Hernias in Dogs

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A bulldog standing.
A bulldog standing. (Image: Liriya/iStock/Getty Images)

Hernias in dogs occur when parts of an internal organ or tissue protrudes through a tear in the body. Although a hernia can happen anywhere, in canines the primary types of hernias are umbilical, inguinal or diaphragmatic. Inspect your dog regularly for any bulges or masses on his body. If you discover one, take your pet to the vet for an examination and treatment.

Breed Predisposition

Certain breeds appear predisposed to specific types of hernias. Inguinal hernias are common in basset hounds, Chihuahuas, cocker spaniels, Pekingese, West Highland white terriers, basenjis, poodles, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Maltese, dachshunds, Pomeranians and the cairn terrier. Shar-Peis and bulldogs are prone to diaphragmatic hernias, as are male dogs in general.

Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia is located around the dog's navel. Normally, the umbilical ring in the abdominal muscles, which permits blood vessels to pass through to nourish a fetus, closes once the puppy is born. If it doesn't close, the result is an umbilical hernia in the puppy. You'll notice the hernia, which resembles a lump, protruding when the puppy is active. If it's small, it's likely to close on its own, or at least cause no problems for the dog. Larger umbilical hernias require surgical correction. Without surgery, there's the possibility that any tissues caught in the hernia, including the intestines, can have the blood supply cut off. Your vet might perform surgery on an umbilical hernia in conjunction with spaying or neutering.

Inguinal Hernia

If you feel a soft lump in your dog's groin, he could have an inguinal hernia. In a worst case scenario, part of the animal's intestines, bladder or uterus becomes trapped. If that happens, only emergency surgery will save the dog's life. While some dogs are born with inguinal hernias, they also result from trauma or after pregnancy. For the latter reason, inguinal hernias most often occur in female dogs who haven't been spayed. Overweight dogs of either sex are more prone to inguinal hernias. Even if the hernia isn't causing your dog any problems when discovered, it's important to surgically correct it before an issue develops.

Diaphragmatic Hernia

Diaphragmatic hernias, also known as hiatal hernias, come in two forms. The first is the congenital, present since birth. The second form results from trauma, in which the diaphragm is torn. Since the diaphragm separates your dog's abdominal and chest cavities, symptoms of a hernia include breathing problems. The dog might resort to an odd position to breathe. If trauma is involved, the animal might suffer all sorts of injuries to the chest cavity, including fractured ribs. If the dog is born with the hernia, and doesn't show specific signs of breathing difficulty, his intestines or liver could one day slip through the hernia, resulting in appetite loss and vomiting. While a hernia resulting from trauma requires surgical repair, your vet might prescribe medications for symptom relief for a congenital hiatal hernia, although surgery is the only cure.

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