It can be a bit worrying when you feel a lump on your pet, especially when they are a brand new puppy!
Umbilical hernias are soft lumps found on the belly button, where some of the contents of the abdomen are protruding through a gap in the muscle of the body wall
They are not an uncommon finding when your pup gets checked by the vet
They may change in size, and sometimes close up on their own
Large hernias will require surgery, smaller hernias may be monitored
If they are not closed by the time your pup is neutered, we will usually offer to close them surgically then
Very rarely, a hernia can become strangulated - this is an emergency
Hernias can be inherited, so we don’t recommend breeding from pups that have them
An umbilical hernia is a gap in the wall of the abdomen that usually feels like a soft lump where the belly button is.
Normally after a puppy is born the umbilical cord dries up, and the small gap in the tummy muscles that allowed it to pass closes.
In some dogs the hole doesn’t close , allowing some fat from the abdomen, and occasionally organs, to move through the gap so that we can feel them under the skin.
How do I know if my puppy has a hernia?
You might notice a soft lump on your puppy’s belly, where the belly button is. They are usually easier to feel when the puppy is standing.
Sometimes the swelling disappears and then becomes visible again, particularly if gentle pressure is applied to it - this is known as a reducible hernia..
The size of a hernia can vary from less than one centimeter to several centimeters wide. As we will see later on, the size of the hernia can affect the approach that your vet might suggest.
Is it dangerous?
In most cases, an umbilical hernia is not painful and not dangerous for your puppy. If the lump becomes significantly bigger, red, hot, hard, or painful it will need to be checked by a vet.
Sometimes, a loop of intestine or other tissue can become trapped in a large hernia, requiring emergency surgery.
Can it be treated?
Small hernias do not usually cause any problems initially, but they may get bigger as your dog gets older.
Occasionally, very small hernias might close on their own in the first few months of the dog’s life.
Larger hernias are usually surgically repaired, to prevent organs from getting trapped. If they are spotted and treated before they cause any problems, the outcome is usually good.
Small to medium sized hernias that are not causing any problems are often repaired at the time ofneutering. In this case the outcome is excellent: the puppy recovers quickly and recurrences are rare.
What is the cause?
Some hernias are caused by damage to the umbilical cord at the time of birth, but the majority are congenital, meaning the puppy was born with a gap as the muscle failed to form properly.
It is likely that there is a genetic element to this condition, as some breeds seem to be more affected than others. For this reason, we do not recommend breeding from a dog that had a umbilical hernia at birth.
If you are worried about your puppy’s hernia or have any questions about treating them, the vets at MyDogDoc would be happy to chat!