You’ve been told your puppy has a hernia. Any medical problem is worrying for a new puppy owner and one that may require surgery to fix is especially daunting.
Fortunately, while some hernias may be serious, most puppies with this condition are not severely affected by it. Despite this, however, many will require remedial surgery to correct it and prevent future complications.
This article will answer some of the questions you might have about this condition and settle some of the anxieties it might cause.
Perineal hernias are swellings around the bottom of older dogs (and cats). Usually, middle-aged to older entire (not neutered) males are affected. This is thought to be due to straining caused by enlarged prostates in these animals in addition to muscle weakening in the pelvic area.
Occasionally, these hernias can trap the bladder or bowel, leading to symptoms such as your dog becoming unwell, vomiting, or being unable to pass urine. All perineal hernias should be managed surgically to reconstruct the pelvic muscle support, as life-threatening organ entrapment can occur. Castration should also be carried out at the same time to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Post-operative care will include antibiotics, pain relief, and stool softeners to prevent straining. These may be required long term. Your dog will need to be kept quiet for 2 weeks following surgery as swelling and bruising is relatively common.
Prognosis is good for most cases, with infection and recurrence of hernias being the main potential complications in around 10-15% of cases. When paid for at admission, perineal hernia repair surgery costs £929.
Efficacy of Hernia Repair in Dogs
Hernia treatment is generally effective and effects are permanent, especially if recovery is smooth. Alternative treatment of hernias are not generally recommended due to the risk of entrapped tissue becoming strangulated (blood supply cut off) and dying. Once this occurs there is a high risk of infection which could lead to sepsis.
After surgery, your dog will be given pain medication for any postoperative pain. You will need to keep your dog still (no jumping, running, rough play) for 10 days while the skin incisions heal to reduce the risk of dehiscence (sutures coming apart). Your dog will also be given an Elizabethan collar to prevent chewing at the incision site. After surgery, you will need to monitor your dog’s incision for signs of infection such as swelling, heat and discharge. Generally, after the suture removal appointment, there is no need to follow up with your veterinarian for the procedure.
What is a hernia and what causes them?
Hernias are a common congenital condition (meaning that puppies are born with them), affecting around 1 in 500 puppies. Although they can make some dogs seriously unwell, most are usually discovered at a puppy’s first checks or vaccinations without any associated or preceding signs of ill-health.
A hernia is a hole in the muscle wall of the tummy (abdomen) which allows the abdominal contents (fat, intestines and other organs) to squeeze through into a space under the skin or, less commonly, through the diaphragm into the chest. This usually causes a soft, squishy swelling under the skin, which often fluctuates in size. It may occasionally pop in and out of the tummy, disappearing for short periods of time. Hernias involving the chest don’t show obvious external changes but instead affect a puppy’s breathing, or cause chronic (ongoing) vomiting.
While some hernias result from trauma causing a tear in the muscle, most puppy hernias are congenital problems. This is where the muscle fails to develop properly. There may be a genetic element to this condition, as some breeds appear more susceptible. So it is advisable not to breed from a dog with a hernia.
Hernias typically arise in specific locations. The commonest kind in puppies are umbilical hernias, located near a puppy’s belly button. These result from the muscle failing to close over the area where the umbilical cord entered the body. Less frequently, hernias are found in the groin (inguinal) or next to the bottom (perineal). These are more common in older dogs and can be uncomfortable or cause problems with a dog’s ability to toilet properly. The rarest kind of hernias involve the diaphragm and can be more difficult to diagnose as they are less obvious from outside.
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