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Dog & Puppy Hernias: Everything You Need to Know

Dog and Puppy Hernias

When a dog or puppy develops a hernia, dog lovers may find it alarming and may experience panic if they are unaware of how to handle it. Nothing worries a pet owner more than seeing their pet in pain. 

However, you may be surprised by how common puppy hernias are, and even if they require surgery, the prognosis is positive. 

In dogs and puppies, hernias are very common, especially since 90% of cases are congenital. Not all hernias are life-threatening, and surgery is usually a simple option to cure the condition.

Having learned they are curable, the next step is finding out whether your dog or puppy has a hernia. This can be determined through a physical examination or watching your dog or puppy for hernia symptoms.

In this article, we discuss the types of hernia found in dogs, the symptoms they cause, and how they’re treated. Hernia repair is a common surgery for dogs and is typically very effective. 

If you want to learn more about puppy hernias, continue reading below.

What is a Puppy Hernia?

A hernia is a common condition in puppies,  where the contents of the abdomen push through a hole or tear on the fatty tissue or muscle wall. The condition manifests similarly to humans and is relatively common in dogs, particularly puppies. 

More than 90% of recorded hernia cases in canines are brought about primarily by genetics since puppies with this condition are generally born with them. The remaining 10% of cases develop due to trauma. 

A hernia’s severity or potential complications will depend on where it has developed. By identifying this, veterinarians can determine whether the hernia is a concern or not. There are a few common types of hernia developed in dogs, ranging from mild and non-concerning to severe and life-threatening. 

The following symptoms may show in dogs that develop a hernia:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cramping
  • High fever
  • Numbness in the legs
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive drooling

If you suspect your dog has developed a hernia, it is important to take them to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis immediately. Although hernias are usually visible, there are cases in which a veterinarian will have to do a physical exam to determine the condition. In some cases, an x-ray will even be required to identify the exact location of the hernia.

Are Puppy Hernias Common? 

Yes, puppy hernias are relatively common, especially since the condition is usually congenital, meaning the puppy is born with it.

Are Puppy Hernias Painful? 

Yes. Hernias can be painful; your dog or puppy will show signs of pain if it has the condition. This is also why puppies tend to lack appetite or be lethargic.

How Serious is an Umbilical Hernia in a Puppy?

An umbilical hernia is the most common type found in puppies and generally poses no serious health threat. However, there is a chance for parts of the intestines or other tissues to be trapped and cause strangulation. This is a health emergency that requires immediate surgery. As such, it is highly advisable to consult a veterinarian regardless of the hernia’s severity.

What Causes Hernias in Puppies?

Hernias in puppies can be caused by several factors, including genetics, trauma, and injury. Hernias in dogs are categorised as either congenital (genetic or present at birth) or caused by later trauma. Some types of hernias can be congenital or caused by injury, so it’s important to consult a vet to determine the root cause. 

Certain genetic and hormonal conditions can predispose a dog to hernias, along with other conditions such as dog hip dysplasia and patellar (knee) disclosations. They are also more common in specific dog breeds. 

There are five types of hernia found in dogs: 

  1. Umbilical Hernia – This is the most common type found in puppies. It can be identified as a soft, squishy protrusion in the proximity of the puppy’s navel. Although this type of hernia can usually heal on its own, your puppy may need surgery to repair the hernia if it has already been neutered. If you notice a bulge on your puppy but aren’t sure if it’s an umbilical hernia, consult your veterinarian.
  2. Hiatal Hernia – The most severe type of hernia on this list, Hiatal hernias, is typically caused by trauma or injury but can also be congenital. The diaphragm’s opening may sometimes be large enough to allow the stomach to enter the chest cavity or move back and forth. This is why these hernias are most common in brachycephalic breeds since their restricted airway creates pressure that can draw the stomach through the opening.
  3. Inguinal Hernia – This type of hernia occurs around the groin, where the dog’s hind leg meets the body. Inguinal hernias form in different sizes and most often occur in middle-aged female dogs, posing a higher risk during pregnancy. This is because larger inguinal hernias can impact the uterus or bladder, resulting in a life-threatening condition.
  4. Diaphragmatic Hernia – As the name suggests, this hernia is caused by a hole in the diaphragm. This muscle is critical in separating a dog’s chest from its abdomen. The hole allows the dog’s internal organs to enter its chest cavity, making breathing difficult. This particular type of hernia is usually congenital.
  5. Perineal Hernia – A perineal hernia is caused by a tear within a dog’s pelvic muscles, which allows the abdominal organs to push through. This is most common in non-neutered male dogs over five years old and certain breeds like Boston Terriers, Boxers, Corgis and Collies, among others. 

