by Anne Jones RN, BSNE
An umbilical hernia is the protrusion of abdominal contents through the abdominal wall at the umbilicus, that defect in the abdominal wall being covered by skin and subcutaneous tissue. Hernias can be present at birth or they can be acquired. If the umbilical ring is weak and the hernia does not close or tighten on its own, it can be repaired surgically. In some breeds, there appears to be an inherited tendency to umbilical hernia and the Bichon is sometimes listed as one breed prone to this congenital condition. The most common cause of acquired umbilical hernia is from the cord being cut too close to the body
Surgical repair is not a complicated procedure and is usually done when the pup is several months old. If the hernia is small and not protruding noticeably, it may close on its own or it may never cause problems for the growing pup. However any hernia that is large and significantly protruding becomes dangerous as the puppy grows, especially if the maturing pup is overweight. There may be the possibility of intestine protruding through the opening and this would be a medical emergency. While this is rare, you can understand the need for a complete evaluation by your veterinarian.
Herniation can also occur in the groin, called an inquinal hernia. Surgical repair of a hernia would technically make a particular dog ineligible for conformation competition since any surgical alteration is not allowed by the American Kennel Club. However I do not recall ever hearing of there being any dog withheld from competition for that reason. The greater concern for the breeder is to eliminate from breeding any dogs that are producing congenital hernias since this can be passed along to future generations.