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Every dog has a belly button called umbilicus, which is located just below the rib cage.
You might already know of its whereabouts if you’ve noticed a strange bulge in this particular area of your pup- and it’s got you worried.
This bulge is called an umbilical hernia.
Stay tuned to learn all about umbilical hernias in dogs so you know what to expect from this fairly common and curable condition.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- What in the World is an Umbilical Hernia?
- Types of umbilical hernias in dogs
- What Causes Umbilical Hernia in dogs?
- How to tell if your dog has an umbilical hernia
- Diagnosis of Canine Umbilical Hernia
- How is an umbilical hernia in dogs treated?
- What is the prognosis for an umbilical hernia?
- Prevention: Purebred standards & breeding practices
What in the World is an Umbilical Hernia?
Let’s start with the umbilical cord, the tissue that connects at the navel of the puppy while in the womb. It supplies the developing fetus with oxygen and nourishment until the puppy is born.
After birth, the umbilical cord will fall off on its own and the umbilicus should close up without any issue.
When the umbilicus fails to heal and close, a protrusion of the abdominal lining, organs or fat against the skin can occur, pushing out the naval area. This creates the unnatural bulge that can be minor or, depending on the circumstances, life-threatening.
Types of umbilical hernias in dogs
If your beloved pup has a bulging belly button, your main concern is probably going to be whether or not an umbilical hernia is dangerous or not.
To answer this, we must first look at the different types of umbilical hernias. After all, this is a condition that can crop up due to a diverse range of factors, which we will touch base on later.
A large or irreducible umbilical hernia is the most serious type, and the name pretty much says it all. This is where a loop of the intestine slips through an opening in the abdominal cavity and becomes stuck, pushing against the navel.
An irreducible hernia can result in strangulation or organ damage, in which case blood flow is blocked off from tissue. It’s rare but potentially life-threatening. Emergency surgery is required immediately.
A reducible umbilical hernia is a smaller tear where the intestine cannot pass through. This type is less alarming, often resulting in minor swelling around the naval area.
The size of the swelling varies, and in some cases will come and go on its own. In most cases, it can be left untreated with the affected pup going on to live a normal life without pain.
What Causes Umbilical Hernia in dogs?
The majority of umbilical hernia cases result from a malfunction during the healing process after the umbilical cord shrivels and falls off following the birth. The reason for this is unknown.
There are other factors that can cause umbilical hernias in both puppies and adults. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Umbilical hernias in puppies
Umbilical hernias are the most common type affecting newborn puppies. There are 3 main ways in which this congenital hernia will develop.
- The puppy was born with the umbilical hernia.
- The hernia developed due to a spontaneous issue during early development.
- It is hereditary, passed from one of the parents to the puppy.
In this video, a vet talks about umbilical hernias in puppies.
Umbilical hernias in adult dogs
Adult dogs can develop hernias as well. Unlike puppies, blunt force trauma is the main cause.
If a dog gets hit by a car or receives a severe blow to the stomach, a rip in the abdominal wall can occur, causing the organs to push out or “herniate”.
Disease and aging are also factors that cause hernias in adult dogs.
Common breeds that have hernias
Some purebred dogs are predisposed to umbilical hernias. Here is a list of some breeds that are known to have umbilical hernias in their genetic makeup.
How to tell if your dog has an umbilical hernia
Remember, small umbilical hernias are usually nothing to worry about and will go away as the puppy matures.
If you suspect that your puppy or dog may be suffering from an irreducible umbilical hernia, keep an eye out for symptoms such as a noticeable swelling at the umbilicus or belly button and the area is warm to the touch.
When you touch the area and your dog yelps or growls, it’s obvious that it causes pain so you should be concerned about that. Another thing is if your dog displays a lack of appetite or anorexia, as well as vomiting and depression.
Make an appointment and visit your vet so you know what’s the next course of action to help your dog.
Diagnosis of Canine Umbilical Hernia
The size and contents of an umbilical hernia are the two main factors that will be considered by the veterinarian before treatment is determined.
The vet will begin by asking questions about the symptoms you noticed, then your dog will undergo a physical examination. He or she will gently push the organs that have fallen out of the abdominal cavity back inside. This is imperative in order to determine how large of a tear they are dealing with.
If a loop of the intestine has fallen through, this means that the tear is large. Your dog is at risk of strangulation, and the tear needs to be repaired immediately via surgery.
If the hernia is large, the vet might use an abdominal radiograph to better diagnose whether or not it is strangled.
