Symptoms of Hernia in Dogs

Hernia in dogs occurs when tissue or internal organs bulge through a tear in the muscle wall. There are four common types of hernia in dogs: umbilical, inguinal, perineal and diaphragmatic.

Types of Canine Hernias

Umbilical hernias are the most common type found in dogs. They occur in the abdomen near the belly button, where your dog's umbilical cord was attached when it was born. Usually, it's just fatty tissue that's protruding through the tear in the muscle, though internal organs can pass through the tear as well.

Inguinal hernias occur in the groin area, inside the rear leg. Abdominal organs such as the intestines are more likely to protrude from the body.

Perineal hernias occur in the muscles beneath the tail and around the anus. These are common in geriatric dogs, especially males.

Diaphragmatic hernias are the most dangerous. They occur in the dog's diaphragm, the muscle that separates his chest cavity from his abdominal cavity and helps his lungs inflate and deflate. With this type of hernia, the liver, intestines and other abdominal organs can pass into the chest cavity and place pressure on the lungs.

Risks Associated with Canine Hernias

Hernia in dogs carries a number of health risks. In fact, without treatment, hernias can be deadly.

The deadly consequences aren't necessarily due to the fact that tissues and internal organs are displaced or even resting outside the body. While diaphragmatic hernias can exert dangerous pressure on the heart and lungs, for the most part, the dangers associated with canine hernia involve a reduced blood supply to the herniated tissues or organs.

When tissues and organs become herniated, blood flow is constricted. The tissues that have passed through the tear in the muscle wall eventually die.

Symptoms of Canine Hernia

The symptoms become increasingly severe as blood flow to the herniated tissues becomes more constricted. Unless the hernia occurs in the diaphragm, you will usually be able to see it on the outside of your dog's body.

As blood vessels become more constricted, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Severe pain
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of thirst

As the herniated tissue dies, the affected area becomes abcessed. Major organ failure usually follows. Once the hernia has progressed to this point, your dog will die without treatment.

Not all hernias are deadly, however; those in which internal organs protrude from the body are most likely to put your dog's health at risk. In some cases, especially in umbilical hernias, it's only fatty tissue protruding through the tear in the muscle. If that's the case, and your dog is young, hernia surgery may be postponed. Vets usually like to perform it as soon as possible in geriatric pets.

Dog hernias are treated surgically. Vets use long lasting sutures to repair the tear in the muscles. The condition can be hereditary, so dogs who have suffered hernias should not be bred.