A hernia is a protrusion of fat and/or bowel through an opening in the body wall that would normally close during development. The protrusion produces a bulge. The two common sites for hernia are the groin and navel. A hernia in the groin is called an inguinal hernia, and one in the navel area is called an umbilical hernia. Perineal hernias occur in adult dogs near the rectal area.
If the bulge can be pushed back into the abdomen, the hernia is reducible. If not, it is incarcerated. An incarcerated hernia becomes strangulated when the blood supply to the contents of the hernia sac is pinched off. An incarcerated hernia often becomes strangulated over time. Any hard or painful swelling at the navel or in the groin could be an incarcerated hernia and will require immediate veterinary attention.
Hernias have a hereditary basis, because there is a genetic predisposition for delayed closure of the abdominal ring. Dogs born with hernias that do not close spontaneously should not be bred. Rarely, a navel hernia may develop when the umbilical cord is cut too close to the abdominal wall.
Inguinal hernias are more common in female dogs. A bulge in the groin may not be seen until after the bitch has been bred or becomes very old, in which case a pregnant or diseased uterus may be incarcerated in the hernia. These hernias should be repaired. Small inguinal hernias in male puppies can be watched closely, as many will close spontaneously. If they do not, ask to have them repaired.
Umbilical hernias occur frequently in puppies at about 2 weeks of age. They usually get smaller and disappear by 6 months of age. Binding the abdominal wall with straps does not increase the chance of closure.
Treatment: If you can push a finger through the umbilical ring, the hernia should be repaired. The operation is not difficult and the pup can go home the same day. In females, repair of an umbilical hernia can often be delayed until the time of spaying.