Perineal Hernia in Dogs

A perineal hernia in dogs can be a life-threatening condition if left untreated. Not only does this condition cause a great deal of pain for the dog, but neglecting to seek treatment can cause digestive problems as well as infection to develop. In order for dog owners to seek treatment for perineal hernia in dogs, it is imperative to recognize the signs and symptoms.

Perineal Hernias Explained

The anal region of a dog is known as the perineum. Within the abdomen and pelvic cavities are structural linings that provide support and hold organs (intestines, rectum, prostate, bladder) in place. When these organs are able to protrude against that lining, or if the pelvic diaphragm becomes structurally lax, a perineal hernia develops.

Risk Factors for Dog Hernias

Recent studies have shown that there does appear to be a genetic predisposition to perineal hernias. Breeds such as the Boxer, Boston Terrier, Collie, Pekingese and Dachshund are more likely to develop the condition versus other breeds.

Perineal hernias are also much more common in dogs than in cats, and typically more common in male dogs than female dogs. In general, perineal hernias are much more likely to occur in older dogs because of the natural deconditioning of supportive muscles during the aging process.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Hernias

The signs of a perineal hernia in dogs are typically very recognizable. A perineal hernia will appear as a well-rounded lump in the pelvic, abdominal, or rectal area. It will be soft and actually feel somewhat squishy to the touch. The key here is to realize that without medical treatment, the hernia will not reduce in size. In fact, it will continuously get larger and cause more pain.

Aside from the appearance of the perineal hernia, dog owners may also notice any of these symptoms:

  • Lethargy and generalized weakness
  • Lack of desire to participate in normal activities
  • Physical appearance of pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Constipation or difficulty urinating
  • Swelling of the anus

Diagnosis and Identification

The diagnosis of a perineal hernia in dogs is often suspected by looking at the affected area. However, because there can be several underlying causes for this development, it is important that diagnostic testing be performed to ensure that the exact cause can be identified.

The first method of testing is usually an abdominal or rectal x-ray. This will show the veterinarian the precise location of the hernia, as well as how invasive the condition is. An ultrasound may also be used to help determine the specific cause of the perineal hernia. This method allows for a more in-depth examination of the area.

Treating the Condition

Surgery is usually the best way to correct perineal hernias in dogs. If the hernia does not appear to be severe, however, less invasive methods of treatment may be tried first. Stool softeners and laxatives may be given to help reduce the need to strain during urination and defecation.

In general, perineal hernias are not treated as medical emergencies, meaning that surgery may be safely scheduled within a week or so from the date of diagnosis. However, depending on which of the surrounding abdominal structures are involved, it could be identified as a medical emergency.