Inguinal Dog Hernia

There are three common dog hernia forms. Hernias occur when an opening in muscle allows organs to slip out of place. A diaphragmatic hernia occurs when the diaphragm muscle opens allowing abdominal organs into the chest cavity. An umbilical hernia occurs where the umbilical cord connects. It's most commonly found in puppies and organs or intestines are able to pass through the opening pressing against the skin near the belly button. However, an inguinal hernia is the one most pet owner's think of when they hear “hernia.”

With an inguinal hernia, the opening of the muscle is back at the groin area. Organs slip through this open area of muscle creating the painful bulge near the inside of the rear leg. The danger with an inguinal hernia is that the intestines frequently slip out of place. They can become twisted or blood flow constricts causing a life-threatening situation.

Causes of an Inguinal Dog Hernia

Inguinal hernias can be a genetic deformation caused at birth. However, these dog hernias are most common in older female dogs. Pregnancy and being overweight are high risk factors. Veterinarians may catch them while doing a routine spay and close them up, but this isn't always the case. Male dogs are less likely to develop an inguinal hernia, however dogs with an undescended testicle do have a higher risk.

Certain breeds are also more susceptible to developing inguinal hernias. If you're purchasing one of these breeds, ask the breeder if they've had their dogs checked for inguinal hernias. Some feel that if the parents are cleared of this condition, the puppies should be fine. These breeds include:

  • Basenji

  • Basset Hounds

  • Cairn Terriers

  • Chihuahuas

  • Cocker Spaniels

  • Dachshund

  • King Charles Spaniels

  • Maltese

  • Pekinese

  • Pomeranians

  • Poodles

  • West Highland Terriers

Symptoms of an Inguinal Dog Hernia

Many times, your key sign of a dog hernia is a mass in the groin or inside leg. The mass will be soft to the touch and may feel very warm. If the intestines have slipped through the hernia you may notice a lack of appetite or vomiting. The dog may become very lethargic and seem depressed.

Seek veterinary care. Even if hernia isn't to blame, it's best to err on the side of caution because once the intestines' blood flow is affected, the dog can die within hours. Your vet will complete a physical examination and may be able to manipulate the intestines back through the opening in the muscle. X-rays and ultrasounds of the abdominal area may also be ordered.

Treatment for an Inguinal Dog Hernia

Once the size and location of the hernia is known, surgery is the best possible treatment. The veterinary surgeon will make an incision over the muscle opening and ensure all of the organs or intestinal loop are back in their proper place. Once they are place, the muscle opening is closed up. The incision is stitched up and your pet will be put in a sterile kennel for recovery.

At home, you will need to watch for redness, oozing or swelling at the incision site. If you notice abdominal swelling, contact your veterinary office immediately.