A hernia is caused by a body of tissue allowing itself through an opening in the structural walls that usually contain it. To envision the process, imagine a hole the size of a penny in saran-wrap, then forcefully pushing your fist through the hole. In this instance, the saran-wrap would be the structure walls and your fist would represent the tissue. After enough force, the saran-wrap would tear, and your fist would burst through the other side. The body of tissue within pets is usually fat or internal organs and most commonly occurs near the abdomen but can occur in other places. While hernias can be life threatening, they are entirely treatable and have an excellent prognosis when given prompt veterinary care.
There is no guaranteed method of preventing hernias. Acquiring them is usually hereditary or inflicted by trauma. If you have any questions about hernias in pets, or would like more information, feel free to contact our office.
Signs your pet might have a hernia:
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. With diaphragmatic hernias, the internal organs enter the chest cavity making breathing difficult.
Hiatal – Occurs when part of the stomach forces itself into the diaphragm at the point where the esophagus meets the stomach. Hiatal hernias can be caused by trauma or can be congenital.
Inguinal – These happen when 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, namely those pregnant and middle-aged. These are usually surgically fixed immediately.
Perineal – Usually occurs when pelvic muscles tear, allowing abdominal muscles to enter the area bordering the anus. While it is merely believed that some breeds are more susceptible to perineal hernias, it has definitively been proven to occur in older, unneutered male pets.
Umbilical – Typically seen in younger pets, umbilical hernias are the most common type of hernia and are located near 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.
How are hernias treated?
A hernia is a condition best treated in a timely manner; the earlier one can be corrected, the better. After a pet has been diagnosed with a hernia, we usually recommend prompt surgical correction. In some cases, the veterinarian might be able to push back the projecting tissue manually. While this method is more cost-effective for the pet owner, it is not considered as reliable as surgery and can cause the hernia to become strangulated which is a serious medical emergency. After surgery, most pets take some time to recoup, but the long term prognosis is highly favorable.
If you think your pet might be suffering from a hernia, please contact our office as soon as possible to schedule an exam.