause many physical and behavior problems. It doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy a close bond and companionship with our birds, but we should encourage independent play and activities. Not only will this help prevent some of the physical problems, like prolapse, but it can also help with other problems like dysfunctional screaming or biting.
So what is the best way to touch a bird? Only touching your parrot on the head and feet is the recommended approach. You should never touch them down the back or under the tail. Yes, sometimes we just want to snuggle or “pet” them, and it feels good — but it feels TOO good for your bird and can put them at risk.
Once, a prolapse occurs over an extended period, it usually requires invasive surgery. Simply reducing the vent area with sutures rarely works at that point. Surgery is not cheap and there is no guarantee that it will work either. The veterinarian opens the parrot’s abdomen, pulls the cloaca back up, and then attaches it to the parrot’s rib and abdomen wall. This doesn’t always work if the cloaca has lost it’s elasticity or the bird continues to be over-stimulated sexually.
Just this week, Phoenix Landing was asked to help a little male black-capped Caique, Mooshie. This poor bird has been prolapsed for years and it recently got worse. The family could not afford the surgery. The veterinarian visit and surgery with Stahl Exotic Animal Veterinary Services (SEAVS) was arranged before the bird was picked up, and Dr. Stahl performed the surgery on Tuesday. Mooshie’s surgery went well, and we are cautiously optimistic!
Want to help? Make sure you have an appropriate relationship with your bird – which means being a friend not a mate; teach positive behaviors like independent play and foraging; provide a good diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin A rich foods; always provide access to elimination at all times (no potty training!); and make sure your bird has regular visits with a good avian veterinarian. If you’d like to help us with Mooshie’s surgery and continuing care, click here!