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Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgeries

Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgeries

As long as they are caught and treated early, hernias in cats aren't serious and cat be surgically repaired. Here, our Groton vets describe a few of the different kinds of hernias and offer some insight into what you can expect from cat hernia surgeries. 

What are hernias?

While hernias in cats are uncommon, when they do occur, they are usually congenital (meaning that they were born with one as a kitten. Injuries, physical trauma, internal damage, and flawed or weak muscle walls can also cause hernias when they allow organs and other tissues to pass through.

Essentially, a hernia is a collection of intestine, fat and potentially other internal organs that escape the abdominal cavity. Excessive bloating, pregnancy, or constipation are other potential causes. In addition, a hernia may occur if the wrong type of suture material is used or suture lines are improperly closed after a spay operation.

This condition can also happen is your cat isn't kept calm and inactive during the healing process after their spay.

What are the different types of hernias in cats?

The three varieties of hernias found in cats are categorized based on their location in your cat's body. They can include:

Hiatal Hernia

This is one of the rarest kinds of hernias. A Hiatal hernia is a kind of diaphragmatic hernia that can occur when the abdominal viscera pushes through a cat's diaphragm. When this is caused by a birth defect, this 'sliding hernia' can go through flare-ups and remissions. 

Inguinal Hernia

Inguinal hernias are one of the more uncommon types of hernias in cats and are typically an issue in pregnant females. If the intestines protrude through the inguinal canal, an inguinal hernia can affect your cat’s groin area.

While this kind of hernia in cats can generally be pushed back in, it may become a serious condition if your cat's intestines become trapped in their muscle walls. In this case, an inguinal hernia can be life-threatening for your cat if the blood flow to their tissues is severed. 

Umbilical Hernia

If your cat is experiencing an umbilical hernia, it may feel like a soft swelling, a bulge or a squishy protrusion just below their skin. This kind of hernia is located below their ribcage on your cat's underside around their belly button. It may be the cause of your cat straining, crying, meowing or standing and refusing to lie down.

Caused by an opening in the muscle wall, this type of hernia can occur if the umbilical ring does not close properly following birth. The organs can push through the area surrounding the umbilicus.

Usually only seen in kittens, an umbilical hernia poses no health risks and is typically painless. It will likely close without treatment by the time your kitten is 3 to 4 months old.

Cat Hernia Surgery & Treatment

On occasion, your vet may be able to push internal organs back through the muscle wall. Sometimes, the muscle wall may be able to close and weal on its own if your cat's organs and tissues can be put back where they belong.

However, the risk that the hernia will recur is high, so your vet may recommend fixing the muscle wall as even small openings can potentially lead to complications such as strangulation.

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

As long as the hernia repair isn't urgent, any conditions that are diagnosed can be addressed before surgery. Non-urgent hernias will generally be repaired when your cat is neutered or spayed in order to minimize the need to repeated 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.

Your veterinarian will either use a synthetic surgical mesh (if the opening is too large or the tissue needs to be eliminated because it has died) or existing muscle tissue to close the gap in your cat's muscle wall. Sutures will be used to close the incision. 

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

Antibiotics will likely need to be provided both before and after your cat's hernia surgery in order to prevent infection. Your feline friend will also need to wear a collar during the recovery period in order to prevent them from biting or licking 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 it is detected or treated early, hernias in cats don't tend to cause many complications and aren't likely to recur. Early and effective treatments are necessary to ensure that your cat remains 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 suspect that your cat may have a hernia? Contact Companion Animal Hospital as soon as possible to have your cat assessed, diagnosed and to have their hernia surgery scheduled.

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