Issue Description An umbilical hernia is the protrusion of
abdominal contents beneath the skin at the navel (umbilicus).
Causes The exact cause of an umbilical hernia is
unknown although most are thought to be inherited. It is most commonly
a congenital malformation caused by flawed embryogenesis. The
umbilical opening is normal until birth as it contains blood vessels
that pass through from the mother to the fetus. This opening closes at
birth in the normal pet and a hernia results if the opening fails to
Symptoms The symptom of an umbilical hernia is a soft
swelling in the navel (umbilical) area. It is not considered critical
unless the opening is large enough to allow organs or intestines to
protrude. Most umbilical hernias are not serious. Small umbilical
hernias have been noted to close spontaneously by the age of 6 months.
For this reason, many vets will recommend waiting until the puppy is 6
months of age before repairing surgically.
Diagnosis Definitive diagnosis of an umbilical hernia is
by physical examination. Generally the contents of the hernia sack can
be displaced back into the abdomen. This allows your veterinarian to
determine the size of the hernia opening. The size of the hernia that
is of most concern is that size which is similar to an intestinal
loop. This size has the risk of allowing a loop of intestine to drop
into the hernia and become trapped causing a life- threatening
"strangulation". Hernias that are smaller, thus too small for a loop
to enter, or larger, in which loops can freely come and go, are at
lower risk for potential strangulation.
radiographs with contrast material may be used to diagnose
Abdominal ultrasound may be used to
determine the size and contents of the hernia in some cases.
Treatment Some small hernias spontaneously close by the
time the puppy is 6 months old and some dogs have lived with small
hernias their entire lives without difficulty. Large hernias require
surgery, which is often done when the dog is being spayed or neutered.
Surgery is used to prevent a more serious condition where an intestine
loop drops into the hernia causing life-threatening strangulation of