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Understanding Umbilical Hernias in Puppies and Kittens

Umbilical hernias in puppies and kittens occur before birth due to a weakness or opening in the abdominal muscle wall where the umbilical blood vessels pass through. These hernias are relatively common and typically harmless, but it's essential to understand their nature and how to manage them to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

What is an Umbilical Hernia?

An umbilical hernia manifests as a bulge at the site of the umbilicus (belly button) due to the protrusion of abdominal fat, which is usually covered by intact skin. This fat can be part of the omentum or the falciform ligament. In rare cases, intestines may slip into the hernia, which requires careful monitoring and management.

Causes of Umbilical Hernias in Puppies and Kittens

Umbilical hernias are generally believed to have a genetic basis rather than being caused by trauma during birth. Even aggressive handling of the umbilical cords by the mother usually does not result in hernias. It's important to note that these hernias are hereditary and should be monitored accordingly.

Managing Umbilical Hernias

If a puppy or kitten has an umbilical hernia, surgical correction is often recommended if the hernia does not close on its own. This procedure is typically done at the time of spaying or neutering. In most cases, these hernias are minor and can be easily corrected surgically. This genetic condition should not be a sole reason to exclude an animal from a breeding program if they have other valuable traits.

Other Types of Hernias

There are other hernias and similar disorders that can affect mammals, including:

  • Gastroschisis: Intestines protrude outside the abdomen without a protective sac, leading to complications.

  • Omphalocele: Organs protrude through the umbilicus, covered by a thin sac. This condition can be more severe due to associated defects and space limitations within the abdominal cavity.

When a Kitten or Puppy is Born with Intestines Outside the Body

Immediate veterinary intervention is crucial for newborns with exposed intestines, whether due to omphalocele or gastroschisis. Surgical procedures to correct these conditions involve protecting and repositioning the organs and require expert veterinary care.

Other Hernia Types in Dogs and Cats

  • Inguinal Hernias: Occur in the groin area and are second most common after umbilical hernias.

  • Diaphragmatic Hernias: Involve an opening in the diaphragm.

  • Perineal Hernias: Seen next to the rectum in intact male dogs.

  • Traumatic Hernias: Can occur anywhere due to injury.

Breeding Considerations for Dogs with Umbilical Hernias

When considering breeding a dog with an umbilical hernia, several factors should be taken into account:

  1. Avoid breeding two animals with the same disorder.

  2. Surgically correct significant hernias before pregnancy to prevent complications.

  3. Consider the overall health, temperament, and genetic traits of the dog.

Genetic and congenital disorders should be rated based on severity. Umbilical hernias, along with conditions like extra eyelashes or retained testicles, are generally considered minor and manageable with appropriate care.

For more detailed information and assistance, visit

Puppy With Umbilical Hernia
Puppy With Umbilical Hernia


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