What is the Treatment for Puppy Hernias?

Treating puppy hernias usually requires surgery to return the organs to their original position and repair the tear. The veterinary surgeon may also reinforce the area with mesh during hernia repair surgery.

Almost all instances of hernias in puppies require surgery and seldom resolve themselves naturally. Puppy hernias only resolve by themselves in cases where the hernia is less than 3mm in size, which is exceedingly rare. Even at 1cm in size, an umbilical hernia poses a serious health risk to your puppy and should be immediately seen by a veterinary surgeon. 

Just like in people, hernias pose a significant risk to the health of your puppy. If you notice your puppy has a hernia or symptoms of a puppy hernia, it’s essential to consult the veterinarian on what should be done and the best way forward.

Remember that you should give your puppy a hernia surgery aftercare based on your veterinarian’s instructions. This includes: 

  • Pain medications to keep them comfortable and reduce swelling. 
  • Keep your dog calm and still as much as possible to avoid tearing stitches or staples 
  • Watch for signs of infection such as yellow discharge or bleeding 
  • Attend any follow-up appointment required by your vet, including removal of stitches or staples

Do Puppy Hernias Go Away? 

Some small hernias in dogs may go away without treatment. However, this is very rare, and if your puppy has a hernia, they will likely need surgery. Umbilical hernias smaller than 3mm may close without treatment when the puppy reaches 3-4 months old. If the hernia does not close by then, surgery will be required. 

Can a Puppy Live With an Umbilical Hernia?

Yes. Puppies that have developed a small umbilical hernia may not need surgery since small defects like such in the dog’s body will not pose any threat. However, this is something that the veterinarian will ultimately determine, so consulting a veterinarian is still the best course of action.

What does Puppy Hernia Surgery Involve?

A puppy hernia will involve the removal of misplaced abdominal contents, placing them back into the abdomen, and repairing the tear that allowed them to move into other cavities in the first place. Most types of hernia operations may be performed by a primary veterinarian, while rare types or complex cases may have to be referred to a boarded veterinary surgeon.

How Much Does Puppy Hernia Surgery Cost?

Umbilical hernia surgery costs less than $200 if done at the same time as neutering surgery. Alone, umbilical surgery typically costs less than $1,000, even with high care. However, for some types of hernias, like perineal and diaphragmatic hernias, costs can  exceed $2,000 due to the complexity of the surgery.  

Despite the cost, the benefit of having your dog or puppy cured of a hernia is well worth the cost. Seeing your furry friend live their life without the pain of an untreated hernia is unmatched. Treat your dog well and make sure it gets the medical treatment it deserves!

What Age Can a Puppy Have a Hernia Operation? 

If the hernia is small and relatively stable, meaning it isn’t getting worse, a surgical procedure may be done on your puppy once they’re old enough. Otherwise, umbilical hernia surgery can also be done at the same time as a puppy is desexed. This is usually around six months old.

What Should I Do if My Puppy Has a Hernia? 

If you suspect or have found out that your puppy has a hernia, keep your pet in a stable position and call your veterinarian immediately. Schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible to identify whether your puppy’s hernia is life-threatening or not. 

Can You Push a Puppy’s Hernia Back In? 

You should always rely on a professional veterinarian to fix your pet’s hernia. Some hernias are ‘reducible’, which means the protrusion may be pushed back into the puppy’s abdomen. This is not always the case, so consult your vet and proceed with caution.

Related Questions 

Can You Breed Dogs With Umbilical Hernias?

If you can determine that the umbilical hernia is mechanical and not genetic, it should be safe to breed a dog with a hernia. This is when the hernia happens during whelping due to too much pulling or an overeager dam. 

Disclaimer:

This article is published in good faith, for general informational and educational purposes only. Paws and More Vet Centre does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. This article should not be used as a substitute for veterinary advice, including for diagnosis or treatment of a pet’s medical condition. Always consult a veterinary professional before making decisions on your pet’s health. 

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