When a muscle separates abnormally due to a tearing of the wall the condition is called an acquired hernia. When there is an incomplete development of the muscle wall from birth, it is called a congenital hernia. When a hernia is seen significantly more often in a certain genetic line or breed of dog it is said to be an inherited hernia. In all cases, the resulting opening from a hernia can allow for tissues or an organ to “herniate” through the muscle wall into the next cavity.
An example of an inherited hernia that may not be apparent until later in life is a herniated spinal disc. Certain breeds or individuals within a breed are genetically more susceptible to develop a hernia, such as the Dachshund. An example of a congenital hernia is the umbilical hernia. Most acquired hernias result from a traumatic event such as with a diaphragmatic hernia that is the result of a car accident.
Demonstrating that a wrent exists in a muscle wall makes the diagnosis of a hernia. This can be more readily identified if the hernia is external. Usually a bulge is seen under the skin in these cases. Often by placing your fingers over the hernia and pushing inwards to repel the contents back into their original cavity space you can reduce the hernia contents. If the hernia is internal, such as with a diaphragmatic hernia, radiographs are needed to make a diagnosis.
The standard treatment for most hernias is surgical repair. Not all hernias, however, need to be treated. If they are small and thus the risk for strangulation of the contents is low you may choose not to close the hernia surgically. If the pet is young when the hernia is present the size of the hernia may become smaller as the pet grows. If the hernia is stable such as when the opening fills with fat to prevent any further opportunity for organs to strangulate, it is safe to ignore the hernia. Complications can occur whether the hernia is treated or not and it is therefore best to discuss the matter with your veterinarian.