Hernias in cats typically aren't serious and can be repaired with surgery as long as they are detected early. Today, our Port Jefferson vets discuss different types of cat hernias, surgery and what you can expect from cat hernia surgery recovery.
What are hernias?
While hernias do not commonly occur in cats, when they do happen they are usually congenital (meaning a kitten was born with one). Injury, internal damage, flawed muscles, weak muscle walls that allow organs and tissue to pass through and trauma can also cause hernias.
All that's left of an abdominal hernia is a collection of intestine, fat, and possibly other internal organs that have escaped. Presumption, constipation, or severe bloating are further possible causes. Furthermore, improper closure of suture lines following a spay procedure or the use of the incorrect kind of suture material can result in a hernia.
The condition can also happen if your cat is not kept calm and inactive enough throughout the healing process after a spaying procedure.
What are the different types of hernias in cats?
The three types of hernias in cats are defined based on their location in a cat's body. These include:
An umbilical hernia may feel like a bulge, soft swelling, or squishy protrusion beneath the skin. An umbilical hernia is a swelling that frequently shows up when your cat is crying, straining, standing, or meowing. It is located just under the ribcage on the underside of the cat, close to the belly button.
This type of hernia is caused by an opening in the muscle wall and may occur if the umbilical ring does not close properly after birth. The organs may push through the area surrounding the umbilicus.
Typically only seen in kittens, an umbilical hernia poses no health risks and is usually painless. It will probably close without treatment by the time your kitten is 3 to 4 months old.
A type of diaphragmatic hernia, a hiatal hernia is one of the rarest types. It can occur when the abdominal viscera pushes through the diaphragm. This "sliding" hernia can come and go when caused by a birth defect.
Cats who have a mild diaphragmatic hernia may not show any symptoms for years. In more severe cases, especially if untreated, the symptoms can become life-threatening. Cats suffering from a diaphragmatic hernia frequently experience weak and lethargic behavior, poor appetite, and persistent coughing. In extreme situations, they could have a fever, rapid, shallow breathing pattern, or difficulty breathing altogether. They might even fall apart.
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 with this kind of hernia can usually have it pushed back in, but if the intestines become stuck in the muscle wall, it could become a dangerous condition. In this instance, if blood flow to the affected tissue is interrupted, your cat may not survive an inguinal hernia.
Cat Hernia Surgery & Treatment
Occasionally, a vet may be able to push internal organs back through the muscle wall, which may close and heal after the organs are back in the abdominal cavity where they belong.
That said, because there is a high risk that a hernia will recur, your veterinarian may recommend repairing the muscle wall as even small openings may lead to complications such as strangulation.
If organs cannot easily be pushed back through the abdominal cavity, if complications such as infection, blockage or strangulation occur or if a tear in the muscle wall does not close by itself, your cat will need surgery to repair the hernia.
Your vet will first complete a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile and urinalysis to check your pet's general physical health.
As long as your cat doesn't need an emergency hernia repair, you can take care of any ailments your veterinarian finds before surgery. In most cases, having your cat spayed or neutered can repair non-urgent hernias, reducing the need for anesthesia.
The night before your cat's hernia surgery, he or she will be required to fast, 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 either 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. To close the incision, sutures will be used.
How much does a cat hernia surgery cost?
Cat hernia surgery costs can vary greatly based on a number of factors, such as the complexity of your cat's condition, where you live, and the variations in individual veterinarian costs. After examining and diagnosing your cat's ailment, your veterinarian can give you an estimated cost.
What can I expect from my cat's hernia surgery recovery?
You might be curious about your cat's recovery from surgery for a hernia and what to anticipate. Before and after your cat's hernia surgery, the veterinarian might give antibiotics to treat or prevent infection. In order to keep your cat from biting or licking the sutures or areas around the incision, they will also need to wear a collar while they heal. We will prescribe cage rest and pain medication as needed.
Typically, cats that have had hernia surgery will not require long-term hospitalization after surgery, as the procedure is usually straightforward. Plus, 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.