A hernia essentially refers to a condition in which one internal organ encroaches on the territory of another. A tear develops in a muscle mass somewhere inside the cat, and another organ slips through. If left untreated, a hernia can develop into a serious health condition, causing sickness or death.
Types of Hernias
Internal muscle tears are never good news, and you may think a hernia is a hernia is a hernia. Yes and no. While all hernias are essentially a slip of an organ, their specific name depends upon their location.
An umbilical hernia is a bulge around the cat's “belly button,” right below the ribcage. This is where the umbilical cord connected him to his amniotic sac, and where abdominal tissue has pushed through and is now residing just under the skin. A diaphragmatic hernia occurs internally, when the muscle tissue between the abdomen and chest tears to allow abdominal organs to push up into the chest cavity. An inguinal hernia occurs near the groin, when part of the intestines slip through a tear in the muscular wall.
Like his eye and fur color, the possibility of developing some types of hernia is all in your cat's genes. Umbilical and inguinal hernias are congenital, meaning the cat has done nothing to cause the condition except be born. Diaphragmatic hernias usually develop after trauma, such as a car accident or fall, or from other medical issues such as tumors.
Of the different types of hernias, the umbilical is usually the easiest to spot, as it appears as a small bulge under your cat's ribcage. Generally speaking your cat typically doesn't experience much in the way of discomfort with this type of hernia, but there are exceptions depending on its severity.
An inguinal hernia may appear as a bulge as well, but its location near your cat's rump may make it a bit tougher to easily identify. Because this hernia is from displaced intestines, your cat could suffer from digestive problems as his food fails to travel properly through the intestinal tract. He may vomit, become lethargic and stop eating entirely.
Since diaphragmatic hernias are internal, they give no visible signs, and depending on its location and severity, you may not notice much difference in your cat's behavior. He may suffer respiratory problems, abnormal heart murmurs and some digestive trouble.
Typically, when internal organs start to shift and wander, that's bad. If you suspect your cat has a hernia, seek out your veterinarian for a full exam and diagnosis. Adopting a wait-and-see attitude could cost your cat his life.
Treatment for any hernia involves surgery. Your vet needs to go inside, move the interloping organ back where it belongs and close the muscle tear. Umbilical hernias are typically corrected during neutering, as are inguinal. Diaphragmatic hernias may require more attention, depending on how severe the damage is and what other medical issues are at play. In most cases, cats recover from hernia operations with little problem.
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