Prolapsed Hemipenis in Snakes

When the hemipenis of a male snake prolapses and does not retract back inside, this is called paraphimosis. There is often a secondary bacterial infection from being exposed and it may also become necrotic (meaning the tissue is dying or dead).

If your male snake is suffering from this condition, you will need to find a herp vet who can work with you, as there is no way that you can try to correct this on your own. Sedation is required so that the tissue can be cleaned, evaluated and replaced, if possible. Often, edema (a type of swelling from fluid retention) is present and this needs to be addressed prior to attempting to replace the prolapse.

If you don't have a qualified herp vet in your area, perhaps you can call some local vets and see if any of them would be willing to see your snake and work with you. If they use one of the larger lab (such as Antech, the lab that I do consulting for), they can call for a free consultation with an experienced herp vet who can help them with your case and can even walk them through the procedures involved).

If it is possible to have the prolapse reduced, a type of suture, called a purse-string, is placed to hold the cloaca partially closed, which will prevent the prolapse from reoccurring. Antibiotics are given if there is evidence of infection.

It is also very important to attempt to determine why the hemipenis prolapsed in the first place. Different potential causes include trauma, traction during copulation, infection, inflammation, neurologic deficits involving the retractor muscles or cloacal sphincter muscles or from impaction of the cloaca with urates.

If severe infection and necrosis are present, it might be necessary to amputate the affected hemipenis. This won't compromise the ability to urinate since the organ is copulatory only and not involved with urination. It also might be necessary to amputate the hemipenis if it prolapses repeatedly. In snakes and lizards, amputation of one hemipenis does not affect reproduction, since they possess two. Amputation should be performed under general anesthesia, so obviously this procedure requires the expertise of a herp vet.

After-care may require some medication to control pain, antibiotics and keeping the area clean. If sutures are placed to prevent the hemipenis from re-prolapsing, then these may need to be removed in several days.

Copyright 2006 Margaret A. Wissman, D.V.M., D.A.B.V.P.
All Rights Reserved

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