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What is Diaphragmatic Hernia?

A feline with a diaphragmatic hernia will be reluctant to exercise due to the effort it takes to fill the crowded lungs with air and will present signs of breathing difficulties.

A diaphragmatic hernia in cats is a tear or rupture in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the sheet of muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest cavity. If that sheet of muscle becomes torn, the organs from the bottom half of the cat’s body push through into the chest cavity. The stomach, intestines, or liver may push against the cat’s lungs, making breathing very difficult for the cat. In other cases, the intruding organs crowd the heart, causing rhythm and auscultation abnormalities.

Diaphragmatic Hernia Average Cost

From 428 quotes ranging from $300 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats

Symptoms of diaphragmatic hernia in cats depend on the severity and cause of the hernia. Classic clinical signs associated with diaphragmatic hernia include the following symptoms: 

  • Muffled heart sounds
  • Irregular lung sounds
  • Lethargy 
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Tachypnea (increased respiration) 
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath) 
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Labored breathing 
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

In felines with a mild case of herniation, the cat may display the previously listed clinical signs for a few days. Symptoms may then disappear as the condition stabilizes. As the herniated tissues still remain, the symptoms can reappear upon physical activity or stressful situations. Depending on the organs affected by the cat’s diaphragmatic hernia, the feline may also suffer from:

  • Coughing 
  • Weakness
  • Anorexia 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Abdominal distension 
  • Pneumothorax (air in the chest cavity) 
  • Hemothorax (blood in the chest cavity) 

Types

There are two types of diaphragmatic hernia in cats; congenital and traumatic diaphragmatic hernia. Although the term is synonymously used for both types, each should be considered separately, as the underlying causes differ greatly. 

Congenital

A congenital diaphragmatic hernia is present at birth likely caused by fetal development inside the womb. The most common type of congenital diaphragmatic hernia in cats is called peritoneal-pericardial diaphragmatic hernia (PPDH). 

Traumatic

A traumatic diaphragmatic hernia is caused by blunt force, tearing the diaphragm. 

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Causes of Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats

The cause of a congenital diaphragmatic hernia in cats is the result of an undeveloped fetal diaphragm. Although present at the time of birth, the clinical signs of a diaphragmatic hernia may not present themselves until the feline reaches 1-2 years of age. 

Traumatic diaphragmatic hernias in cats are caused by blunt force, rupturing, tearing or bruising the muscle of the diaphragm. Common examples of blunt force linked to diaphragmatic herniation in feline includes: 

  • Hard falls 
  • Abusive trauma 
  • Car accidents 
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Diagnosis of Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats

The diagnosis of diaphragmatic hernia in cats begins with careful physical examination conducted by the veterinarian. Your cat’s doctor will listen to her heart and lungs, tapping on the abdomen in addition to the chest for clinical signs suggestive of a herniated diaphragm. A definitive diagnosis will need to be made to prove the vet’s hypothesis, which is most commonly completed through x-rays of the chest and abdomen. Upon standardized radiography images, the images will reveal displaced abdominal organs and an irregularly shaped diaphragm if the feline does indeed have a herniated diaphragm. Your veterinarian may further his diagnostic examination by requesting a specialized x-ray that use dyes to highlight in intestine and stomach. Additionally, your cat’s doctor may request blood work from your cat, an electrocardiogram, fluid aspiration from the chest and perhaps a surgical exploration of the chest.

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Treatment of Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats

The only treatment available to cats with a diaphragmatic hernia is surgical repair, which should be performed once the cat is stable. To reach stabilization, the veterinary team may place the feline on oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids to restore hydration. If fluid on the lungs has been noted, a chest tap (thoracentesis) will likely take place to remove the crowding fluids off of the lungs and heart. The focus of the diaphragmatic hernia surgery itself entails repositioning the organs in their correct place and repairing the torn, or ruptured, diaphragm muscles. 

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Recovery of Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats

Your cat will require inpatient hospitalization following surgery in a time frame set by your veterinary care professional. Expect your feline to stay at least a day in the hospital as tubes are commonly placed in surgeries involving the chest cavity to avoid fluid accumulation. Pain management is the largest part of diaphragmatic hernia aftercare, so the doctor will likely administer pain drugs to the feline while she is in the hospital and send you home with a prescription. Once the feline is released, it is important for pet owners to restrict physical activity for a few days to prevent damage to the surgical site. Giving your cat a chance to rest will also speed up her healing time and make for a better recovery. 

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Diaphragmatic Hernia Average Cost

From 428 quotes ranging from $300 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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Diaphragmatic Hernia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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MICKEY

dog-breed-icon

Shorthair

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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Critical severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Difficulty Breathing

I just had to put my cat down due to a diaphragmatic hernia. At the ER x-rays were taken and showed no broken bones, no internal bleeding, no sign of any force blunt trauma....I'm curious how this happened. He was 3 and very active outside about 12 hrs a day....

