Cats can recover well from hernias if detected early. In today's blog, our vets from Lincoln explain the different types of hernias and what to expect if your cat develops one.
What are hernias?
Hernias are not common in cats, when they do occur, they are usually a condition that the cat has been born with. They can also be caused by factors like 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 when organs like intestines or fat escape the belly. Conditions like bloating, pregnancy, or constipation can also lead to cat hernias. Sometimes, using the wrong stitches or not closing wounds properly after a spaying surgery can cause a hernia.
It's important to keep your cat calm and inactive during healing after a spaying surgery to avoid hernias.
What are the various types of hernia?
Cats have three types of hernias, which are sorted by where they occur in the cat's body. These types are:
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 a small opening 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.
Before the surgery, your vet will run tests like blood chemistry, complete blood count, and urinalysis to check your pet's overall health.
Provided the hernia repair is not urgent, any diagnosed conditions 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 the surgery, your cat should be fasting with nothing to eat and drunk. Anesthesia will be used to put your cat into a deep sleep, and a tube will be inserted to keep the anesthesia going.
Before the operation, 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 surgery, the vet will gently put the organs back into place in the belly. 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.
What can I expect with my cat's hernia surgery?
Your cat's hernia surgery may involve antibiotics before and after the procedure to prevent or treat infections. During the recovery phase, your cat will wear a collar to stop them from licking or biting the incision area. Additionally, they might be prescribed cage rest and pain relief as needed.
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.
Early detection and treatment of hernias in cast generally lead to minimal complications and low changes of recurrence. Ensuring prompt and effective care is essential for your cat's overall health.
What are the costs associated with a hernia?
Many factors will influence the cost of your cat's hernia surgery, ranging from where you live, the fees charged by your specific vet, and the complexity of your cat's condition. Your vet can provide you with a written estimate of how much your cat's hernia surgery will cost. That said, you can expect to pay anywhere from $250 - $1100 to have your cat's hernia surgically repaired.
What should I do if I think my cat has 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.