Hernias in cats are often not severe and can be fixed through surgery. Our Somerset vets describe various hernia types and provide insights on what to expect during your cat's hernia surgery.
What is a hernia?
Though uncommon, hernias in cats may happen for a number of reasons, such as:
- The cat may have defective muscles or weak muscle walls
- Internal damage, injury, or trauma allows tissue and organs to pass through.
- Straining due to constipation, excessive bloating, or pregnancy.
Are there different types of hernias in cats?
There are 4 types of hernias seen in cats. Each type is categorized by where the hernia occurs in the cat’s body:
Umbilical Hernia - These hernias are common in kittens and usually heal without treatment by the time they reach three or four months old. Found near the belly button, it can feel like a soft bump or a gentle protrusion under the skin. It may be noticeable when your cat cries, strains, meows, or stands. Umbilical hernias occur due to a gap in the muscle wall, allowing organs to protrude near the umbilical area.
- Inguinal Hernia- Inguinal hernias occur when the intestines protrude through the inguinal canal, affecting the groin area. These hernias can often be pushed back in but can become dangerous or life-threatening if the intestines become trapped and blood flow is restricted. Typically caused by a traumatic injury, this hernia type also poses a higher risk for pregnant cats.
- Hiatal Hernia - A hiatal hernia is a very rare type of hernia caused by a birth defect and may even come and go (this is referred to as a sliding hernia). This form of diaphragmatic hernia occurs when the abdominal viscera pushes through the diaphragm.
- Diaphragmatic Hernia - In cats, the diaphragm is a muscle that divides the heart and lungs from abdominal organs like the liver and intestines. It assists in breathing when it contracts. Diaphragmatic hernias can be congenital or often result from severe trauma, such as a car accident.
NOTE: While surgery may be used to treat diaphragmatic hernias in cats, the prognosis is 'guarded' when dealing with this type of hernia, even if surgery initially looks to be successful. Your vet will be sure to explain the risks and complications associated with diaphragmatic hernias.
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
- Vomiting or sickness
- Holding head and neck in extended position
- Blood in urine
- Trouble breathing
How are hernias in cats treated?
If your cat is diagnosed with an uncomplicated hernia, your vet may be able to push the internal organs back through the muscle wall, allowing the muscle to close up and heal. Nonetheless, if there is a high risk that the hernia will recur, your vet may recommend surgery to repair the muscle wall and help reduce the risk of recurrence and strangulation.
If your cat has a more complicated hernia, surgery will be required.
When diagnosing a hernia, your veterinarian will complete a urinalysis, blood count, and blood chemistry to learn about your pet’s overall physical health and address any conditions before surgery if hernia repair is not urgent. Non-urgent hernias in young cats may be repaired when your cat is spayed or neutered in order to minimize the need for anesthesia.
What is the hernia surgery process?
Every case is different, and your vet will be sure to provide you with detailed instructions for your cat, however in most cases, the hernia surgery process goes as follows:
- The night before surgery, your cat will need to fast, and fluids will need to be restricted.
- When surgery is ready to begin, 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.
- The area will be shaved and cleaned.
- 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. Sutures will then be used to close the incision.
What can I expect after my cat has had hernia surgery?
Your vet may administer antibiotics before and after surgery to manage or prevent infection. Your cat will need to wear a cone to prevent licking or biting the incision areas. Pain relief and cage rest will be provided as needed.
Cats usually don't need extended hospital stays after hernia surgery, as the procedure is generally uncomplicated. While complications like infections, suture ruptures, or bleeding can happen, vigilant monitoring by your vet should minimize these risks.
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.