July 14, 2018

MICKEY's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Cases of diaphragmatic hernia may be either congenital (from birth) or from trauma (not always visible signs of trauma); some cats (and other animals) may live their whole lives with a diaphragmatic hernia without any symptoms whilst others will present with symptoms. I cannot say for certain what the specific cause of the diaphragmatic hernia was unfortunately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 14, 2018

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Majique

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Common

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

After Surgery Pain
Broken Femur

Hello. I have a barely 1 years old female European cat who just had surgery for traumatic diaphragmatic hernia. She got the surgery in the first 24 hours after the trauma, after 1 day they sent her home saying everything went good and we are visiting once a day a different vet then the one who operated for daily medicine. The problem is she still has a broken femur to be operated in 2 weeks. I was told that at this point the pain she is experiencing is the biggest problem. Please give me any opinion on the case and advice how to take care of her. Thank you!

July 2, 2018

Majique's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Without examining Majique and seeing x-rays I cannot fully weigh in, however pain will be a concern until the next surgery is performed; you should follow the instructions from your Veterinarian and ensure that Majique’s movement is restricted. I cannot really give you any practical advice as I don’t know the type of fracture or how your Veterinarian has stabilised it (cast, splint etc…). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 2, 2018

I just had to put my cat down from a diaphragmatic hernia. I would like to know how it happened as it was very sudden. He was 3, was an indoor/outdoor cat and was VERY active outside as he loved to hunt birds and things. At the ER x-rays were taken and showed no broken bones or torn ligaments, no puncture or bite marks, no internal/external bleeding or bruising...he was completely fine except for a huge tear in his diaphragm.I highly doubt he was hit by a car or kicked....was just wondering how this could happen he was in exceptional shape for a cat

July 14, 2018

Scott

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Cloud

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DOMESTIC

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

Clouds X-rays show his spleen completely wears around his heart. This question won’t allow me to attach a picture, otherwise I’d give it. He acts fairly normal and isn’t in any obvious pain. His breathing isn’t consistent fast. But the vet told me he’d need surgery immediately. I can’t afford the surgery (she told me total costs including recover would be close to $7000). Is there a way to know his life expectancy? It’s been 5 days since the X-ray was taken. I don’t want to put him down before I absolutely have to. Is it possible he could live for another year or so?

July 1, 2018

Cloud's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Diaphragmatic hernias may vary widely from case to case, the x-ray would confirm the presence of the hernia but it is the symptoms which are presenting which determine the overall urgency for surgical correction. Life expectancy also varies widely, sometimes a cat may be perfectly normal with a severe hernia whilst a relatively small hernia is showing life threatening symptoms. If Cloud is showing symptoms, surgical correction is needed; if price is a concern, you should think about reaching out to a charity or other organisation for help similar like the one below in the first link. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.helpinghandsvetva.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/HHV-1700-4-17-Price-Guide_nobleedcurrent-5-2018_aside-from-dates.pdf www.dogingtonpost.com/need-help-with-vet-bills-or-pet-food-there-are-resources-available/

July 1, 2018

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Sasha

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American Short Hair

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty

My cat intestines are in one lung if I'm correct she is due for surgery may 1st.she seems fine I checked her for breathing found out late Jan. They say she has a 50 50 chance I would like to know that I'm doing what's right for her life she is a indoor cat don't know the cause. She is about 6 and I've had her since Palm size maybe 4 weeks Also I don't want her life cut if I do this they say she is compromised either way. I'm 25 had her since 18 one-day she my only little baby

April 21, 2018

Sasha's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Surgery is definitely the best option for Sasha, as she may not be able to live with a diaphragmatic hernia that is compromising her lung function. Without being able to examine her or see her x-rays, it is difficult to comment on whether you should do the surgery, but it is the only way to fix that problem, and your veterinarian will be able to discuss more with you whether it is the right thing to do for her. She is a young cat, and if the surgery goes well, she should be able to continue on with a normal life.

April 21, 2018

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Boo

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Couldn’T Move Back Legs

I had a cat that got hit by a car and we took him to an animal hospital. We were told he had the right side of his pelvis broken and his diaphragm pushed into his chest and they were pretty sure it ruptured. We were told to do surgery on just the diaphragm could be up to 5k and another 5k with the pelvis! With this information we were told from 2 different hospitals we ended up putting him down because of the cost:/ my question is, what are the chances of survival if we went with the surgery? And what are common cost of doing the surgery on a diaphragm that’s ruptured? Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/diaphragmatic-hernia

March 9, 2018

Boo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Any animal that has gone through that kind of trauma has a high risk for anesthetic complications, and a diaphragmatic hernia is a serious condition. I'm sorry that you lost your Boo that way, that is very sad, but it seems that may have been the kindest thing to do for him.

March 9, 2018

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Maxwell

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Unknown rescue

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Increased Respiratory Rate

My 7 year old cat coughed randomly 3 nights ago. It wouldn’t have concerned me but there was a small wheeze at the end. Took her in the next morning and the X-ray appeared to show an enlarged heart. We did the ultrasound today and they found she had a hernia. Her spleen and liver have migrated up around the heart area. Other than somewhat faster respiratory rate she acts completely normal. The vet said that she should be fine, unless more symptoms present, without surgery and to not put her through that trauma unless necessary. Does that sound appropriate. Also it appears this is a genetic situation, there was no trauma, she is indoor only, spoiled rotten and so so loved.

