Prepare for unexpected vet bills

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.

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

Compare plans
advertisement image

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. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

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 
arrow-up-icon

Top

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

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. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

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. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Diaphragmatic Hernia Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$800

arrow-up-icon

Top

Diaphragmatic Hernia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

MICKEY

dog-breed-icon

Shorthair

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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

Critical severity

thumbs-up-icon

5 found helpful

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

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

5 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

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Majique

dog-breed-icon

Common

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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


answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

0 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

Was this experience helpful?

Diaphragmatic Hernia Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$800

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

advertisement image
ask a vet placeholder
Need pet insurance?