Hernias in dogs are much more common than most owners realize, and contrary to some misconception, they do not always just affect males.
What is also not well known, is that if they are left untreated, they could be fatal.
When a hernia affects a dog, there is a weakness or an opening within a muscle mass that allows other tissues to pass through it.
The actual thought that a section of your dog’s intestine or other like structure might slip through an opening like this and move under the skin into a different body cavity, on the surface does, not seem like it would be a major problem.
However, if a hernia in your dog’s goes untreated, it can very easily cause the death of your dog.
What are threats to the life of your pet are not the abnormal displacements that are caused by hernias in dog, but rather by the interruption of the blood supply to the affected areas.
There are four different types of potential hernias that your dog can face, and all of them will show different symptoms.
The four types include Inguinal, Perineal, Diaphragmatic, and Hiatal hernias.
Perhaps the most common of all the potential hernias in dogs is referred to as an inguinal hernia, and is a situation where your dog’s abdominal contents protrude through the inguinal ring.
This type of hernia will occur in your dog’s inguinal part of their body, which is located at the inner fold of their rear leg, and is very close to their groin area.
This form of hernia can be quite small, or it can be extremely large.
It will first appear as a soft mass that has developed in your dog’s groin area, and if the opening is large enough, it can be very dangerous.
It can affect your dog’s intestinal loop, their urinary bladder, as well as the uterus and essentially trap them.
Once this occurs, it has now become a life threatening situation that will have to be surgically corrected.
A development of this type of a hernia can be either acquired or it can be a type of congenital or birth malformation.
HIf your dog is obese, pregnant, or has some type of a trauma, they can easily develop this potential killer.
Breeds that seem to be more at risk of this form include the Basenji, Basset hound, Cairn terrier and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Cocker spaniels, Chihuahua, Dachshund, Pekinese, Poodle, Pomeranian, and West highland white terriers are also affected more often.
This form of hernias in dogs has only one symptom, and that is the soft mass that will develop in the groin area.
However, there are several other symptoms that you can watch for that will signal intestinal strangulation is happening.
If you see any of these symptoms, you will need to seek immediate emergency care for your dog.
The first sign of strangulation will be the sudden development of a very painful sac that will be very warm when you touch it. When you do touch it, be very gentle as this may be part of the actual hernia sac.
Your dog may also start to suddenly vomit as well as show signs of severe abdominal pain and extreme discomfort.
The next form of hernias in dogs is referred to as a perineal hernia and is a situation where the abdominal contents of your pet actually protrude into the perineal region which is adjacent to their anus.
The exact cause of this form is still not fully understood, but it is believed to be the result of weakening in the muscles that form your dog’s tail and pelvic diaphragm.
This form of hernia can occur on just one side of your dog, or it can occur on both sides at the same time. It affects intact non-castrated males, generally in middle age.
Boston terriers, Welsh corgis, boxers, Pekingese, and Collies are the breeds most commonly affected with this type of hernia.
The symptoms are entirely different than the first form and once they have started your dog will have a very difficult time defecating or urinating.
As a result, they will become constipated and swelling will start to develop next to their anus.
Although it is serious, this form is not life threatening.
The next form of hernias in dogs is called diaphragmatic hernias.
The diaphragm in your dog is the muscle that actually separates the abdominal organs form the heart and lungs in your pet.
When it contracts, it allows for air to enter into your dog’s lungs.
When it becomes herniated, it allows the abdominal organs that include the liver, stomach, and the intestines to enter into your dog’s chest cavity.
Once this occurs, they will take up the space that is usually open and will start to compress the lungs.
As a result, your dog can not expand their chest properly and it will become very difficult for them to breath.
As serious as these sounds, it may only cause vomiting in some dogs and can actually go undetected until your dog is examined.
This form of hernia is not breed specific and is almost always caused by some type of a trauma.
The most common cause is someone kicking your dog, being hit by a car, or falling from a severe height.
This form of hernia in dogs will show several symptoms. The first may or may not be a difficulty in breathing, or the complete inverse; very rapid breathing.
It may also cause your dog to cough, which is the worst sound your dog can make and is never a good sign.
However, if the organs have become trapped, it will also show several other symptoms including vomiting, not eating at all and as a result, anorexia develops.
It may also cause abdominal distention.
But the symptoms do not end there as this can also be a very dangerous situation for your dog.
If it is severe enough it can cause your dog to collapse and then very rapidly go into shock.
A vast majority of dogs that go into shock do not recover.
The final form of hernias in dogs is called hiatal hernias and is protrusions from abdominal contents in your dog that enters into their chest cavity.
This usually happens through their esophageal hiatus, which is the natural opening in the diaphragm that allows the passage of the esophagus.
These types of hernias can occur randomly or they can become quite persistent.
The cause of this type of hernia is generally the result of a gastric reflux which causes inflammation of the esophagus.
The symptoms with this form will include vomiting, excessive drooling, as well as regurgitation which is an effortless spiting up of fluids, mucus, as well as undigested food.
Hernias in dogs may go for weeks or months before they are actually detected, unless they are severe. If they become severe, they can very quickly threaten your dog's life.
Once you suspect a hernia, it should be treated by your veterinarian as quickly as possible.