A hernia is an opening in a body wall that is allowing some tissue through that is usually contained. The herniated tissue is usually fat or internal organs, and most commonly occurs near the abdomen. Hernias are usually hereditary or inflicted by trauma. The most common hernia in dogs is an umbilical hernia, caused by incomplete closure of the umbilicus after birth. Most commonly a small amount of fat will poke through and be trapped under the skin. Rarely, if the hernia is large enough, some intestine may get entrapped in the hernia, causing a life threatening situation. In most cases hernias are entirely treatable with surgical repair, and have an excellent prognosis with prompt veterinary attention.
What types of hernias do pets get?
Diaphragmatic – Can occur in any age of pet; some pets are born with these types of hernias, others develop them after an injury (such as a cat falling out of a window). With a diaphragmatic hernia, the abdominal organs can enter the chest cavity making breathing difficult.
Hiatal – Occurs when part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm at the point where the esophagus meets the stomach. Hiatal hernias can be caused by trauma or can be congenital.
Inguinal – These occur where a pet’s inner rear leg fixes to the body wall, near the groin area. Depending on the size of the hernia, segments of the bladder, intestine, and uterus have been known to get caught, creating a life-threatening problem. Inguinal hernias are congenital and usually affect female pets, especially those pregnant and middle-aged. These generally need immediate surgical repair.
Perineal – Usually occurs when caudal pelvic muscles tear, allowing abdominal muscles to enter the area bordering the anus. While it is believed that some breeds are more susceptible to perineal hernias, it has been shown to occur most frequently in older, intact male dogs.
Umbilical – Typically seen in younger pets, umbilical hernias are the most common type of hernia and are located at the bellybutton. Smaller hernias can close up on their own, or can be left alone and never bother a pet over the course of its life; larger umbilical hernias are usually fixed during spay or neuter surgery.
If you are concerned your pet might have a hernia, please contact our office as soon as possible to schedule an exam.