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Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgery

Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgery

Hernias in cats typically aren't serious and can be repaired with surgery, as long as they are detected early. Today, our Waxhaw vets explain different types of hernias and offer information about what to expect from cat hernia surgery.

What are hernias? 

While hernias in cats are uncommon, when they do happen they are typically congenital (meaning a kitten was born with one). Internal damage, trauma, injury, flawed muscles or weak muscle walls that allow organs and tissue to pass through may also cause hernias. 

A hernia is essentially a collection of fat, intestine and potentially other internal organs which escape the abdominal cavity. Other potential causes may include pregnancy, constipation or excessive bloating. A hernia can also occur if suture lines are improperly closed or the wrong type of suture material is used following a spay operation. 

Your cat can also end up with a hernia if he or she is not kept sufficiently calm and inactive enough throughout the healing process after a spaying procedure. 

What are the different types of hernias in cats?

The three types of hernias in cats fall into categories based on their location in the cat's body. They include:

Hiatal Hernia

One of the rarest types of hernias, this type of diaphragmatic hernia is also known as a "sliding hernia". When caused by a birth defect, it may come and go. The hernia can happen if the abdominal viscera pushes through the diaphragm. 

Inguinal Hernia

One of the more uncommon types of hernias in cats, the inguinal hernia can usually be pushed back in. It typically becomes an issue in pregnant females and can occur if the intestines protrude through the inguinal canal to affect your cat's groin area. 

Keep in mind that the condition may become serious if the intestines get trapped in the muscle wall — in which case it can be life-threatening if blood flow to the tissue is severed. 

Umbilical Hernia 

Umbilical hernias are located on the cat's underside, just under the ribcage near the belly button. can feel like a soft bulge, squishy protrusion or swelling below the skin and can often appear when your cat is standing, crying, straining or meowing.

This type of hernia is caused by an opening in the muscle wall and can occur if the organs push through the area surrounding the umbilicus, due to the umbilical ring not closing properly after birth. 

Typically only seen in kittens, an umbilical hernia is usually painless and does not pose any health risks. It will probably close without treatment by the time your kitten is 3 to 4 months old.

Cat Hernia Surgery & Treatment

Occasionally, your vet may be able to push internal organs back through the muscle wall, which can close and heal after the organs are back in the abdominal cavity where they belong. 

However, there is a high risk of the hernia reoccurring, so your vet may recommend repairing the muscle as even small openings can potentially lead to complications such as strangulation. 

If the tear in the muscle wall does not close by itself, if organs cannot easily be pushed back into the abdominal cavity or if complications such as strangulation, infection or blockage occur, your cat will need surgery to repair the hernia. 

First, your vet will complete a blood chemistry test, complete blood count and urinalysis to determine your pet’s overall physical health.

Provided the hernia repair is not urgent, any conditions that are diagnosed can be addressed prior to surgery. Non-urgent hernias can typically be repaired when your cat is neutered or spayed to minimize the need for anesthesia.

The night before your cat's hernia surgery, he or she will be required to fast, and fluids should be restricted. Your vet will use intravenous anesthesia to put your cat into a deep sleep, then insert a tracheal tube to maintain the anesthesia with gas.

Before the surgery, your vet will shave and clean the area to be operated on, then use surgical drapes to help ensure the area remains sterile.

During the operation, the vet will push the abdominal organs back into the abdominal cavity. Any damaged organs and tissue will be surgically repaired before the gap in the muscle wall is closed.

The veterinarian may use either synthetic surgical mesh (if the opening is too large or if the tissue needs to be eliminated because it has died) or existing muscle tissue to shut the gap in the muscle wall. To close the incision, sutures will be used.

What can I expect after my cat has had hernia surgery?

Antibiotics may be provided prior to and following your cat’s hernia surgery to treat or prevent infection. Your cat will also need to wear a collar during the recovery period to prevent him or her from licking or biting incision areas or sutures. Cage rest and pain medicines will be prescribed as required.

Cats that have had hernia surgery typically will not need to be hospitalized long-term after surgery, as the procedure is usually straightforward. In addition, surgical complications are rare and the hernia may be permanently resolved.

Risk of suture rupturing, infections or hemorrhaging can be minimized with careful monitoring by a veterinarian.

When detected and treated early, hernias in cats do not tend to cause many complications and are unlikely to recur. Early and effective treatment is necessary to ensure your cat stays healthy.

What should I do if I think my cat may have a hernia?

If you suspect your cat may have a hernia, contact your vet right away to book an appointment so the condition can be officially diagnosed and treated.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think your cat may have a hernia? Our team at Providence South Animal Hospital is experienced in diagnosing injuries, conditions and diseases and planning effective treatments. Contact us today. 

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