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Can Dogs Get a Hernia?


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Hernias occur in humans typically from overexerting their core strength or abilities: for instance, lifting something improperly or too heavy. Hernias, although commonly occurring in the abdomen, may happen in other parts of the body as well. Dogs, just like humans, can get a hernia.

In fact, there are actually several different types of hernias that dogs are susceptible to, including:

  • Umbilical

  • Diaphragmatic

  • Inguinal

  • Hiatal

  • Perineal

Every type of hernia involves organs poking through muscle and becoming foreign entities in different chambers of the body. Each hernia listed above can be a condition dogs are naturally born with. In the case of inguinal hernias, older female dogs are likely candidates, while older male dogs are more disposed to develop a perineal hernia, especially if not neutered. All can be potentially fatal if proper care and attention are not sought. In most cases, hernias can be surgically fixed, making for a relatively short recovery and longer, happier life for the dog.

Can Dogs Get a Hernia?


Although humans are bipeds, traveling on two legs, and dogs are quadrupeds, walking with four paws for feet, there are many commonalities anatomically between the two. Both have the same basic make-up – bones, muscles, organs – just in different shapes and sizes. Dogs are prone to many of the same diseases and conditions that we are due to this commonality; hernias are no exception.

Does My Dog Have a Hernia?

Unfortunately, because our pets can’t tell us why or where they hurt, it may be difficult to tell if what’s ailing your dog is a hernia or something else altogether. Typically, dogs will indicate physical or emotional discomfort by lack of appetite, frequent sleeping, or lethargy.

Medical conditions that occur internally are hard for most pet owners to diagnose. However, a key sign that a hernia may have occurred is bloody urine combined with noticeable, especially changing, swelling in the abdominal area. Diaphragmatic hernias will result in difficulty breathing.

The root definition of the word indicates that a hernia occurs when an organ breaks open the tissue and muscle that keeps it in place. While hernias are usually associated with overexertion, they can be present at birth as well.


Diagnosis is essential in gaining affirmation that the symptoms your dog is exhibiting are a result of a hernia. Veterinarians will not only be able to form a diagnosis but also illuminate the cause of the hernia. X-rays will reveal the exact location of the hernia and may better define its root cause and the next steps that should be taken, which typically involve surgery. Learn more about canine hernias here.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Hernia?

The intensity of treatment for canine hernias depends on individual cases. Sometimes, surgery is not necessary and the hernia can be corrected with medication as well as keeping the dog from excessive exercise. In most cases, surgery will need to take place, in which the veterinarian and staff will need to open the abdomen, manually push or place the obtrusive organ back in place, and repair the broken wall.

Recovery from hernia-corrective surgery may take 3-4 weeks. During this time, your veterinarian is likely to prescribe pain and anti-inflammatory medications as well as give you the responsibility of ensuring the dog doesn’t overexert themselves or bust any healing stitches open.  

How are Hernias in Dogs Similar to Hernias in Humans and Other Pets?

You may be wondering what your pets are experiencing when they develop a hernia. How is it similar to what you’ve experienced?

  • Most hernias, depending on their location and size of organ, will create a protrusion. This may be difficult to see if a cat or dog has lots of fur, but swelling happens in all humans, dogs, and cats.

  • Hernias can be painful or painless. Typically, umbilical hernias are the least painful type of hernia for humans, dogs, and cats, whereas others can cause a lot of discomfort.

  • Hernias in both humans and household pets can be surgically fixed by a doctor or veterinarian.

How are Hernias in Dogs Different from Hernias in Humans and Other Pets?

Differences between hernias in humans, cats and dogs is mainly found in frequency and types of hernias.

  • Hernias are probable for most mammals in the animal kingdom, but are most common in dogs when compared to other domesticated pets.

  • Perineal hernias are more common in dogs than cats.

  • Inguinal hernias are more common in human males than human females.

  • Umbilical hernias are more common in puppies than kittens and cannot be developed by animals who don’t have umbilical cords, such as birds.

  • Diaphragmatic hernias are common among both puppies and kittens.

Case Study

There are several case studies in the world of veterinary medicine that outline the developments, causes, and procedures concerning hernias in dogs. Diaphragmatic hernias may be the most life-threatening as the condition disrupts proper breathing and delivery of oxygen to the body. One case study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Science and written by Changbaig Hyun, studied 60 cats and dogs over the span of 22 years.

Each participant had non-congenital diaphragmatic hernias, with over 50% of participants gaining their hernias as a result of a car accident. The study concluded that the best way to diagnose diaphragmatic hernias is radiographically, finding that, at times, effusion and other foreign liquids resulted in difficult-to-read X-rays.

Similar studies find additional results, useful to veterinarians, such as the best possible treatment for hernias in dogs as well as the ideal age for corrective surgeries to take place.

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