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Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgeries

Hernias in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Surgeries

When detected in the early stages, hernias in cats are typically not a cause for major concerns and can often be rectified through surgical intervention. In this post, our vets North Providence provide insights into the various types of hernias and advise what to expect from cat hernia surgery.

What are hernias?

While not very common, hernias in cats typically fall into two categories: congenital, which means a kitten was born with one, or acquired, resulting from weakened muscle walls, internal damage, injury, or trauma, allowing tissues and organs to pass through.

They can also be caused by straining due to constipation, excessive bloating or pregnancy.

What are the different types of hernias in cats?

The three different types of hernias are categorized by where they occur in your cat's body. Include:

Hiatal Hernia

One of the more unusual types of hernia is known as a sliding hernia, which occurs when a hiatal hernia is caused by a congenital birth defect. In this case, the hernia can manifest intermittently. This condition falls under the category of diaphragmatic hernias, wherein the abdominal viscera protrude through the diaphragm.

Inguinal Hernia

When the intestines protrude through the inguinal canal, an inguinal hernia can impact the groin area. This type can usually be pushed back in.

However, the condition can become critical if the intestines become trapped within the muscle wall. When this happens, it can jeopardize your cat's life by restricting blood flow to the affected tissue, potentially resulting in a life-threatening situation. It's important to note that this type of hernia is relatively rare in cats and is typically observed in pregnant females. 

Umbilical Hernia

Located just below the ribcage on the underside of a cat, near its belly button, an umbilical hernia may manifest as a soft swelling, bulge, or squishy protrusion beneath the skin. This condition is often noticed when your cat cries, strains, meows, or stands.

The umbilical hernia is caused by an opening in the muscle wall, which allows organs to push through the area around the umbilicus. These occur as a result of the umbilical ring not properly closing following birth and are typically only seen in kittens.

An umbilical hernia is usually painless and poses no health threats. It will probably close without treatment by the time your kitten is three or four months old.

It's essential to note that while uncomplicated hernias can often be gently pushed back into place and may not require surgery, complicated hernias can occur when intestines or tissues become trapped or strangulated, necessitating immediate surgical intervention.

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
  • Depression
  • Vomiting or sickness
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in urine

How are hernias in cats treated?

Sometimes, internal organs can simply be pushed back through the muscle wall, which may close up and heal after the organs are pushed back into the abdominal cavity. However, there is a high risk that the hernia will recur, so your vet may recommend repairing the muscle wall, as even small openings can lead to a risk of strangulation.

If the muscle wall opening fails to close on its own, if organs cannot be easily repositioned in the abdominal cavity, or if complications such as strangulation, infection, or blockage arise, surgical intervention becomes necessary to rectify the hernia.

First, your veterinarian will complete a urinalysis, blood count and blood chemistry to learn about your pet's overall physical health. If hernia repair is not urgent, any underlying conditions may be addressed before surgery. Non-urgent hernias are often repaired during the spaying or neutering procedure to minimize the need for additional anesthesia.

On the evening preceding surgery, your pet will need to fast, with restricted fluid intake. Your cat will be induced into a deep anesthetic state via intravenous anesthesia, and a tracheal tube will be inserted to maintain anesthesia with gas.

Your vet will shave and clean the area being operated on, then use surgical drapes to ensure the area is sterile for surgery. During the procedure, the abdominal organs will be pushed back into the abdominal cavity, and damaged organs and tissue will be repaired where required before the gap in the muscle wall is closed.

To close the gap in the muscle wall, your vet may utilize existing muscle tissue or synthetic surgical mesh if the opening is sizable or if tissue removal is required due to necrosis. Sutures will be used to close the incision.

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

Your veterinarian may provide antibiotics before and after surgery to treat or prevent infection, and your cat will need to wear a collar to keep them from licking or biting the sutures or incision areas. Painkillers and cage rest will be prescribed as needed.

Cats who have had hernia surgery usually do not require long-term hospitalization following surgery, as the procedure is typically straightforward. The outcome will permanently resolve the hernia, and surgical complications are rare. Though complications such as infections, suture rupturing or hemorrhaging can occur, careful monitoring by your vet should minimize this risk.

When 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 remains healthy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.

Do you suspect your cat has a hernia? Our veterinarians have experience treating pets with a variety of conditions and illnesses. Contact our North Providence vets today for advice.

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