In order to determine the size of a hernia, the vet may suggest an abdominal ultrasound.
How is an umbilical hernia in dogs treated?
If an umbilical hernia is small, treatment is not necessary. Your dog is not in pain and the tear is so tiny that the intestine, fat or other organs can’t pass through.
The best course of action is to wait and watch, especially if you have a puppy. Usually, the hernia will go away on its own by the time the pup is 6 months old. If not, consult your vet.
If you’re dealing with a large hernia, surgery is required to avoid strangulation. Luckily, this is not a complicated surgery.
The vet will make an incision in the hernial sac and push the contents back into the abdominal cavity. Hernia border tissue is removed and the opening in the abdominal cavity is sealed.
Tip: If your pup needs to be spayed or neutered, inquire about having the umbilical hernia repaired at the same time. It is common to do this since the dog will already be under anesthesia.
Home Remedies for umbilical hernias in dogs
ATTENTION: There are no home remedies to cure an umbilical hernia.
But, if you are confident that your essential oil collection has the healing powers to make your dog’s umbilical hernia naturally disappear, please note that home remedies SHOULD NOT be undertaken until you have had your fur baby examined by a vet.
Helping your dog to have a smooth recovery
Umbilical hernias in dogs can be scary, but in truth, the surgery is standard procedure with optimistic results. You can expect your dog to make a full recovery and go on to live a normal life.
Of course, the risk of complications is present with any type of surgery. When you bring your dog home, follow the vet’s care instructions carefully, not missing a day of medication, if it is prescribed.
Prepare your dog’s crate or bed so she has a comfortable, familiar space to rest and heal.
If you have other pets, keep them separated for the time being to reduce physical strain and stress. Avoid any type of physical activity for at least 10 days. Take your dog outside for toilet breaks, but keep her on a leash. She should not run around or jump in her fragile state.
Your dog’s stomach will be sensitive after surgery. She might vomit from eating straight away or she might not have an appetite at all. This is normal as her body stabilizes after surgery. If she is vomiting, do not feed her for a day.
The most important factor is to carefully monitor the abdominal area and your dog’s behavior for signs of an adverse reaction to the surgery.
During the first few days of recovery, obviously your dog won’t be her usual self. If she displays signs of exhaustion, coughing, lack of coordination or whimpering, know that this is normal because she is feeling uncomfortable from the surgery.
Seek medical attention for your pup if there’s no progress during recovery and if there are problems with the incision or infection. This can include, redness, swelling or abnormal discharge.
It’s also an emergency if the sutures are not holding the incision together or it is falling apart, and in extreme cases, the intestines fall through again, pushing through the incision.
How much does it cost to fix or treat umbilical hernia in dogs?
The cost of surgery for a dog with an umbilical hernia will depend on the size and severity of the hernia. But, the good news is, this standard surgery isn’t that expensive.
Excluding the initial physical examination and potential lab work, the cost of umbilical hernia surgery is between $150 to $400.
What is the prognosis for an umbilical hernia?
Umbilical hernias are considered to be a mild health issue unless strangulation is diagnosed.
If the hernia is small, your dog will be just fine. You’ll only need to keep an eye on the naval swelling and know what symptoms to look for if medical attention is needed.
After surgery, recurrent umbilical hernias in dogs is extremely rare. If symptoms surface again, take your dog to the vet for further treatment.
Prevention: Purebred standards & breeding practices
A survey undertaken by veterinarians concluded with 90% agreeing that umbilical hernias in purebred dogs are inherited.
There are mixed attitudes towards breeding dogs with a predisposition to the condition.
Some believe that you should not breed the affected dog to stop the passing on of the hernia gene to future generations.
Also, there is fear surrounding a pregnant dog with an umbilical hernia. Professionals argue that weight bearing down on the abdominal tear from a growing uterus can cause the tear to stretch out and become irreducible.
Others simply do not see it as a major issue, especially since umbilical hernias can occur spontaneously with no known cause. The American Kennel Club allows purebred dogs to perform in shows with no-fault given in regards to the hernia.
If you are worried about purchasing a puppy with an umbilical hernia, the best preventative measure you can take is to check with the breeder. Ask about the medical history of the parents to see if hernias are present in the gene pool.
Note that this will only rule out congenital hernias, but it doesn’t mean your dog can’t still develop one due to healing malfunction or disease.
Have you dealt with umbilical hernias in dogs? Tell us about your experience in the comments!