Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats

Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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

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Boomer

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Maine Coon traits

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7 Years

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0 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Vomit1X/Wk-Mo, Asthma W/ Activity

Should a small congenital PPDH be repaired on a cat with Asthma whose Echo showed HCM and mild heart disease? No organs are visibly displaced via the hernia. I would be shocked to find a surgeon who WOULDN'T recommend surgery but I can't get more than a surgical consult recommendation from my Vet. I can't even afford a consult right now after the Vet bill but would like some peace of mind on whether this surgery is necessary at this time or even realistic with Boomer's other conditions. Is he more likely to die from the surgery or the PPDH? I've accepted he won't live more than 3-5 more years but I want to keep him around as long as possible if he's not suffering. If a surgery is realistic and can improve the quality of his life then I can start saving up for it or look for a charity to help.

Feb. 23, 2018

Boomer's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I wish that I could give you a recommendation one way or the other, but without seeing Boomer and knowing his specific situation, I really cannot. No surgeon will recommend surgery if it will endanger his life, or will not have a positive outcome from the surgery. It would be best to discuss this with your veterinarian, and let them know that the cost of the surgery is a concern. They will be able to give you a better idea as to whether Boomer will be able to live out his life with the hernia or whether it is a concern that should be addressed. If you do have the surgical consult, you can ask the surgeon the same question. They will not want to do a surgery that has a poor outcome, that's not what they enjoy. I hope that all goes well with him.

Feb. 23, 2018

I had a cat that got hit by a car and we took him to animal hospital. We were told her 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:/ 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?

March 9, 2018

Adam L.

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Cosmo

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RagdollX

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11 Months

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0 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Our 11 month old male desexed 2 days ago was found to have a hernia in his diaphragm. The intestines are wrapped around his heart. Two days later he has almost reverted to his old self. Cat normal is everywhere. He has always been a quiet cat and plays chasing balls now and then. His respirations are still rapid but his oral colour is good. Eating and drinking. We are unsure about the surgical approach right now. If we do not do the surgery what may we expect and over what time frame. We realised he won't live to be an old cat but what time frame are we looking at? Thank you so much

Feb. 1, 2018

Cosmo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Diaphragmatic hernias can behave variably - some animals will die very quickly from respiratory complications, while others will live almost normal lives. It would be best to ask your veterinarian what to expect for Cosmo, given the severity of his disease. I hope that he is okay!

Feb. 2, 2018

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Diaphragmatic Hernia Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$800

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