Cat Hernias: Everything You Need to Know

Hernia is a bulge through an opening or weakening in the abdominal wall. Hernias can also occur in other places on the body.

The weakening or opening is called a hernia gate and can be congenital or a consequence of trauma, for example after a fall or a traffic accident. Sometimes hernias can develop as the cat grows. The bulge is usually filled with fat from the abdominal cavity or by some abdominal organ, such as the intestine, spleen or bladder.

Different types of hernias are usually distinguished:

Umbilical hernia: bulge at the navel. Is usually congenital and is usually due to the abdominal wall not closing as it should in connection with the birth. Umbilical hernia can be hereditary.

Abdominal hernia: bulging at random in the abdomen, which often occurs as a result of injury such as in a traffic accident.

Inguinal hernia: bulge in the groin, on the inside of one or both thighs. Middle-aged and older unneutered female cats are more likely to suffer from inguinal hernia, especially during or after pregnancy.

Due to the hormonal influence in connection with pregnancy, muscles and connective tissue in the groin can be weakened so that the risk of hernia increases. However, the condition also occurs in male cats, and can sometimes be caused by injury.

Perineal hernia: bulge on one or both sides of the rectum. The condition is rare in cats and is more common in older unneutered male cats.

Testosterone can help weaken the muscles surrounding the rectum, which means that the risk of hernia increases.

Diaphragmatic hernia: bulging into the thoracic cavity that in most cases has arisen as a result of injury / trauma, such as a traffic accident.


Hernias in the navel, abdominal wall, groin and perineum (diaphragm) are visible on the outside as a bulge under the skin. It is not uncommon for them to vary in size depending on the cat’s posture. In perineal hernia, the cat may also have difficulty defecating or urinating.

Diaphragmatic hernias are not visible from the outside, but can cause the cat’s lung volume to be limited as the abdominal organs are thrown into the chest cavity. Symptoms of this can be that the cat easily becomes short of breath, has difficulty breathing or even ends up in shock. The condition can be life-threatening, depending on the extent of the hernia.

If a part of an organ, such as an intestinal tract, gets stuck in the hernia and cannot be pushed back, it is called pinched hernia. The organ’s blood supply is restricted and it suffers from tissue death. The condition is acute and life-threatening. Signs of squeezing are redness, heat and tenderness.


In connection with the clinical examination, the veterinarian senses the hernia and assesses how large the hernia port, ie the opening, is and whether the swelling is hot, sore or red.

To diagnose diaphragmatic hernia, an X-ray examination may need to be done. It is also possible to diagnose the condition by listening with the stethoscope to the cat’s chest – if intestinal sounds can be heard, it strengthens the suspicion that the cat has diaphragmatic hernia.

Other hernias (except umbilical hernias) are also examined with the help of X-rays or ultrasounds, in order to get an idea of ​​which organs are in the hernia. The hernias usually contain the following organs:

  • Umbilical hernia: intestinal and / or adipose tissue
  • Abdominal hernia: intestinal parts, spleen and / or adipose tissue
  • Inguinal hernia: intestinal parts, uterus and / or adipose tissue
  • Perienal hernia: rectum, prostate and / or adipose tissue
  • Diaphragmatic hernia: parts of the liver, stomach, adipose tissue and / or intestinal loops


With the exception of congenital umbilical hernias, which can grow away when the kitten grows up, hernias are usually treated surgically. The hernia contents are returned to the abdominal cavity and the hernia port is sewn again. Diaphragmatic hernia surgery is slightly more complex, as the cat needs artificial respiration or a respirator during surgery. The procedure is performed via the abdominal cavity and the organs that are overturned in the thoracic cavity are pulled back into the abdomen, after which the hernia port is closed.


In the case of uncomplicated hernias without squeezing, the prognosis is good. Squeezing involves a risk of cold sores in the pinched tissue and thus a risk of peritonitis, blood poisoning and shock. If the cat copes with the acute crisis, however, the prognosis is good. Perineal hernia that is not operated on early can lead to an increased risk of nerve damage and impaired function in the bladder and / or rectum.

If the hernia has arisen as a result of trauma, the prognosis depends on the cat’s other possible injuries.

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