There is good news and bad news when it comes to hernias. The bad news is, depending on the type, they can be life-threatening. The good news is that they are completely treatable!
There are five common types of hernias seen in pets:
· Umbilical: This is the most common type of hernia. These are congenital and most commonly seen in puppies. If your pooch has an umbilical hernia, you will notice that her belly button has been replaced by a squishy protrusion. Depending on the size, these can either heal on their own or can be surgically fixed when your puppy is spayed or neutered. Failure to repair the hernia, if large enough, can lead to serious complications.
· Inguinal: These hernias occur in the “groin” area, where the inner fold of the rear leg attaches to the body wall. These can range in size from small to large, and—if the opening is large enough—portions of the intestine, the bladder, or the uterus can become trapped within the hernia, causing a life-threatening problem. This type is considered congenital and often affects middle-aged female dogs, especially those who are pregnant. These should be surgically fixed immediately to avoid complications.
· Diaphragmatic: The muscle that separates the abdominal organs from your dog’s heart and lungs is called the diaphragm. A hole in the diaphragm allows the internal organs to enter the chest cavity, making it difficult for your dog to breath. These hernias can either be congenital or the result of an injury; most commonly, being hit by a car.
· Perineal: When the muscles of the pelvis tear, abdominal contents enter the area adjacent to the anus. Some breeds are predisposed to this type of hernia, and it commonly occurs in unneutered male dogs over the age of 5. (Bottom line: Be sure to neuter your dog!)
· Hiatal: This type of hernia develops when a portion of the stomach pushes into the diaphragm, where the esophagus joins the stomach. Hiatal hernias can be congenital or the result of trauma.