The abdominal wall is composed of dense tissue and three muscle layers, which keep the internal organs within the abdomen. The groin has a small opening, called the inguinal canal, through which the blood vessels and spermatic cord passes to the testicles in males. Female dogs and cats also have this opening, but only a cord of fat called the vaginal process protrudes. The inguinal canal typically is small enough that internal organs like the intestines remain in the abdomen.
What is an inguinal hernia?
An inguinal hernia is a condition seen in dogs and cats in which the inguinal canal stretches open and the intestines pass through the canal. This can cause the intestine to become trapped outside of the abdomen, which can impair the blood flow to that section of bowel and cause it to die.
The cause of this condition is usually genetic; therefore, affected dogs should not be bred.
Signs and diagnosis
The classic sign of an inguinal hernia is a swelling seen in the groin region in females. In male dogs, the scrotum may appear to be very large due to herniation of the intestines. The diagnosis of this condition can be confirmed with abdominal radiographs or ultrasound of the swelling. A complete blood count and chemistry profile are performed prior to surgery to allow us to select the best anesthetic protocol for your companion.
An abdominal incision is made in order to expose the inguinal hernia. The abdominal organs that have slipped through the hernial ring are placed back into the abdomen. If a section of intestine has died off, it will be removed, and the intestine reconnected with stitches. The inguinal canal is stitched together and in some cases either a muscle or collagen graft is used to augment the repair.
Most patients that have surgical correction of an inguinal hernia will have a successful outcome and will live a normal life.
For more information on this subject, speak to the veterinarian who is treating your pet.