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Vet Tech Rounds: Hernias in Dogs

Vet Talks 4 min read
dog lying on the couch
Vet Tech Holly with her Dog

We have all heard of hernias in people, but did you know that hernias in dogs are a lot more common than you think? Hernias can develop without you even knowing as they are internal. We put together some symptoms and signs to help you when diagnosing your pup with a hernia.

What Are Hernias?

A hernia occurs when an internal organ (generally in the abdominal region) protrudes through an area with a tear in the surrounding muscles. They can also occur in the groin area and close to the hind legs or near the chest. Hernias seem to occur a lot more in younger pets and can be due to genetics or trauma to the problematic area.

Although hernias are commonly treated in people without becoming life-threatening, in puppies they can be a cause for worry. In more severe cases, the intestines and other organs can pass through the hole in the muscle, compressing the blood supply and strangle the organ. In these cases, it can become fatal quite quickly but if caught in time can be treated successfully.

There are many different types of hernia and the most common hernias in puppies are:

• Umbilical – this occurs where the umbilical cord was attached, the area does not close after detachment of the cord and there is a hole left which the internal organs can protrude through
• Inguinal – this is in the groin area where the testicles descend. Both sexes can have inguinal hernias
• Diaphragmatic – the diaphragm is the muscle that sits at the base of the chest and separates the abdomen from the chest. There are two types of hernias that occur in this area: The first being Hiatal – hiatus is an opening in the diaphragm and the esophagus goes from the chest to the abdomen. The opening can end up becoming too large and the stomach can poke out through the chest cavity. The second type is called Peritoneopericardial – when there is an opening between the peritoneum and pericardium. Usually caused by a form congenital pericardial defect during development

dog lying on the grass belly up

What Causes Hernias in Dogs?

Hernias generally develop because they are congenital or through trauma. Sometimes old age and illness can be contributing factors. Congenital hernias will appear in puppies and can be caused by a defect passed down from their parents.

Blunt force trauma can cause hernias too if they are hit with force in the abdomen, the abdominal wall can tear. This can also happen with the diaphragm and the organs will bulge through the damaged area.

What Are The Common Signs of Hernias?

The signs of a hernia may not be obvious at first and can also depend on where the hernia is on the body. The hernia may start off as a very small bump at first but as it becomes larger as more of the vital organs become compromised. There are a few signs to look out for such as:

• Large bump on the abdomen/groin
• Pain in the area
• No appetite
• Vomiting
• Straining during urination
• Coughing
• Difficulty breathing

dog on its back

Diagnosing Hernias and Treating Hernias

The hernia will more than likely be visible to the eye, if not, x-rays of the affected area can be taken and then it can be evaluated by your veterinarian. Ultrasounds can be used as another method for identifying the problem. Your vet will also identify a hernia just by palpation of the abdomen. The veterinarian will also look out for any respiratory or abdominal problems.

The earlier that you recognize a hernia, the easier it will be to treat. In order to treat hernias, surgery is required to put the herniated tissue back in place and also to repair the tear in the muscle. Antacids can be administered to give some short term relief from hernia related acid reflux.

When the tissue grows back together due to swelling or it is pushed through the muscle tear and can’t be pushed back in, this is referred to as a non-reducible hernia. Surgery will most definitely be required to fix the problem.

While healing after the surgical procedure, it is important to make any dietary changes necessary until digestion returns to normal. Our pet experts are here to help and we do offer a personalized nutrition plan to support your pooch in cases like this.

Other then Neutering to reduce the risk of developing the same hernia as their parent, there are no other known preventative measures to take when trying to avoid hernias. They are hereditary which means these genes are passed down from parent to offspring

To help ease the pain and make this process much better for your dog, our pet experts recommend starting your furkid on a couple of NHV supplements, Yucca and Turmeric:

• Yucca helps reduce pain, inflammation, and discomfort, also helping stimulate appetite.
• Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and nutritive properties that increase overall vitality while helping support a variety of health conditions. It’s also great for overall cardiovascular health.

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with hernias, please reach out to any of our NHV pet experts. We are here to help you with information and guidance.


Published: February 14, 2020

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