What are hernias?
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.
A hernia is essentially a collection of the intestine, fat, and occasionally other internal organs that escape the abdominal cavity. Hernias in cats can also be caused by excessive bloating, pregnancy, or constipation. A hernia can also occur if the wrong type of suture material is used or suture lines are not properly 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.
What are the different 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:
A hiatal hernia is a type of diaphragmatic hernia that occurs when the abdominal viscera pushes through the diaphragm. It is one of the rarest types of hernias. This "sliding hernia" can appear and disappear when caused by a birth defect.
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 is usually treatable, it can progress to a serious condition if the intestines become trapped in the muscle wall. In this case, an inguinal hernia can be fatal to your cat if blood flow to the tissue is cut off.
An umbilical hernia in your cat may feel like a soft swelling, bulge, or squishy protrusion beneath the skin. It appears frequently when your cat is meowing, crying, straining, or standing, and is located just under the ribcage on the underside of the cat, near the belly button.
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 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 prior to 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.
To close the gap in the muscle wall, the veterinarian may use either synthetic surgical mesh (if the opening is too large or the tissue must be removed because it has died) or existing muscle tissue. Sutures will be used to close the incision.
What will my cat's hernia surgery recovery be like?
Antibiotics may be given to your cat before and after hernia surgery to treat or prevent infection. During the recovery period, your cat will also need to wear a collar to prevent him or her from licking or biting incision areas or sutures. As needed, cage rest and pain relievers will be prescribed.
Cats that have had hernia surgery typically will not need to be hospitalized 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.
How much does cat hernia surgery cost?
The cost of your cat's hernia surgery will be influenced by a number of factors, including where you live, the fees charged by your specific vet, and the complexity of your cat's condition. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with a written estimate of the cost of hernia surgery for your cat. Having said that, you can expect to pay between $250 and $1100 to have your cat's hernia surgically repaired.
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.