So, I haven't posted anything for a while, but my bearded dragon recently had a prolapse and I thought I might share my experience for those who find themselves in the same position and aren't sure what to do.
What causes a prolapse in bearded dragons:
Factors such as impaction can cause a prolapse. Impaction is a symptom that is caused by material that cannot be digested easily, if at all, in the bearded dragon digestive system (meal worms and sand). However, don't freak out! I know many people on the internet make a big deal about the consequences of feeding dragons meal worms and having them on sand substrate. My adult bearded dragon has been on sand her entire life and I feed her up to 50 meal worms every two weeks, yet, this prolapse was not a result of impaction.
My bearded dragon's prolapse was actually a result of dehydration and a high fiber diet. My dragon's (I have two) eat a good amount of lettuce (not iceberg) on a daily basis, and of course they get their protein from meal worms every once in awhile. I have since then fixed this by buying pet food, specifically designed for bearded dragons, that has the appropriate amount of protein, fiber, and other important sources of nutrients.
What to do if your bearded dragon is experiencing a prolapse:
If you are unable to get your bearded dragon to a vet, maybe because it is a weekend, here are some steps you can take to keep the prolapse from becoming worse and of course having your dragon as comfortable as possible during this time.
If you have your bearded dragon in sand substrate...this prolapse is going to have sand stuck all over it, and you do not want that! So, take your bearded dragon and put him/her in a warm bath and remove all the sand from the surface. If you don't have your bearded dragon in sand you may want to still put them in a nice warm bath and make sure the area is clean, because it'll be prone to infection which can be fatal.
Take about 1/5 a cup, if not less, of hot water and dissolve table sugar (doesn't matter how much) in it. Next, make this sugar water bath a little deeper with colder water and then place your dragon in the bath. The point of this sugar bath is not only to moisten the surface of the prolapse, but it also acts to reduce swelling. When organs come out of the body like this, they tend to swell due to fluids and gases; the sugar water you have just made will act as a hypertonic solution that draws the fluids from the tissue, thus causing the swelling to reduce in size. If it reduces sufficiently enough, you may be able to gently push the prolapse back in (although I don't recommend doing this yourself) with a cutip covered in Vaseline. Anyway, keep him/her in the sugar bath for approximately 15-20 minutes; during this time you may want to thoroughly clean their caging using vinegar and water - never use 409 or Windex. Also, if you are using sand as your substrate, you need to remove all of it and replace it with paper towels or newspaper; same goes for dirt substrates.
After the sugar bath, put your bearded dragon in their newly cleaned cage and make a sugar/water paste to apply to the area. This paste is going continue to moisten the area while also reducing the swelling. Alternatively, if you have Vaseline lying around, you can use that to keep the area moistened as well. Keeping the prolapse moist is VERY important because if it dries out the tissue can become necrotic = not good! Necrosis is the death of cells and requires immediate attention from a vet in the case of a bearded dragon prolapse. Also, you want to keep the area, and everything around it VERY clean because the tissue can easily become infected.
Repeat these steps daily (sugar water bath twice a day) until you can get your dragon to the vet!
The procedures the vet will perform
The vet will mostly likely put your dragon in a sugar/water bath for ~15 minutes to reduce some of the swelling - depending on how far the organ is protruding from the anus. In the case of my bearded dragon, by the time I got her to the vet the entire cloaca had come out, so she was in the sugar water bath for awhile. Next, the vet is going to gently push it back in and apply stitches to the area. You are going to have to leave the suture there for about 5 days before having it removed by the vet. During this checkup the vet will also feel the area to make sure the swelling has sufficiently reduced before removing the suture.
Potential future problems:
Once a prolapse has happened once, there is a greater probability of it happening again. However, there are steps you can take in attempting to prevent it in the future, especially if you know what caused it. For instance, because the prolapse in my bearded dragon was caused by dehydration and a high fiber diet, I place her in a luke warm bath every few days and I have, once again, started feeding her food specifically for bearded dragons. If impaction was the cause, you may want to remove the source of impaction and allow his/her digestive system to 'air out', so to speak.
I hope this helps anybody with the unfortunate problem of dealing with a prolapse! I was freaking out when it happened to my bearded dragon because she is my baby and I was thinking the worst; but, don't think the worst, the vets know what do their doing and your baby will be fine!