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Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgeries

Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgeries

When discovered early, hernias in cats are typically not severe and can be remedied through surgery. Our team of veterinarians in South Lebanon outlines the various kinds of hernias and provides recommendations on what to anticipate when opting for cat hernia surgery.

What are hernias?

Though uncommon, hernias in cats are typically congenital (meaning a kitten was born with one) or happen as a result of defective muscles or weak muscle walls, internal damage, injury, or trauma, which allows tissue and organs to pass through.

They can also be caused by straining due to constipation, excessive bloating, or pregnancy.

What are the different types of hernias in cats?

The three types of hernias are categorized by where they occur in your cat's body include's:

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is a rare type of hernia. It can be caused by a birth defect and is known as a sliding hernia because it can come and go. This type of hernia is classified as diaphragmatic and happens when the abdominal organs push through the diaphragm.

Inguinal Hernia

When the intestines are able to protrude through the inguinal canal, an inguinal hernia can impact the groin area. This type can usually be pushed back in.

In some cases, a cat's hernia can become serious if the intestines become stuck in the muscle wall. This can be life-threatening, cutting off blood flow to the tissue and leading to death. Although rare, this type of hernia usually affects pregnant cats.

Umbilical Hernia

If you feel a soft swelling, bulge, or squishy protrusion under your cat's skin near their belly button, just below the ribcage, it could be an umbilical hernia. This type of hernia is caused by an opening in the muscle wall that allows organs to push through the area around the umbilicus.

It is typically only seen in kittens and can occur when the umbilical ring does not properly close following birth. While umbilical hernias are usually painless and pose no health threats, they can become complicated if intestines or tissues become trapped or strangulated. In such cases, immediate surgery is required.

However, uncomplicated hernias can usually be pushed back into place and will not require surgery in many cases. It is important to note that umbilical hernias often close without treatment by the time your kitten is three or four months old.

What are the symptoms of hernias in cats?

If your cat is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it's time to see the vet:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Vomiting or sickness
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in urine

How are hernias in cats treated?

At times, internal organs can be pushed through the muscle wall, and the wall may close up and heal after the organs are pushed back into the abdominal cavity. However, there is a high risk of hernia recurrence, so your veterinarian may recommend repairing the muscle wall. Even small openings can lead to the risk of strangulation. If the hole in the muscle wall fails to close on its own, if organs cannot be easily pushed back through the abdominal cavity, or if complications such as strangulation, infection, or blockage occur, your cat will require surgery to fix the hernia. 

Before surgery, your veterinarian will perform a urinalysis, blood count, and blood chemistry to assess your pet's overall physical health. If hernia repair is not urgent, they will address any conditions before surgery. Non-urgent hernias can often be repaired while your cat is spayed or neutered to reduce the need for anesthesia.

The night before surgery, your pet will have to fast, and fluids will be restricted. Your cat will be put into a deep sleep using intravenous anesthesia, and your vet will insert a tracheal tube to maintain the anesthesia with gas. Your vet will shave and clean the area being operated on and use surgical drapes to ensure the area is sterile for surgery.

During the procedure, the abdominal organs will be pushed back into the abdominal cavity, and damaged organs and tissue will be repaired if required before the gap in the muscle wall is closed. To close the gap in the muscle wall, your vet may use existing muscle tissue or synthetic surgical mesh if the opening is too large or if the tissue needs to be removed because it has died. Sutures will then be used to close the incision.

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

Your veterinarian may provide antibiotics before and after surgery to treat or prevent infection, and your cat will need to wear a collar to keep them from licking or biting the sutures or incision areas. Pain killers and cage rest will be prescribed as needed.

Cats who have had hernia surgery usually do not require long-term hospitalization following surgery, as the procedure is typically straightforward. Plus, the outcome will permanently resolve the hernia, and surgical complications are rare. Though complications such as infections, suture rupturing, or hemorrhaging can occur, careful monitoring by your vet should minimize this risk.

When 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 remains healthy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.

Do you suspect your cat has a hernia? Our veterinarians have experience treating pets with a variety of conditions and illnesses. Contact our South Lebanon animal clinic today for advice.

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At Little Miami Veterinary Services, we are always accepting new patients. Our vets are passionate about the health of South Lebanon companion animals. Contact us to book your pet's first appointment and join our veterinary family.

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