Umbilical Hernia in Dogs
BFCA Health Committee
An umbilical hernia is a protrusion (outward) of the abdominal lining, abdominal fat or a portion of abdominal organ(s) through the area around the umbilicus (navel or belly button). The umbilicus in dogs is located on their underside just below the ribcage. The hernia generally appears as a soft swelling beneath the skin and it often protrudes when a puppy is standing, barking, crying or straining.
Umbilical hernias may be complicated or uncomplicated. A complicated hernia is one in which contents of the abdominal cavity, such as a loop of intestine, have passed through the opening and become entrapped. An uncomplicated umbilical hernia is associated with a soft swelling in the umbilical area.
An umbilical hernia can vary in size from less than ¼ inch to more than an inch in diameter. Small hernias may close spontaneously (without treatment) by age 3-4 months. Umbilical hernias that do not close may require surgery, especially if a portion of an intestinal organ protrudes through it. Umbilical hernias are usually painless. The exact incidence and cause is unknown. Certain familial lines have a higher incidence of umbilical hernias suggesting at least a partial genetic predisposition to the condition. Most umbilical hernias pose no health threats. In rare cases, a portion of the intestines or other tissues can be trapped and become strangulated (blood flow cut off to tissue, causing its death). This is an emergency requiring immediate surgery.
Umbilical hernias can usually be diagnosed by finding the swelling caused by the hernia on a physical examination. However, sometimes contrast radiographs (x-rays) or an abdominal ultrasound are needed to determine if any abdominal contents are entrapped.
If the hernia has not closed by the time of spaying or neutering, surgical repair of the hernia is recommended. The surgery can be performed at the time of spaying and neutering. The fibrous or scar tissues that have formed around the hernia are dissected out or removed, and the defect is closed with sutures. Few puppies experience recurrence of the hernia and few complications are reported with the procedure.
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