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Chanel

dog-breed-icon

dsh

dog-age-icon

8 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Constipation
Loss Of Appetite
Breathing Difficulties

I adopted my cat Chanel 2 months ago. I didn’t notice anything wrong with her until I took her home and saw her breathing with her chest and abdomen. She strains to poop and eats very little food (even less than normal the last few days) and hasn’t really gained any weight since I got her. She is about 7-8 months old and weighs 4.8-5 lbs. I took her to see the vet from the adoption place a few days ago. They did x-rays and said she has a Diaphragmatic hernia. She got the surgery to correct it today but the vet from the adoption place said it turned out to be a more complicated surgery since she has a congenital diaphragmatic hernia and that it wasn’t from trauma. They said they try to fix what they could because most of her organs were in her chest cavity and that she might need a second surgery in the future. I asked when she would need a second surgery and the vet said if she starts breathing like how she was prior to the surgery. She is resting now after the surgery but I am a little concerned because she is breathing from her mouth after the surgery where she didn’t breath like that prior to the surgery. The vet said they didn’t have anyone to watch her over night so I took her home so I could watch her. My question is, should I be concerned she is breathing from the mouth right after the surgery? What is the survival rates of congenital diaphragmatic hernia after repair surgery? Is it likely a cat will need a second surgery for congenital diaphragmatic hernia? Is there anything else I should know about this condition? Like long term side effects? I only can find information on the web mostly about diaphragmatic hernia due to trauma but not much on congenital diaphragmatic hernia. I’m just so worried about my baby because my dog of 13 yrs recently pass 3 months ago from lung cancer and I am so scared of losing my cat especially right after my dog and also just after I adopted her 2 months ago. She is the sweetest cat and I love her so much. Any information is appreciated.

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Molly

dog-breed-icon

tabby

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Abdominal Distension
Coughing
Breathing Difficulty
Exercise Intolerence
Breaths Faster At Rest

I have an outdoor cat who has been living in my yard for almost two years. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get her to come inside. I was always worried about her since she often crossed the street. Last March, she disappeared for 3 weeks and I assumed the worst. I thought she was either hit by a car or eaten by a coyote. I was so happy when she appeared again, but I could see right away she was injured. Her right side didn't feel right - her ribs were out of place, she was very thin, and had trouble breathing. I took her to the vet for X-rays and found out she has diaphramatic herniation. Most likely, she was hit by a car and somehow survived and made her way home. The vet said he didn't do the surgery and if I did want to get it done, it would cost between $5000 to $8000 dollars. I couldn't afford that so I started calling vet schools, shelters, rescue organizations, and pet foundations. I finally found a vet that will do the surgery for $1,000. But he said there's a high probably that the kitty won't survive the surgery. I'm so torn because I don't know if I should go through with it. He said the problem is that the injury occurred in March and since then, there has been adhesion of the organs to each other. He would have to separate them and it would cause a lot of internal bleeding. This bleeding could lead to death on the operating table. At this point, I am leaning against surgery. Molly (the kitty) is very diminished in terms of her previous level of activity. She can't run or jump like she used to. When she does, she starts wheezing and has trouble breathing. My question to the community is: 1) Is the vet's warning correct? That the adhesion could cause death during the operation? 2) Will the breathing and the affects of the herniation worsen over time? As of right now, Molly doesn't seem to be in pain and as long as she is not too active, she doesn't have too much trouble breathing most of the time. A few times a day, if she gets in the wrong position or exerts herself too much, she does have trouble, but other than that, she seems to be OK.

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limon

dog-breed-icon

short hair

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Abdominal Breathing
Infrequent But Persistent Cough
X-Ray Showing Herniated Diaphragm

My cat got hypothermia about 4 months ago and was having trouble breathing. He warmed up and got significantly better but continued having abdominal breathing and a cough which also got better but never fully went away so I took him back into he vet. Besides the abdominal breathing and the cough he had started eating normally, had a fairly high energy level and seemed normal in every other way. At the vet he got an xray showing that his diaphragm was herniated which was a big surprise to everyone considering how healthy and happy he seemed. the vet encouraged me to get an emergency surgery that night. This cost much more than scheduling a surgery and it did not seem like an emergency to me since he seemed healthy for the most part. I have seen statistics that very WILDLY for survival. he seems happy now and I don't see why I should risk him dying because of surgery. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5219778/. says that survival was 100% for the cats in the study which had chronic herniated diaphragm and 83% for acute. how optimistic should I be about the surgery? if there is a chance of him dying form this VERY expensive surgery it seems like it is just better to continue to let him live like he is now.

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Pepper

dog-breed-icon

short hair

dog-age-icon

5 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

None

My 5 month old kitty has just been diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia. Other than the obvious bulge to his left side, he shows no other symptoms. Do you think he can wait the 30 day waiting period for the insurance to kick in? I could not afford his surgery without it. :(

Diaphragmatic Hernia Average Cost

From 428 quotes ranging from $300 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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