Perineal Hernia in Dogs


Owning a dog is a big responsibility and providing good medical care is a big part of dog ownership. Even with the best of care, some dogs are injured or develop health conditions that result in veterinary care and high vet bills. Many owners today are purchasing health insurance to help with costs. Pet insurance covers many health conditions, including conditions like perineal hernia.

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What is Perineal Hernia in Dogs?

Perineal hernias are a common issue found in non-neutered dogs ranging from middle age to senior age. It develops when the muscles of the pelvic floor become weak and allow pelvic contents to leak through and get into the perineal area, which is the area between the scrotum and the anus. A hernia is a defect in the structure that makes up the walls of the body cavity. In the case of perineal hernias, the defective wall can almost collapse, which allows the contents to spill into different areas of the body cavity. This can be fatal for the dog if left untreated.

Although hernias can be caused by tumors, infections, trauma and hormonally problems, the actual cause of perineal hernias is still unclear. Some vets believe that the male hormones gradually destroying the muscles of the pelvic floor cause it. However, because it can happen to castrated males and females, although very rare, it’s believed that there are also other causes.

What Dogs are Susceptible?

Any breed of dog can develop perineal hernias. However, it’s been suggested that dogs with rudimentary tails, like Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs have more of a structural predisposition to perineal hernias. Perineal hernias generally affect older dogs, typically those between 7 and 9 years old. It’s also more common with male dogs.

How is it Diagnosed?

Some common symptoms are difficulty defecating or urinating, constipation, lethargy and altered tail carriage. Although these symptoms can represent other health conditions, they’re very common with perineal hernias. To accurately diagnose this disease, a veterinarian will perform a rectal examination to determine the following.

• Presence of prostate disease
• Presence or absence of contents of hernia
• Presence or absence of mass-like lesions
• Presence of bilateral or unilateral disease

Depending on how advanced the disease is in the dog, the dog may also require sedation for completion of the rectal examination. The vet may also order urinalysis, a complete blood count, and a biochemical profile. Abdominal radiographs, ultrasounds and similar advanced diagnostic imaging tests may also be given to determine bladder size and position hernia contents, colon size and position, and the possible presence of cancer or prostate disease.

How to Treat Perineal Hernia in Dogs

Treatment for perineal hernias can vary depending on how advanced the disease is when seen by the veterinarian. If it’s a non-emergency perineal hernia, the vet may perform medical or elective surgical therapy on the dog. The medical therapy, which is aimed at preparing the dog for surgery, include medical procedures like analgesics, stool softeners, enemas, dietary management and IV fluid therapy.

The actual surgery consists of fixing the pelvic diaphragm and possibly stapling or stitching the bladder and colon to the abdominal wall to prevent the reoccurrence of the disease. In more serious cases, the surgeon may implant plastic surgical mesh to prevent leakage of contents. Castration is recommended during the procedure to decrease the chance of reoccurrence.

How to Care for a Dog with a Perineal Hernia

The best and most recommended care for dogs with perineal hernias is surgery to fix or eliminate the problem. Post-surgical care is also extremely important. After the surgery, the dog will be put on pain medications and a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Cold compresses can be put on the surgical site to reduce irritation and swelling. The vet may also recommend a high-fiber diet along with stool softeners to help reduce the discomfort and pain associated with defecation.

This can also help reduce the chance of the repaired tissue becoming damaged. The dog may also be fitted with an Elizabethan color to prevent licking and chewing on the surgical site. The dog should also get as much rest as possible and not overdo the exercise for a few weeks after the surgery.

The veterinary cost of perineal hernia can vary by veterinarian, geographic location and level of treatment chosen. It’s not unusual for this entire treatment to cost $5,000 or more. If the hernia does reoccur, and about 15% do, there will be future expenses as well. Pet insurance can be very beneficial in this type of situation.

What to do if You Suspect Perineal Hernia

If your dog displays any of the symptoms for this disease, a veterinarian should see the dog as soon as possible. Perineal hernias are generally pretty easy to identify, but early treatment is important. If the dog exhibits any swelling around the rectal area, a vet should examine the dog as soon as possible. The first thing the vet will do is make sure it’s a hernia and not a tumor.

If the pelvic contents or the bladder herniates or gets into the rectal area, it can be life-threatening to the dog. There is really no prevention methods for perineal hernia, but since it’s typically found in intact dogs, castration is recommended at an early age if the dog is not meant to be used for breeding.