As long as they are detected early, hernias in cats typically aren’t serious and can be repaired with surgery. In this post, our Ruckersville vets describe different types of hernias and offer insight into what to expect from cat hernia surgery.
What are hernias?
Though hernias in cats are uncommon when they do occur they are usually congenital (meaning a kitten was born with one). Trauma, injury, internal damage, flawed muscles, or weak muscle walls that allow organs and tissue to pass through can also cause hernias.
Basically, a hernia is a collection of internal organs that escape the abdominal cavity, including the intestine, fat, and possibly others. Pregnancy, constipation, and excessive bloating are additional potential causes. Using the incorrect kind of suture material or failing to properly close the suture lines after a spay operation can also result in a hernia.
The condition can also happen if your cat is not kept calm and inactive enough during the duration of the healing process after being spayed.
What are the different types of hernias in cats?
The three types of hernias in cats are categorized based on their location in the cat’s body. They include:
A hiatal hernia, a type of diaphragmatic hernia, can develop when the abdominal viscera pushes through the diaphragm and is one of the least common types of hernias. This "sliding hernia" can appear and disappear when it is a birth defect.
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.
Cats who have this type of hernia can usually have it pushed back in, but if the intestines get stuck in the muscle wall, it can get worse. If blood flow to the affected tissue is interrupted, an inguinal hernia in this situation may prove fatal to your cat.
In your cat, an umbilical hernia may appear as a soft swelling, bulge, or squishy protrusion beneath the skin. It is located just under the ribcage on the underside of the cat, near the belly button, and appears frequently when your cat is meowing, crying, straining, or standing.
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
Occasionally, your vet may be able to push internal organs back through the muscle wall, which may close and heal after the organs are pushed back into the abdominal cavity 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.
Provided the hernia repair is not urgent, any conditions that are diagnosed can be addressed before surgery. Non-urgent hernias can typically be repaired when your cat is neutered or spayed to minimize the need for anesthesia.
Fasting and fluid restriction are required the night before your cat's hernia surgery. Your vet will use intravenous anesthesia to put your cat to 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.
To close the gap in the muscle wall, the veterinarian may use either synthetic surgical mesh (if the opening is too large or the tissue must be removed because it has died) or existing muscle tissue. Sutures will be used to close the incision.
Cat Hernia Surgery Cost
Speak with your vet directly about the cost of hernia surgery for cats. They should be able to provide you with a more accurate estimate.
What can I expect after my cat has had hernia surgery?
To treat or prevent infection, antibiotics may be given to your cat before and after hernia surgery. While recovering from surgery, your cat will need to wear a collar to keep him or her from licking or biting incision areas or sutures. Cage rest and pain relievers will be prescribed if necessary.
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.
The risk of suture rupturing, infections, or hemorrhaging can be minimized with careful monitoring by a veterinarian.
When detected and treated early, hernias in cats do not tend to cause many complications and are unlikely to recur. Early and effective treatment is necessary to ensure your cat stays 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.