If your vet diagnoses your adorable new puppy with a hernia, don't panic. Umbilical and inguinal hernias, the most common types, are quite treatable and shouldn't cause problems for your pup as he grows into adulthood. A hernia means that there's a tear or hole in a part of the body's wall, through which an organ or another body part protrude.
If you notice a protrusion in the area of your puppy's belly button, underneath his rib cage, it's likely he has an umbilical hernia. In some puppies, these hernias close up and disappear before the age of 6 months. If it doesn't go away, surgical removal is advisable. While most umbilical hernias don't bother adult dogs, there's always the slim possibility that part of his intestines could become trapped, cutting off the blood flow. This results in strangulation, requiring emergency surgical correction.
Inguinal hernias are less common in puppies than umbilical hernias. They can occur in male puppies, but are more often found in female dogs going through pregnancy or estrus. You might notice a swelling in the area of your dog's groin, or in the scrotum of an intact male dog. Inguinal hernias are usually painless and don't cause problems unless a strangulation results.
Hernias in puppies are often corrected when the dog is spayed or neutered, since the animal is already under anesthesia. Scar tissue formed around an umbilical hernia is removed. The site is then closed by suturing. With an inguinal hernia, any organs that protrude are put back in place, with stitches or a muscle graft repairing the hernia. Most puppies experience no complications and hernia recurrence is rare. The puppy might need to wear an Elizabethan collar for several days after surgery, but that also would be necessary to keep a spayed female from bothering her incision.
Unlike inguinal or umbilical hernias, diaphragmatic hernias result from trauma. Your puppy could experience a diaphragmatic hernia if he's hit by a car, mauled by another dog or receives any type of severe blunt force. A tear occurs in the diaphragm, which separates the chest from the abdomen. Through this opening, the gastrointestinal and other organs can enter the chest cavity. If you did not witness the trauma your puppy went through, the most obvious sign of a serious diaphragmatic hernia is difficulty breathing. Puppies with small tears might be asymptomatic. If your dog receives any serious blow, take him to the vet for an examination even if he seems fine.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.