Can Dogs Live With Hernias?

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Introduction

If you weren't aware, dogs can get hernias just like people can, and just like people, dogs can be treated for their hernias and live normal lives with them! Just like people, these hernias can happen in many different areas of the body, too. Hernias can be dangerous, painful, and definitely life-threatening - but fortunately, they are entirely treatable and can be taken care of relatively easily. 

There are five types of hernias that are commonly seen in dogs, and most of them occur near the belly button, by the groin area, perineal area, the stomach, and the diaphragm. If you're not sure what a hernia is,  how they develop, the signs to look for, and what to do if you think your dog has a hernia, don't worry - we've laid out the ultimate guide to answer all of your questions. Overall, the best news is that even if your dog does have a hernia and requires immediate attention, your pup can be treated and live a normal, happy life despite the hernia! 

Signs Your Dog May Have a Hernia

If your dog has a hernia, it can definitely be treated, however, it can be life-threatening, painful, and can lead to many complications if left untreated. It's important to understand what a hernia is and how to pick up the signs that your dog may be giving you to determine he has one.

First, a hernia is a tear in the wall of a muscle that lets the internal organs or other tissues that are found behind the muscle to push through, resulting in a painful, swelling lump that protrudes from the body.
The causes of hernias are diverse, but unfortunately, genetics play a large role in this. In fact, in about 90 percent of dogs with hernias, the reason is due to genetics.
While you likely will be able to see this happen, sometimes your dog will develop other signs before serious symptoms kick in. The biggest sign is the protruding, soft, bubble-like mass, but your pup may also have symptoms like vomiting and coughing. 

It's also likely that your dog won't want to eat and will lose a large amount of weight very quickly. Your pup can even have shortness of breath, lots of drooling, anxiety and nervousness, cramping, fever, lethargy, fatigue, and numbing in their legs. 

Body Language

Your dog is probably well-aware of his discomfort and wants you to know about it - it's likely that he's giving you tons of subtle signs to ensure that you're aware of his pain. Make sure you keep a lookout for these subtle signs:
  • Head tilting
  • Whining
  • Shaking
  • Panting
  • Scratching
  • Pacing
  • Weakness

Other Signs

Of course, those signs aren't enough to confirm that your dog has a hernia. Some of these other signs, in conjunction with the ones above, will help you determine if your dog is suffering from a hernia:
  • Soft Swelling or Bubble-Like Protrusion on the Body
  • Sensitivity to Touch
  • Fever
  • Cramping,
  • Bloody Urine
  • Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite

The History of Dog Hernias

Historically, hernias have been treated by surgical procedures to correct the problem. In some cases, hernias, like umbilical hernias in puppies, will heal on their own; however, in most cases, hernias require surgery and heavy dog-tor involvement. 

During a hernia surgery, the vet will try to push the bulging tissue back into the muscular wall. After that, they'll try to strengthen and support the abdominal wall with sutures and mesh so that the tear will not re-open. Your vet can take care of this issue with either open or laparoscopic surgery, and in some cases, your dog won't even need surgery. 

The first priority when seeking treatment for your dog is to see a vet immediately for evaluation and medical help. Most importantly, do not ignore a hernia. These medical issues can cause complications, pain for your pup, and if left alone, death. 

The Science of Dog Hernias

Understanding a hernia and what it is can better help you not only prevent your pup from getting one, but be aware of the signs that he might have developed one. Additionally, being well-versed in hernias will help you help your pup heal if he ever does develop one. 

A hernia, as we discussed, is a rip in the muscular wall that allows organs and fatty tissues to protrude through, often making a very painful, bubble-like appearance sticking out your pup's body. If a hernia is left alone, there can be many complications. 

The hernia will obviously grow and become more painful, portions of your pup's intestines could be trapped and not get enough blood flow causing strangulation, and sometimes, the hernia can obstruct the bowel and cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and more.

How To Train Your Dog to Deal With Hernia

Dealing with a hernia is painful enough, but a lot of the annoyance and new routines will come after your dog has had hernia surgery. It's important that you train your dog, and yourself, to deal with these new changes in ways that make your dog feel comfortable, unafraid, and help retain his quality of life during his recovery. 

It's likely that your dog will need to take it very easy after his surgery to avoid any rips or tears to his incision. Help your dog relax by keeping him calm and playing games where he can stay seated or laying down - don't get him too riled up though. It's also important that your dog is familiar with commands like "no" and "leave it" when dealing with healing. 

If your pup can't stop licking his incision, it's likely that he'll need to wear the dreaded cone of shame, so make sure that he's well-trained in this area. Additionally, make sure your dog is comfortable taking pills and antibiotics after his surgery so that he can recover as quickly as possible.

How to React if You Think Your Dog Has a Hernia

  • Once you determine your pup has an unidentified lump, don't wait for other symptoms to arise - see your vet!
  • Work with your vet to develop diet and exercise goals for your dog while he's recovering from hernia surgery.
  • Spay or neuter your dogs as soon as is appropriate and healthy to avoid some types of hernias.

Tell Us About Your Dog's Hernia!