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Does My Dog Have a Hernia?
Hernias are another one of those medical conditions that both people and dogs can suffer from. And, just as in people, a hernia is a serious condition for a dog because it essentially means part of an organ or another bodily tissue is protruding through a cavity wall. Hernias impact your dog’s bodily functions and often result in digestive or breathing issues, depending on the location and severity of the hernia.
In this article we’ll discuss symptoms, causes, treatments, and possible prevention of hernias so you can keep your dog safe and healthy.
Causes of Hernias
A hernia is a medical condition that results in organs, fat or other tissue protruding through a tear or hole in the muscle wall of the abdomen or another cavity. Often this tissue or organ becomes lodged in the in the protrusion, cutting off blood supply and potentially leading to infection, inflammation and impaired bodily function.
Dogs can be born with a hernia (congenital) or develop one due to an injury to the area. As an example, should the dog’s diaphragm experience a trauma and become torn, they can develop a hernia. Pregnant dogs sometimes develop certain types of hernias, such as inguinal hernias, when the abdominal contents protrude through the inguinal canal, an opening in the muscle wall in the groin area.
Types of Hernias in Dogs
There are several types of hernias that a dog may develop and each comes with its own symptoms and level of severity. Each will also affect different parts of the body and require specific treatments.
The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the chest and the abdomen and helps your dog inhale and exhale. Should this muscle be torn due to an injury, one or more of their abdominal organs may begin to push through the hole. This is one of the more serious types of hernias because it can sometimes effect the function of the lungs and heart. Diaphragmatic hernias may also be congenital (present at birth).
This is another type of diaphragmatic hernia that occurs where the esophagus meets the stomach. This type if hernia will typically affect digestion. Dogs with hiatal hernias may experience vomiting or even have trouble swallowing. You may even notice excessive salivation. Hiatal hernias may be mild, moderate or severe. In severe cases, dogs have an increased risk for developing aspiration pneumonia.
The pelvic diaphragm is a muscle wall in the lower abdomen that separates the rectum from the abdominal organs. This muscle can weaken as your dog ages, making her more at risk for developing this type of hernia. Perineal hernias may cause constipation as well as make it difficult for your dog to urinate or defecate. They may also experience lethargy, pain and urinary incontinence.
Symptoms of Hernias in Dogs
The following symptoms indicate your dog may have a medical emergency should his bodily function be negatively impacted. Should you detect and of these, contact your veterinarian right away.
Lump in Abdomen or Anal Area
The lump may feel warm to the touch, be swollen and be painful to your dog. Lumps in these two areas typically points to a specific type of hernia.
A hernia in certain locations, such as the diaphragm I mentioned earlier, can make it difficult for your dog to breathe. This is a very serious symptom that you should never ignore. Call your vet right away.
Digestive or GI Issues
Depending on the type and location of your hernia, your dog may experience some digestive or GI issues such as vomiting, constipation, trouble swallowing and even incontinence.
Hernias can cause lethargy in dogs in a variety of ways. It can be painful for them to move around and so they lay tend to be inactive. The hernia may also be obstructing food and nutrients from being absorbed by the body, which can leave your dog with less energy.
While lethargy is a symptom associated with numerous health conditions, it should never be ignored. Call your vet if your dog seems lethargic.
Treatment for Hernias in Dogs
How your dog’s hernia is treated will depend on the type, location and severity of symptoms. Serious hernias that are impacting bodily function may require reparative surgery while less serious hernias may simply need medication to manage symptoms.
Surgery is required for both reducible and non-reducible hernias. A hernia is reducible when the protrusion can be gently pushed back into place. A non-reducible hernia means the tissue that has been protruding has already partially adhered to the opening. Current research is trying to determine if minimally invasive laparoscopic surgical techniques could be used to repair certain hernias in dogs in the future.
The good news is, the sooner you detect a hernia in your dog, the better the chances he or she will experience a full recovery. The longer it takes to detect, the greater the chances of damage to organs. A majority of dogs will recover quickly and easily from surgery and go on to live a long and healthy life.
Can You Prevent a Hernia in a Dog?
There is nothing you can do to prevent a hernia if your dog was born with that condition (congenital hernias). Acquired hernias are usually the result of an injury, so do your best to keep your dog safe. This may mean blocking them from jumping on furniture if they are notorious from jumping from heights, using a harness and seatbelt when taking them on car rides and monitoring them closely while playing in the backyard.
We Want to Help You Get the Best Care for Your Pup
It’s always painful to watch our dogs struggle with a medical condition. They are truly our greatest companions and for this reason, we want to do everything to ensure they get the help they need should illness or injury strike.
But sometimes those vet bills can be incredibly high. This is especially true when trips to the ER are necessary or when a surgery is required. These days, more and more people are having a hard time making ends meet. So how can you make sure you can afford to get your pup the care he needs? Through a comprehensive pet health insurance plan.
Did you know some plans can reimburse you for up to 90% of the bill?
Pet Insurance Review was started by pet lovers for pet lovers. Don’t struggle to pay high vet bills. Take a few minutes to get a free insurance quote today.
- From the Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15757-hernia
- Prządka P, Liszka B, Skrzypczak P, et al. Laparoscopic Assisted Percutaneous Herniorrhapy in Dogs Using PIRS Technique. PLoS One. 2020;15(7):e0235899.
- Diaphragmatic, Inguinal, & Perinial Hernia Repair (Proceedings). DVM 360.
- Hernia Hiatal in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals.
The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.
The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.
We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.