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Hernias in Dogs: Symptoms, Surgery & Cost

Some pets can experience a tear in their internal muscles and tissue walls, which may cause organs and other tissues to migrate to other areas. Here, our Williamsburg vets discuss the different types of hernias in dogs, how and where they occur and how surgery can help treat them.

The Occurance of Hernias in Dogs

Hernias are a common condition affecting dogs. Usually, hernias are congenital (present at birth) and diagnosed in young puppies. Hernias that appear in adult or senior dogs are more likely to be caused by blunt-force trauma. Nearly all hernias need to be treated with surgery to repair the issue and prevent a recurrence.

What are the different types of hernias in dogs?

When a tissue barrier within your dog's body tears, the tissue, fluid and organs from one area can protrude into another. Let's review some of the most common types of hernias in dogs and what they affect.

Diaphragmatic Hernia

The diaphragm is the muscle within your dog's chest that separates the abdomen and chest. If a rupture (tear) occurs in the diaphragm, organs (like the stomach, liver and intestines) and fluids can enter the chest cavity. This can compress the lungs and heart, causing heart and respiratory problems. This type of hernia most commonly occurs after severe trauma.

Hiatal Hernia

There is an opening in the diaphragm where the esophagus and stomach connect, called the hiatus. When the muscles surrounding the hiatus weaken, a hiatal hernia can develop. When this type of hernia happens, the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity. While this is similar to a diaphragmatic hernia, hiatal hernias are more often present at birth (congenital) rather than caused by trauma.

Umbilical Hernia

The umbilical cord connects a developing fetus to the mother while in the womb. In some cases, the umbilical ring doesn’t fully close after birth and separation, causing an umbilical hernia. While not particularly dangerous, this type of hernia can cause severe pain.

Inguinal Hernia

The inguinal ring is a passage that connects the abdomen to the groin. When weakening occurs in this area, the contents of the abdomen can slip through. This is referred to as an inguinal hernia.

These can be genetic or acquired with age. Inguinal hernias are often found in intact females since estrogen may weaken the tissues, and pregnancies can stretch the inguinal ring. Certain small-breed male dogs may also be predisposed to congenital inguinal hernias.

Perineal Hernia

The perineum is the tissue that separates the anus and scrotum or vulva and supports the pelvic organs. A perineal hernia occurs when this area weakens or tears, allowing the bladder, intestines, or fat through. This type of hernia most commonly occurs in older dogs who are unneutered.

Dog Hernia Symptoms

If your dog has a hernia, they may experience various symptoms depending on the type. Here are some hernia symptoms dogs may display:

  • Visible bulge or swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Cramping
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive drooling

To diagnose a hernia, your vet may perform a physical examination and diagnostic tests like bloodwork, X-rays and ultrasounds. These can also identify any additional medical issues that may be present due to the hernia.

Surgery for Hernias in Dogs

If your dog develops a hernia, your vet may recommend surgery to treat the condition or prevent relapse if they were able to push the hernia back into place non-surgically (these hernias are known as reducible).

Most hernias are non-reducible, which means they require surgery to repair. Once your dog is safely placed under general anesthesia, your vet will create an opening that allows them to push the tissues back into place. They will then suture the space where the hernia was pushed through. This may include using a patch or mesh closure to seal larger hernias.

Your vet will then address any issues that have arisen due to the hernia, such as fluid in the chest cavity.

Hernia Treatment Costs

If your dog has a hernia and needs surgery, the cost will depend on the complexity of the hernia as well as other factors, including:

  • Diagnostic tests
  • Anesthesia
  • Surgeries performed (if combined with other procedures)
  • Vet-prescribed medications
  • Follow-up appointments

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Is your dog showing signs of a hernia or other internal condition? Contact our Williamsburg vets to book an appointment.

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