A hernia is caused by tears or bulges in the body that allow tissues or organs to pass or protrude through. Hernias can be genetic or the result of an injury. There are different types of hernias, and they can occur in different areas of the body.
Some hernias can be detected through X-rays and others may appear only through symptoms such as eating problems, respiratory trouble or excessive salivation. Hernias do have the potential to be life-threatening, so take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as you notice either an unusual bulge or symptoms of illness.
How Do I Know If It’s a Hernia?
There are several symptoms to look for if your dog has a hernia. Any unusual symptoms outside of normal behavior should be cause for concern, but these symptoms are attributed to hernias:
- Bulge or protrusions under the skin
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty urinating
- Breathing difficulty
- Problems with mobility
Types of Hernias
- Umbilical: An umbilical hernia is usually inherited through genetics and is not caused by cutting the umbilical cord too close. This hernia appears as a swelling or bulge near or under the belly button that may adjust as the dog eats. These hernias are not considered serious and usually close on their own. Large ones may grab or encapsulate other organs or intestines and restrict blood flow as it closes. The loss of blood flow can be life-threatening, so always have the hernia examined by a veterinarian.
- Inguinal: These hernias appear in the groin area and are most commonly seen in females that are pregnant, bloated or constipated. Males can be affected by this type of hernia, but this is uncommon. Recurrence on the opposite (healthy) groin is possible, so both sides should be checked by your vet.
- Perineal: These hernias appear around the anus and are usually caused by hereditary muscle weakness or muscles that weakened from other causes. This type of hernia typically affects older males more than females. A hernia can appear on one or both sides of the anus. The anal glands are commonly removed when the hernia is being treated surgically since they are usually the cause of the hernia. Perineal hernias are more common in small or toy dogs.
- Diaphragmatic: Most of these hernias appear after car accidents but can be the result of genetics. These are the most difficult to treat because of the locations of nearby internal organs. The hernia is caused by a tear where the diaphragm meets the rib cage. This can put pressure on internal organs and cause difficulty with breathing.
Treatment for all hernias in dogs is surgery unless it is an umbilical hernia that closes and resolves itself. Hernias are most commonly mistaken for tumors, but do not try to diagnose your dog yourself; what may appear to be a small and harmless hernia to you might be one that is pressing on other organs that you can’t see or cutting off blood supply to other parts of the body.
Let your veterinarian make the determination and decide the time and type of treatment needed; it just might save your pet’s life.
Hernias can be passed down through generations, and affected dogs are usually not recommended for breeding. If you want to breed for pets and not for show animals, be prepared to have the offspring examined and treated for hernias if they exist in the parents.
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This guest post was written by Kristine Lacoste, a writer and editor with PetsAdviser.com, a pet advice site.