When you think of hernias, you invariably think of the kind that typically affects humans. But did you know that your best canine pal can also get a hernia?
A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes through an opening in the muscle or connective tissue that should normally contain it. Hernias in dogs are not always life-threatening, but they can cause significant discomfort and pain and, if left untreated, potential complications.
Let’s explore the signs, types, causes, and treatment options for hernias in dogs.
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- Recognizing Canine Hernia
- Types of Hernias in Dogs
- What Causes Hernias in Dogs
- Treatment of Hernia in Dogs
- Final Thoughts
Recognizing Canine Hernia
Hernia in dogs’ symptoms aren’t always easy to spot. The challenge lies in the varying symptoms that occur depending on the type and location of the dog hernia. However, common things to look out for include:
- Visible lump: One of the more characteristic and noticeable signs of a dog hernia is a visible lump or bulge under the skin. The lump could be firm to the touch, and it may change in size about your dog’s activity level.
- Pain or discomfort: A hernia in a dog may cause pain, discomfort, or sensitivity, particularly when touched or manipulated. Your dog may whimper or whine and avoid physical contact.
- Vomiting or digestive issues: An abdominal hernia in dogs may present with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or other digestive complaints due to the displacement of abdominal organs.
- Changes in behavior: Some dogs may exhibit behavioral changes such as lethargy, reduced appetite, or general avoidance of activities they usually enjoy.
- Breathing difficulties: If located in the chest, these hernia symptoms in dogs could include difficulty breathing and signs of respiratory distress, like wheezing.
If you’re at work for large parts of the day, how can you spot if your dog is in pain or if they are behaving differently? A Pet Camera, of course! These handy and invaluable gadgets are a pet parent’s best friend when it comes to being able to stay in touch with your canine companion throughout the work day or any time you’re not at home with your best pal.
Types of Hernias in Dogs
Hernias in dogs can occur in various places throughout the body, each with its characteristics and potential complications.
- Inguinal hernia: This type of hernia in dogs is located in the groin area and is the most common type of female dog hernia. A weakened abdominal wall causes it and may result in a lump that protrudes near the inner thigh.
- Umbilical hernia: The most common hernia in puppies is the umbilical hernia. This type of hernia shows up as a lump near the navel or belly button. In an umbilical hernia in puppies, a small piece of abdominal tissue or the intestine protrudes through the abdominal wall at the sight of the umbilical cord connecting to the puppy.
- Hiatal hernia: Much harder to see from the outside, the hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes from the diaphragm into the chest cavity. Gastroesophageal reflux and breathing difficulties are usually the result of this type of hernia in dogs.
- Perineal hernia: Occurring near the anus and involving the displacement of pelvic organs, perineal hernia in dogs is most common in unneutered males. The symptoms of this type of hernia include difficulty urinating, constipation, and discomfort. Breeds like Boston Terriers, Boxers, Corgis, and Collies are typically more prone to these.
- Diaphragmatic hernia: A tear or hole in the diaphragm can result in some abdominal organs pushing into the chest cavity. This type of hernia in dogs is known as a diaphragmatic hernia; its symptoms include changes in lung function and respiratory distress.
What Causes Hernias in Dogs
Several factors can contribute to the development of hernias in dogs:
- Genetics: Some dogs are genetically predisposed to developing certain types of hernias, especially those involving a congenital weakness in the abdominal wall. Typically, young male dogs or small breeds like Basenji, Pekingese, Poodle, and Cairn Terrier are at risk, as are Cocker Spaniels and Dachshunds.
- Trauma: Trauma or injury to the abdominal area can weaken muscles and lead to hernias. Prior surgery can also lead to a vulnerability in the abdominal wall, making a hernia more likely at the site of the incision.
- Pregnancy and obesity: Any additional weight in the body can cause increased pressure on the abdomen and a higher risk of hernia development, like in obese or pregnant dogs.
- Chronic coughing or sneezing: Conditions that cause persistent coughing or sneezing, like respiratory infections, can contribute to the formation of hernias.
- Age: Older dogs may be more prone to hernias as their muscles and tissues naturally weaken over time.
Treatment of Hernia in Dogs
Because there are various types of hernia in dogs, treatment options can be equally varied. Treatment will depend on the type and severity of the hernia as well as the overall health of the dog.
Intervention may not be immediately required in cases of a small hernia and can be closely monitored by your veterinarian. Surgical repair is usually recommended to prevent complications and improve your dog’s quality of life. Surgical options include:
- Herniorrhaphy: This common surgical procedure is performed by inserting sutures in the muscle or connective tissue opening to prevent the hernia from protruding. This common procedure is usually performed on inguinal, umbilical, and diaphragmatic hernias.
- Hernioplasty: In more complex cases, a mesh or graft may be inserted to reinforce the weakened area and provide additional support. Usually, this method of treatment is used for perineal hernias.
- Reduction: A reduction is often used for less severe hernias. During this procedure, the veterinarian will manually push the herniated tissue back through the vulnerability and suture the area to prevent a recurrence.
- Laparoscopy: Some procedures to repair hernias can be done laparoscopically through a very small incision, using a camera and specialized instruments to perform the surgery. According to NCBI research, laparoscopy for hernia surgery is minimally invasive.
- Postoperative care: After surgery, your dog may require pain management, antibiotics, and restricted movement to aid the healing process. You must keep all follow-up appointments with your vet to monitor your dog’s progress and ensure a successful recovery.
In rare cases, hernias can require emergency treatment. In such cases, veterinary costs can escalate quite quickly, and you don’t want to be caught without some kind of Emergency Fund to help you cover them all.
How long can a dog live with a hernia?
The great news is that hernias can be treated. Once treated, your dog can go on to live a normal and healthy life. If left untreated, however, complications can arise, and in extreme cases, they can lead to death.
While hernias are not lethal or likely to result in serious harm, they should not be underestimated as they can cause pain and discomfort. If you suspect your dog has a hernia, consult your vet and get it treated sooner rather than later.
What does a dog's hernia look like?
Most dog hernias become obvious because they result in a bulge under the skin. The location of the bulge will determine the type of hernia your dog has. For example, an umbilical hernia in puppies presents as a bulge around the naval, while a perineal hernia in dogs will present with a bulge near the anus.
Some hernias, like hiatal and diaphragmatic hernias, aren’t visible because the hernia is located within the body. In such cases, you'll notice other symptoms, like nausea and vomiting or breathing problems.
How serious is an umbilical hernia in a puppy?
Most cases of puppy umbilical hernias are not dangerous; sometimes smaller hernias can go away independently as the puppy grows. In some cases, however, a portion of the intestines or other tissue can become trapped and strangulated, leading to infection.
Umbilical hernias are very common in puppies, but that doesn’t mean you can treat them lightly. It’s essential to have the hernia examined by a veterinarian to ensure it doesn’t.
Should I buy a puppy with an umbilical hernia?
Most cases of umbilical hernia in puppies are not serious and can be easily fixed. If you’re purchasing from a breeder, they usually allow a period when you can bring the puppy to your vet for a check-up. If your vet gives the all-clear, there’s no reason that adorable little pup shouldn’t go home with you forever!
Hernias can pose significant health risks and discomfort, but most cases can be effectively managed with proper diagnosis and timely treatment. Knowing what signs to look for and seeking veterinary care is crucial for your dog’s well-being.
It’s your responsibility, as a pet parent, to monitor your best pal for any unusual symptoms and provide the necessary medical attention when it’s required to ensure that your dog lives a healthy and happy life.
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