Hernias in Cats
Though hernias in cats are uncommon when they do occur they are usually a condition that the cat has been born with. Trauma, injury, internal damage, flawed muscles, or weak muscle walls that allow organs and tissue to pass through can also cause hernias.
Essentially, a hernia is a collection of the intestine, fat, and sometimes other internal organs that escape the abdominal cavity. Excessive bloating, pregnancy, or constipation are other potential causes of hernias in cats. 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.
Cat hernias may also occur if your feline friend is not kept calm and inactive enough while healing after being spayed.
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:
One of the rarest types of hernias, a hiatal hernia is a type of diaphragmatic hernia, which can occur when the abdominal viscera pushes through the diaphragm. When caused by a birth defect, this “sliding hernia” can come and go.
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.
Though this type of hernia in cats can usually be pushed back in, it may develop into a serious condition if the intestines become trapped in the muscle wall. In this case, an inguinal hernia can be life-threatening for your cat if blood flow to the tissue is severed.
If your cat has an umbilical hernia, this may feel like a soft swelling, bulge, or squishy protrusion below the skin. It is located just under the ribcage on a cat’s underside, near the belly button, and may often appear 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. In some cases, the opening may then heal once the organs are back in 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 diagnostic tests such as 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.
The night before your cat's hernia surgery, fasting will be necessary 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.
The veterinarian may use a synthetic surgical mesh (if the opening is too large or if the tissue needs to be eliminated because it has died), or existing muscle tissue to shut the gap in the muscle wall. Sutures will be used to close the incision.
Cats Recovering From Hernia Surgery
Antibiotics may be provided before and following your cat’s hernia surgery to treat or prevent infection. Your cat will also need to wear a collar during the recovery period to prevent him or her from licking or biting 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.
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.
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.