Cat hernias occur when there is an opening in some part of the body allowing fat or organs to move to other areas where they wouldn't normally be. In today's post, our Madison vets share some information about the types of hernias experienced by cats, how they are treated, and what you can expect during and after your cat's surgery.

Hernias in Cats: What are they?

While it is uncommon for cats to experience hernias, the ones that do usually have had them since shortly after they were born. However, trauma, injury, internal damage, flawed muscles, or weak muscle walls that allow organs and tissue to pass through can also cause hernias.

A hernia can be described as a collection of intestine, fat, or other internal organs that escape through a hole in the abdominal cavity. Excessive bloating, pregnancy, or constipation are other potential causes. In addition, a hernia may occur if the wrong type of suture material is used or suture lines are improperly closed after a spay operation.

It is also possible for female cats to develop a hernia after they have been spayed. This is usually caused by too much activity in the early days following the spaying procedure, but if you keep your cat indoors and relatively calm for about 14 days following their spay operation, the risk is minimized. 

What are the different types of hernias in cats?

There are three main types of hernias that a cat may be diagnosed with. They are:

Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal hernias are a rare form 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 Hernia

Inguinal hernias are most often an issue for pregnant female cats. If the intestines protrude through the inguinal canal, an inguinal hernia can affect your cat’s groin area.

Typically this type of hernia can be pushed back into place but it can 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.

Umbilical Hernia

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.

This type of hernia is caused by an opening in the muscle wall and can occur when the umbilical ring does not close properly following birth. The organs can push through the area surrounding the umbilicus.

Umbilical hernias are seen in kittens. These hernias do not pose any serious health risks and are generally painless. Your kitten's umbilical hernia will likely close without treatment by the time your kitten is 3 to 4 months old.

How are hernias in cats treated?

Your veterinarian may be able to push your kitty's internal organs back through the muscle wall, which may close up and heal after the organs are back in the abdominal cavity where they belong.

Nonetheless, the risk that the hernia will recur is high, so your vet may recommend fixing the muscle wall since even small openings can lead to complications such as strangulation.

If your cat's 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 need to undergo surgery to repair the hernia. 

First, your vet will need to complete full diagnostics like a blood chemistry test, complete blood count, and urinalysis to determine your cat's overall physical health.

Provided the hernia repair is not urgent, any conditions that are diagnosed 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 your cat's hernia surgery, they will need to fast, and fluids will also need to be restricted.

What happens during surgery for a cat hernia?

Before beginning the surgery, your vet will thoroughly clean the areas to be operated on including shaving them bare. They will then implement the use of surgical drapes to keep the area clean.

Intravenous anesthesia will be used to put your cat into a deep sleep, then a tracheal tube will be inserted to maintain the correct dose of anesthesia with gas.

During the operation, your veterinarian 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.

If the opening in your cat's abdomen is large, or if some tissue needs to be eliminated because it has died, your vet may use either synthetic surgical mesh or existing muscle tissue to close the gap in the muscle wall. The veterinarian will then use sutures to close the wound.

Cat Hernia Surgery: What to expect during recovery?

Your cat will be prescribed antibiotics to help prevent infection from occurring. Your cat will also need to wear a collar during the recovery period to prevent him or her from licking or biting incision areas or sutures. Your vet will likely recommend that your cat be kept in a quiet area and on crate-rest until they have healed. Pain medication will also be prescribed to help keep your feline friend comfortable.

Cats who have a procedure for a hernia usually only spend minimal time in the hospital after surgery. This is because 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 your vet.

When detected and treated early, hernias in cats do not tend to cause many complications and are unlikely to recur. The key, as with most health conditions, is early diagnosis and treatment.

Cat Hernia Surgery: What is the cost?

Several factors go into determining the cost of your cat's visit. How much your veterinary surgeon will charge to perform your cat's hernia procedure will depend upon where you live in the country, the size and general health of your cat, the severity of the hernia, and more.

The only way to get an accurate estimate for your cat's hernia surgery speak to your vet. At Gluckstadt Animal Hospital, our veterinarians are always happy to provide clients with a complete breakdown of costs and to take the time to go over those fees with you. 

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.

Is your cat showing signs of any of the types of hernia listed above? Contact our Madison vets right away to book an examination for your feline family member.