Dogs can get hernias just like people. Luckily, they’re typically straightforward to treat although they may require surgery.
Causes of Dog Hernias
A hernia happens when the contents of a dog’s abdomen pushes through a hole or weak area in the muscle wall. Hernias can be congenital, which means the dog had the condition at birth. They can also be caused by a traumatic injury, such as getting hit by a car or being bitten by another dog. In addition, hernias can happen to female dogs during pregnancy.
For more information about dog hernias, you can review the references listed at the end of this article.
Types of Dog Hernias
There are several types of dog hernias, which occur in different parts of the body.
The diaphragm is a thin muscle at the base of your dog’s chest. It contracts to help pull air into the lungs and relaxes when air is expelled. If this muscle is torn or disrupted, internal organs, including the stomach, liver, and intestines, can enter the chest cavity, which can result in respiratory distress.
Diaphragmatic hernias are typically caused by trauma, and they can be life-threatening. If your dog has a serious accident, you should seek medical attention immediately. Even if your dog doesn’t have any visible injuries, they may need treatment for something you can’t see, such as a diaphragmatic hernia or internal bleeding.
A diaphragmatic hernia can also be a congenital condition. Dogs who are born with this type of hernia may show more subtle signs, like trouble breathing while exercising and mild bouts of stomach upset.
Hiatal hernias form at the opening of the diaphragm where the esophagus meets the stomach. They occur when part of the stomach or other organs push through this opening. They can be caused by injury or a congenital condition. Sometimes the stomach will slip back and forth between the chest and abdomen, which is known as a sliding hernia.
An inguinal hernia occurs near the groin where your dog’s hind leg attaches to their body. If the inguinal hernia is large, the bladder or uterus may become trapped, which can be a life-threatening situation. This type of hernia is more common in pregnant dogs, but it can also be caused by trauma.
Perineal hernias develop when the content of the abdomen pushes through a tear or weakness in the pelvic muscle. This type of hernia is more commonly seen in adult male dogs who have not been neutered.
If you notice a soft and squishy bulge near your puppy’s belly button, they may have an umbilical hernia. These hernias happen when the umbilical ring fails to close completely after birth. They may close up on their own by the time the puppy turns three or four months old. If they don’t, they typically require surgery. Your veterinarian may be able to fix the hernia at the same time your puppy is spayed or neutered.
Are you thinking about welcoming a new furball into your family? Find out what you need to know about caring for a puppy.
Symptoms of a Dog Hernia
Some hernias are obvious, and you’ll be able to see or feel a soft mass protruding from your dog’s body. Other signs of a dog hernia can include:
- Appetite loss
- Swelling in the area of the hernia
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
If you suspect your dog has a hernia, you should visit the veterinarian. Hernias can turn into a life-threatening situation if the organs penetrating the muscle get strangled and lose their blood supply.
Diagnosing a hernia typically includes a physical exam during which your veterinarian will check for any protrusions or swelling. Your veterinarian may also conduct blood work to evaluate your dog’s health and rule out other conditions. In addition, they may take X-rays or perform an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis of a hernia and evaluate its severity.
Most hernias will require surgery to put the organs back into place and repair the hole or tear. During hernia surgery, your veterinarian will complete the repair. They may also cover the area with mesh to strengthen it.
If your dog has a small umbilical hernia, surgery may not be needed. If the defect in the body wall is small enough, it won’t pose a threat to your dog’s health, so the repair would be considered cosmetic. Your veterinarian can give you advice on the best way to handle this situation.
In some cases, your veterinarian may be able to push the protruding tissues back into place carefully. However, they may still recommend surgery to help prevent the hernia from reoccurring.
Hernia Surgery After Care
You should follow any care instructions your veterinarian provides for taking care of your dog after surgery. They can include:
- Giving your dog medication for pain and swelling.
- Restricting your dog’s activity to help make sure they don’t injure the surgical site or open any stitches or staples.
- Keeping an eye on the bandage for bleeding or yellow discharge, which can indicate an infection.
- Taking your dog back in for follow-up visits where your veterinarian will remove any stitches or staples and ensure your dog is healing properly.
It’s not always easy to get your dog to take their medicine. Get tips on how to give your dog a pill.
Dog Hernia Surgery Cost
The cost of a dog hernia surgery will depend on the severity of your dog’s condition. For instance, if the hernia was caused by trauma, such as getting hit by a car, they may need treatment for other injuries, such as broken bones or joint dislocation. If your dog has complications during or after hernia surgery, this will affect the cost as well.
Your veterinarian should provide you with cost estimates when they go over your dog’s treatment plan. If you have a pet insurance plan, you can get reimbursed for covered expenses, which can alleviate some of the financial worries.
There is no way to prevent a congenital hernia since a dog is born with it. However, you can help avoid hernias due to traumatic injuries by doing what you can to keep your dog safe. For instance, be sure to dog-proof both the inside and outside of your home to reduce the chances of your dog getting hurt. You should also check any fences or gates to make sure your dog can’t get out of your yard.
And of course, it’s important to take great care of your dog to help keep them healthy and fit. Feed them a nutritious diet, give them plenty of exercise, provide them with an enriched environment, and shower them with love.
- "Perineal Hernias," American College of Veterinary Surgeons
- "Diaphragmatic Hernias," American College of Veterinary Surgeons
- "Managing diaphragmatic hernias (Proceedings)," DVM360
- "Diaphragmatic, inguinal, & perinial hernia repair (Proceedings)," DVM360
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.