In today's post, our Boulder and Westminster veterinarians explain the different types of hernias seen in cats, the surgery used to treat cat hernias and factors that affect the cost of cat hernia surgery.    

Hernias in Cats

Cat hernias aren't terribly common but when they do occur they are usually present at birth. 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.

You may have heard that cats will sometimes develop a hernia after being spayed. Too much activity in the early days following the spaying procedure can indeed lead to hernias in some cats, but if you keep your cat indoors and relatively calm for about 14 days following their spay operation, the risk is minimized. 

Types of Hernias Your Cat Might Have

The three types of hernias in cats are categorized based on their location in the cat’s body. They include:

Hiatal Hernia

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 Hernia

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.

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.

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

Your vet may be able to push your kitty's internal organs back through the muscle wall, which might close up and heal after the organs are pushed back into 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. 

Your vet's first step will be to complete 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 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, he or she will be required to fast, 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.

Prior to 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.

Your vet 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 To Expect as Your Cat Recovers from Hernia Surgery

Antibiotics may be provided prior to and following your cat’s hernia surgery to treat or prevent infection. 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. Cage rest and pain medicines will be prescribed as required.

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.

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. Early and effective treatment is necessary to ensure your cat stays healthy.

Cat Hernia Surgery Cost

It's important to understand that there are many factors that go into determining the cost of veterinary care including surgery. 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 Boulder and Northside Emergency Pet Clinics our emergency 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.

If your cat is displaying signs of pain or extreme discomfort contact our Boulder and Northside Emergency Pet Clinics  right away. Our experienced team is available 24/7 to care for your cat when they need us most.