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Cat Hernias: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Hernias can cause a lot of pain and discomfort in our feline friends. Today, our Laguna Woods vets discuss hernias in cats and the surgery that is likely necessary.

Hernias in Cats

Though uncommon, hernias in cats may happen for several reasons such as:

  • The cat may have defective muscles or weak muscle walls
  • Internal damage, injury, or trauma, which allows tissue and organs to pass through.
  • Straining due to constipation, excessive bloating, or pregnancy.

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 often seen in kittens and typically close without treatment by the time your kitten is three or four minds old. Located near the belly button, this type of hernia can feel like a soft swelling, bulge, or squishy protrusion under the skin. You may notice it when your cat is crying, straining, meowing, or standing. Umbilical hernias are caused by an opening in the muscle wall which allows organs to push through the area around the umbilicus.

  • Inguinal Hernia- When the intestines protrude through the inguinal canal, an inguinal hernia can impact the groin area. Often this type of hernia can be pushed back in, however, the condition may become severe or even life-threatening if the intestines get trapped in the muscle wall and blood flow to the tissue is cut off. This type of hernia is usually caused by a traumatic injury, however, pregnant females may also face an increased risk.
  • 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 is a form of diaphragmatic hernia, that occurs when the abdominal viscera push through the diaphragm.
  • Diaphragmatic Hernia - In cats, the diaphragm is a muscle that separates the cat's heart and lungs from the contents of the abdomen, including the liver and intestines. When the diaphragm contracts, it helps your cat breathe. This type of hernia can be due to a congenital condition, however serious trauma such as being hit by a car is often the cause.

Symptoms of a Hernia 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
  • Holding head and neck in an extended position
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in urine
  • Trouble breathing

Treating a Cat Hernia

If your cat is diagnosed with an uncomplicated hernia, your vet may be able to simply 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 to 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, if hernia repair is not urgent, address any conditions before surgery. Non-urgent hernias in young cats may be repaired when your cat is spayed or neutered to minimize the need for anesthesia.

Hernia Surgery

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.

Following Hernia Surgery

Your veterinarian may provide antibiotics before and after surgery to treat or prevent infection, and your cat will need to wear an Elizabethan collar (cone) to keep them from licking or biting the incision areas. Pain killers and cage rest will be prescribed as needed.

Following hernia surgery, cats rarely require long-term hospitalization following surgery, as the procedure is typically straightforward. Though complications such as infections, suture rupturing, or hemorrhaging can occur, careful monitoring by your vet should minimize this risk.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Is your cat showing signs of a hernia? Contact our Laguna Woods vets to have your companion examined, diagnosed, and treated.

New Patients Welcome

Laguna Hills Animal Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our vets are friendly, experienced, and passionate about caring for the health of the cats and dogs in Laguna Woods. Contact us today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

Contact (949) 837-7333