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Prolapse In Ostrich Chicks--Causes & Remedies

By Daryl Holle, Blue Mountain Ostrich Feeds

A Prolapse condition in Ostrich chicks is one of those disorders that if you have never experienced it, you may not even know what it is. However, once you have experienced and witnessed it, it will never be forgotten as it can be a most frustrating condition to deal with. Before we get into causes and remedies, it would be wise to exactly identify the Prolapse Condition so all farmers are on the same page in diagnosing this condition:

Exactly, what is a Prolapse condition?
Prolapse is the "falling down or falling out, inversion, or displacement of a part of the animals anatomy". Depending on the animal affected, some examples of common Prolapse can be a "rectal prolapse", a "oviduct prolapse", an "anal prolapse", a "uterine prolapse" or a "vaginal prolapse". A common Prolapse in cattle is the Uterine Prolapse. If it is going to occur, it will be after calving with the entire Uterus coming out the back end of the cow, turn inside out, and hangs like a large pendulum. Of course, when this happens, all of the major Uterine arteries of the cow are exposed and tearing or bumping one of them will immediately cause the cow to bleed to death in a short period of time--so it is a most serious condition that needs immediate attention.

In Ostrich, the most common Prolapse is the "rectal prolapse" with an occasional "anal prolapse". It is also possible in Breeder Ostrich to have an "oviduct prolapse", although I have never personally seen one. An oviduct prolapse is also commonly referred to as a "Blowout" of the birds oviduct and is characterized by a large mass protruding from outside the "vent". A rectal prolapse in Ostrich is when the last portion of the intestine (or colon) tears lose and actually and comes out the back end of the bird inverted (inside out). This can be a most startling condition to witness and most often happens in Ostrich chicks of a young age--rather than adults.

A book called "The Merck Veterinary Manual, Fourth Addition" describes rectal prolapse as "A complete inversion of the posterior portion of the rectum through the anus, usually characterized by the protrusion of a large cylindrical mass covered with a congested, inflamed and often hemorrhagic mucosa".

What is the CAUSE of Ostrich chick Prolapse?
There are many theories and reasons floating around the world as to the cause of Ostrich chick prolapse. Some say it is a genetic problem, while others say it is caused by the chick trying to pass very hard "pellet-like" fecal material causing undue strain on the colon forcing it to tear lose from its supporting connective tissue and allowing it to come out the back end of the bird. I personally DISAGREE with all those statements. It has been my explicit experience that Prolapse is clearly caused by nutritional deficiencies in the animal's diet. Correcting the nutritional deficiencies corrects the problem and prevents prolapse from occurring in the first place.

In support of my opinion, I again quote from The Merck Veterinary Manual which says: "Rectal prolapse is encountered most frequently in young animals which are depleted in Protein, Vitamins and/or Fluids, and which may have been consuming a higher fiber diet". My opinion, however, is greatly expanded from this statement:

Prolapse in Ostrich chicks is caused by weak connective tissue and muscles supporting the intestine and weak sphincter muscles supporting the vent. This weakness of the supporting tissue and muscles creates a "flaw" in the digestive system of the bird. This flaw can be easily corrected with a proper and balanced diet OF ALL nutrients required by the bird including Protein, Energy, Fat, Fiber, Minerals, Trace Minerals, and Vitamins in adequate amounts. When the bird's diet is properly balanced, fed to the birds in proper amount, and ingredients are such that they are utilized by the bird properly, the bird's muscles and connective tissue grow much stronger eliminating the "digestive flaw", or weakness, in the system. It is the weakness in the digestive system that allows constipated birds to strain and tear lose the connective tissue and muscles surrounding the intestine. Therefore it is not the strain of moving constipated fecal material through the intestine by itself that caused the prolapse, but rather the weakened tissue and muscles surrounding the intestine, holding it in place, that allows the prolapse to occur.

The proof of all this is the fact that when chick farms experiencing high incidences of chick prolapse correct their feeding programs, eliminating the nutritional deficiencies, the prolapse problem eventually CEASES. Chicks can still occasionally pass constipated fecal material without problems, difficulties, or threat of prolapse. The same is true of cattle in my experience. A Prolapsed Uterus can be totally eliminated after a period of time following a good feeding program containing an intense management of proper and balanced nutrition and good nutritional feeding with high nutrient utilization factors. Even after difficult calving births, the cow's uterus will stay "connected" and not be torn lose from its anchoring tissues and muscles.

There is a secondary factor that can cause prolapse in Ostrich chicks, and that is a bird that is heavily parasite infected. However, the nutritional deficiency syndrome is still the major contributing factor to the prolapse in this case as the parasite(s) are robbing the bird from its nutritional needs thereby weaking the connective tissues and muscles of the intestine.

Remedy for Prolapse Conditions:
Once an Ostrich Chick has prolapsed, it can be surgically fixed by an experienced Veterinarian. This is usually done by stuffing the contents back in the bird, then suturing back and forth across the vent to hold all in place. However, the success of this totally depends how quickly the connective tissue grows back to hold all in place so the sutures can be removed. If the bird continues the constant straining of the gut, the success of all this procedure is most certainly impeded.

The BEST remedy is a "preventive" remedy. That, of course, is to feed the birds a balanced diet in proper levels allowing the overall health of the bird to prevent the prolapse problem. Feeding the proper diet will also greatly improve digestive by moving feed faster through the gut, with higher fluid levels, causing less strain on the intestinal connecting tissues automatically. Even in times when the chick is not feeling well and is experiencing some constipation for one reason or another, the healthy connective tissues and muscles are strong enough to hold the intestine in place without problem.

It is also wise to make sure that prolapsed birds are not heavily infected with parasites. If they are, this falls under good farm management practices and all birds should be treated for those parasites using Veterinarian recommendations. After the parasite treatment is complete, then the feeding programs, feeding management, and farm management practices must be re-analyzed and changed to prevent prolapse from re-occurring.

The Prolapse condition in Ostrich chicks is directly related to nutritional deficiencies either in the diet of the chick, or the diet of the Breeder Birds laying the egg that the affected chick was hatched from, or from some condition that is causing the chick to be nutrient deficient. If your farm is experiencing problems with Ostrich chick prolapse, get some help NOW to totally analyze the diets being fed and how they are being fed. You can be assured that this condition can be remedied with corrective action to your feeding programs, feeding management and farm management methods.

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