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Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgeries

If detected early, hernias in cats usually aren’t serious and can be repaired with surgery. In this post, our Clemmons vets define the different types of hernias and give advice about what to expect from 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 different types of hernias are categorized by where they occur in your cat’s body. include:

Hiatal Hernia

One of the rarest types of hernias, when a hiatal hernia is caused by a birth defect it can come and go (this is referred to as a sliding hernia). This is a type of diaphragmatic hernia, which can occur when the abdominal viscera pushes 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.

However, the condition can become severe if the intestines get trapped in the muscle wall. This can threaten the life of your cat if blood flow to the tissue is cut off, and can result in death. Usually an issue in pregnant females, this is one of the more uncommon types of hernias in cats.

Umbilical Hernia

Located near the belly button, just below the ribcage on a cat’s underside, this type of hernia can feel like a soft swelling, bulge or squishy protrusion underneath the skin. It often appears when your cat is crying, straining, meowing or standing.

The umbilical hernia is caused by an opening in the muscle wall which allows organs to push through the area around the umbilicus. These occur as a result of the umbilical ring not properly closing following birth and are typically only seen in kittens.

An umbilical hernia is usually painless and poses no health threats. It will probably close without treatment by the time your kitten is three or four months old.

While uncomplicated hernias can usually be pushed back into place and will not need surgery in many cases, complicated hernias can happen as a result of intestines or tissues becoming trapped or strangulated, and will require immediate surgery.

What are 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?

Sometimes, internal organs can simply be pushed back through the muscle wall, which may close up and heal after the organs are pushed back into the abdominal cavity. However, there is a high risk that the hernia will recur, so your vet may recommend repairing the muscle wall as even small openings can lead to risk of strangulation.

If the hole in the muscle wall does not close on its own, if organs cannot be easily pushed back through the abdominal cavity, or if complications such as strangulation, infection or blockage are happening, your cat will need surgery to fix the hernia.

First, your veterinarian will complete a urinalysis, blood count and blood chemistry to learn about your pet’s overall physical health and, if hernia repair is not urgent, address any conditions before surgery. Non-urgent hernias can commonly be repaired when your cat is spayed or neutered to minimize the need for anesthesia.

The night before surgery, your pet will need to fast and fluids should be restricted. Your cat will be put into deep sleep using intravenous anesthesia, then your vet will insert a tracheal tube to maintain the anesthesia with gas.

Your vet will shave and clean the area being operated on, then 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 where 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 Clemmons animal clinic today for advice.

Hernias in Cats | Clemmons Vet

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