What is Hernia Repair?
A hernia occurs when an opening develops in the muscle wall that allows internal organs to slip through. Signs of hernia include a swelling or protrusion in the groin or abdomen, vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy. They can occur as the result of trauma from an accident such as a motor vehicle accident or a fight with another animal, or as a result of a genetic defect.
Genetic defects resulting in a hernia include an opening in the muscle wall or an area of weakness in the muscle wall that, when put under stress, allows an opening for abdominal organs or fat to protrude. Hernias can be complicated or uncomplicated. Complicated hernias occur when complications to the hernia such as infection, obstruction or strangulation occur. A strangulated hernia is the result of the internal organ tissue penetrating the muscle wall and becoming trapped in the muscle wall. Circulation is cut off, tissue dies, and toxins are released by the dead and dying tissues. Uncomplicated hernias occur when organ tissue can slip back and forth freely through the muscle wall, not causing any issues. Most hernias are uncomplicated.
All hernias require attention by a veterinarian. Sometimes a small and uncomplicated hernia can be treated by pushing the internal organ tissue back through the muscle wall, however, there is a risk of recurrence, and often surgical repair of the muscle wall is recommended to prevent this. If the hernia is complicated or the organs can not be returned to the abdominal cavity or are continuously slipping through the muscle wall, urgent surgery by your veterinarian to repair the hernia is required.
Hernia Repair Procedure in Cats
Some hernias are treated by pushing the internal organs back through the muscle wall, if the muscle wall closes back up and heals after organs are returned to the abdominal cavity, this may be all the treatment required. However, there is a high risk of recurrence, so repair of the muscle wall in these cases may be recommended. Small openings in the muscle wall can be more at risk of strangulation and may need addressing surgically with the same urgency as larger openings.
If organs can not easily be returned to the abdominal cavity or the hole in the muscle wall remains, or if complications such as infection, blockage or strangulation are occurring, your cat will require surgery to repair the hernia.
Your veterinarian will perform a urinalysis, blood chemistry, and blood count to determine the overall health of your pet and treat any conditions required prior to surgery if hernia repair is not urgent.
You will be required to have your pet fast the night before the surgery. When you arrive at the veterinary clinic they will use intravenous anesthesia to put your cat into a deep sleep prior to inserting a tracheal tube that will be used to maintain the anesthesia with gas. The area to be treated surgically will be shaved and cleaned and surgical drapes used to maintain the sterile area for surgery.
Your veterinarian will perform surgery to return any abdominal organs or fat to abdominal cavity and ensure that abdominal organs are viable, that is, have not been damaged. Damaged organs and tissue will be repaired as necessary and the gap in the muscle wall closed. Closing the gap in the muscle wall may be done with existing muscle tissue, or a synthetic surgical mesh may be required if the opening is too large or if tissue has died and needs to be removed. Sutures to close the incision in the skin will also be put in place.
Antibiotics may be administered prior to surgery and post-surgery to treat or prevent infection if deemed necessary. Your cat will be required to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them licking or biting the incision or sutures.
Pain killers will be administered to your cat post-surgery and cage rest prescribed. Usually postoperative care is straightforward and your pet will not require long term hospitalization after surgery.
Efficacy of Hernia Repair in Cats
If a hernia is treated non-surgically there is a high risk of recurrence. Surgical hernia repair is usually straightforward, and the outcome is a permanent resolution of the hernia. There are rarely complications from surgical repair of hernias.
Hernia Repair Recovery in Cats
If hernia surgery was performed to repair your cat’s hernia, you will need to monitor the surgical incision for redness, soreness or discharge that may indicate a postoperative infection or bleeding that would indicate hemorrhage. Any medications prescribed post-surgery, such as painkillers, anti-inflammatories or antibiotics, should be administered as directed. Your veterinarian will book a follow-up appointment within 1-2 weeks to check the surgical site for healing, address any concerns, and remove sutures if required. Usually cats recover from corrective hernia surgery with no complications but if strangulation or other complications have occurred your cat may not be as quick to recover. You will need to restrict your cat’s activity for several weeks following surgery.
Cost of Hernia Repair in Cats
Cost of hernia treatment in cats when the organs are pushed back through abdominal wall is minimal, but as this cannot commonly be done and may not be adequate to prevent recurrence, surgical hernia repair may be recommended. The cost of hernia repair can range from $500-$2,000 depending on the presence of any complicating factors and the type and location of the hernia.
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Cat Hernia Repair Considerations
If your cat’s hernia is treated non-surgically there is a high risk of recurrence. In fact, most hernias just pop right back out straight away! Most cats do very well after hernia surgery and complications are minimal. Postoperative complications can occur, including postoperative infections, hemorrhaging, and rupture of sutures, but careful monitoring by the veterinarian and pet owner will minimize this risk. With hiatal hernia repair, there is a risk of aspiration which could result in pneumonia. Pet owners should be vigilant for signs of pneumonia if hiatal hernia repair is performed on their cat. It is common to repair non-urgent hernias at the time of spay or neuter if possible to minimize the need to anesthetize your cat.
Hernia Repair Prevention in Cats
Many hernias are caused by genetic defects in the muscle wall or genetic weakness in the muscle wall. If this is the case your veterinarian will recommend spaying or neutering to prevent this genetic anomaly being passed onto offspring. Indoor and neutered cats are less prone to accidents such as falls from trees and motor vehicle accidents, as well as fights with other animals. Restricting or monitoring outdoor activity will greatly reduce the chance of a trauma that could result in a hernia.