What does a hernia look like in a female puppy? Tips and Tricks

What Exactly Is an Umbilical Hernia?

In an unborn puppy, the umbilicus slips out through an opening in the puppys stomach wall to connect to the placenta. When a puppy is born, his dam chews or breaks this umbilical cord or the breeder cuts it and ties it off. It dries and shrivels up, leaving behind the “belly button.”

Generally the abdominal wall closes up in the young puppy, leaving a solid abdomen. Sometimes a small bit of fat may get stuck in the opening, which leaves an “outie” belly button. Occasionally the wall of the abdomen simply does not close all the way. That is when we say a puppy or dog has an umbilical hernia.

Hiatal hernias form at the opening of the diaphragm where the esophagus meets the stomach. They occur when part of the stomach or other organs push through this opening. They can be caused by injury or a congenital condition. Sometimes the stomach will slip back and forth between the chest and abdomen, which is known as a sliding hernia.

If you notice a soft and squishy bulge near your puppy’s belly button, they may have an umbilical hernia. These hernias happen when the umbilical ring fails to close completely after birth. They may close up on their own by the time the puppy turns three or four months old. If they don’t, they typically require surgery. Your veterinarian may be able to fix the hernia at the same time your puppy is spayed or neutered.

An inguinal hernia occurs near the groin where your dog’s hind leg attaches to their body. If the inguinal hernia is large, the bladder or uterus may become trapped, which can be a life-threatening situation. This type of hernia is more common in pregnant dogs, but it can also be caused by trauma.

The diaphragm is a thin muscle at the base of your dog’s chest. It contracts to help pull air into the lungs and relaxes when air is expelled. If this muscle is torn or disrupted, internal organs, including the stomach, liver, and intestines, can enter the chest cavity, which can result in respiratory distress.

Diaphragmatic hernias are typically caused by trauma, and they can be life-threatening. If your dog has a serious accident, you should seek medical attention immediately. Even if your dog doesn’t have any visible injuries, they may need treatment for something you can’t see, such as a diaphragmatic hernia or internal bleeding.


If you suspect your dog has developed a hernia, your veterinarian has a number of tools at his disposal to confirm whether or not you are correct. Umbilical and inguinal hernias can typically be diagnosed by palpating, touching with slight pressure, the abdomen or groin during a physical exam. However, further imaging may be needed to confirm the progression of the condition and whether any vital organs such as the intestines or other abdominal organs are protruding through the herniated section of the muscle or fascia. For hernias that open into the chest cavity, such as diaphragmatic or hiatal, imaging studies such as x-rays and ultrasound will be required to make the same determination regarding the displacement of organs in those spaces by the hernia and to what extent.

All hernias will require surgery in order to repair the muscle wall which has been torn. During surgery, your veterinarian will replace the contents of the abdomen and repair the defect so the organs remain where they are supposed to be moving forward. The surgery can be challenging depending on the size of the tear, whether or not organ damage was sustained when they were herniated, and the overall health of your dog.

Prior to surgery, you will be required to keep your dog off food for at least 12 hours to lessen the chance of nausea associated with certain anesthetic premedication agents.

While some hernias, such as perineal, may not require an abdominal exploration, other repairs are much more complex, like diaphragmatic or hiatal, and involve the abdominal and thoracic cavities. In general, the steps of a hernia repair will look something like this:

  • Pre-anesthesia and anesthesia medications administered.
  • Position the animal for surgery – on his back for abdominal or thoracic hernias and on his stomach for perineal hernias.
  • Prepare the incisional area by shaving and cleaning the skin.
  • Move into the operating room if preparation was completed in a separate room.
  • Place drapes for surgery to protect and help keep the operating field clean.
  • Sterilize the skin which will be incised.
  • Make an incision along appropriate plane for the specific type of hernia.
  • Identify, also known as visualization, the hernia and remove any necrotic, or dead, tissue from around the wound.
  • Repair the defect in the muscle layers by stitching it back together. A mesh patch may be used to help repair large tears.
  • Check the abdomen, or other surrounding cavities, for bleeding.
  • Close the Incision.
  • Due to the extent of the surgery, hernia repair surgery can be quite expensive and the exact price will vary depending on the location of the hernia and the cost of living in your area. Typically, hernia repair expenses range from $700, for less complex and common hernias, to $2,500 for more complex cases. The average cost of a canine hernia repair is about $1,600 including diagnosis, surgery, and aftercare.

    Hernia surgery can be a lifesaving procedure with long lasting benefits. Following a repair, the potential for another hernia occurrence in the same location is low.

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