Perineal Hernia in Dogs

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Even though a perineal hernia is not the most common health issue that can affect a dog, it does tend to appear in senior animals, particularly intact males. It also tends to affect our canine friends more than it does our feline companions.

But what is a perineal hernia, and how can it be corrected? What is it caused by, and what are its symptoms? We’re answering all of these questions below, so keep on reading!

Causes of perineal hernia in dogs

Unfortunately, a specific cause of this medical condition remains unknown despite the amount of research that has been performed in the past few decades.

However, certain dog breeds seem to be more predisposed to developing perineal hernia compared to others, and they are the following:

  • Boston Terriers
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Corgis
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Miniature Poodles
  • Kelpies
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Collies
  • Pekingese

What symptoms does perineal hernia in dogs cause?

As its name suggests, a perineal hernia is a condition where a part of the pelvic diaphragm becomes either damaged or weakened and ends up not being able to support the pet’s internal organs in their normal places.

In other words, there is pressure being put on the dog’s intestines, especially the rectum, so the animal is not going to be able to pass stools as easily as before developing a perineal hernia.

There are some physiological instances where the previously mentioned weakening of the diaphragm is caused by natural processes such as a pregnancy or chronic constipation.

There’s also the possibility that the intact dog develops a prostate pathology that leads to the organ being enlarged and putting pressure on some of the other organs and the diaphragm muscle.

In any case, some of the most common clinical signs that pet owners might notice if their dogs have indeed developed perineal hernia are the following:

  • Constipation
  • Unilateral or bilateral anal inflammation
  • Urinary complications (straining, pain, discomfort)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rectal prolapse

Perineal hernia can be a medical emergency in some cases, even though it might not seem so. But the truth is that the bowels can become trapped or tangled in other structures inside the pelvic cavity (or the hernia itself), potentially leading to obstructions or severing of the blood flow.

In some sense, it would be a situation that can be compared to GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus), where the blood flow to and from the stomach and a part of the small intestine is completely blocked.

If there is any topographic change relating to the bowels, the dog might show digestive symptoms, too, mainly consisting of vomiting.

Diagnosis of perineal hernia in dogs

When you bring your dog to the animal hospital, the vet will first perform a physical examination. If they suspect a perineal hernia in any way, they will perform a rectal examination, which can be quite effective in the way of diagnosing the health issue.

Even so, additional tests such as a complete blood count, biochemistry, and most importantly, diagnostic imaging techniques like an ultrasound or, more specifically, a contrast X-ray will be employed to determine the extent of the perineal hernia and its specific topography.

In some cases, this condition can only lead to constipation, but there is no way of knowing how it might progress in the future. As such, once it is diagnosed, the veterinarian will immediately recommend a course of action – which usually consists of surgery.

Treating perineal hernia in dogs

An operation is the most effective way of treating this health issue, but the problem is that in some situations, pet owners might choose to wait before making a decision, especially given the costs of the procedure.

However, if the X-ray clearly reveals that one of the pelvic organs is trapped inside the hernia, whether that be the urinary bladder or a portion of the bowels, surgery should be performed immediately, regardless of any other consideration.

Dogs that are unable to defecate or urinate and are in severe abdominal pain have to be operated on as soon as possible.

Following the surgery, most dogs recover in a period of one to two weeks. However, the main issue with the procedure itself is that in about 10% of all cases, the perineal hernia somehow reappears in about one year’s time after the operation was performed.

The dog should also be kept in a quiet environment for two weeks after the procedure because some sudden movements might affect the sutures and reopen a hole inside the pelvic diaphragm.

Can perineal hernia be prevented?

Given the breeds that are predisposed to developing it, we’d say that the best course of action, if you are the owner of a male dog, is to get him neutered as early as possible. You are allowed to let your dog be intact for one or two years, for example, but getting him neutered afterwards is of utmost importance, especially if he’s a Boxer, for example.

Unfortunately, there are no other ways of preventing a perineal hernia. Dogs that regularly engage in very strenuous exercise, even those that are middle or senior-aged, are always at a risk of developing this complication.

Because sometimes, the operation can be very complicated, and the dog might need significant aftercare such as staying at the hospital for a week or so, the cost of the entire veterinary care can amount to $5,000 or more.

By contrast, neutering your dog in most places in North America will almost never cost more than $250.

All in all, getting your dog fixed should save both of you a lot of trouble in two ways – your finances and your dog’s discomfort and general health, with their life being potentially at risk.

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