An umbilical hernia is a protrusion of parts of abdominal organs or fat through the area around the belly button.
In the case of an umbilical hernia, most of the time a localized bulge appears on the lower abdomen. Upon palpation, it feels soft and as the content is, or seems, moveable. A trained professional can feel parts of the protruding organ – in most cases parts of the intestine. The bulge may feel warmer than the surrounding areas. Umbilical hernias are especially common among puppies and young dogs. Some animals are born with a bulge on their lower abdomen. Other young dogs only exhibit changes a few months after birth. In older animals, umbilical hernias often occur very suddenly and rapidly grow in size. Depending on circumstances the size of a hernia may vary between the size of a pea and the size of a plum. Fully-grown animals can develop even more extensive hernias. Sometimes, swelling may disappear and subsequently reappear. If the protruding tissue is fat, or intestines that are not twisted or clotted, the patient may not exhibit any symptoms. In some cases, the hernial orifice may strangulate part of the intestines. The consequences are often an impaired general condition, a loss of appetite, and articulations of pain. In the case that the hernia is strangulating a part of the intestine, the hernia has to be considered a medical emergency which should be treated as soon as possible.
The orifice can be wider than usual due to a genetic predisposition, or may be wider because of an incomplete closure during the animal's growth period. Hernias can also be consequences of traumas and accidents.
Treatment of an umbilical hernia depends on the extent and variety of the problem. In most cases, a small surgery is sufficient to push back the protruding organ or tissue and close the hernia. In some cases, there is a possibility that very small hernias might even be left untreated. It is important to act quickly if symptoms are present. If treatment is delayed, the trapped part of the intestines may die off. In this case, the dog’s life may be at risk.
If the swelling is warm and/or the content feels very hard, and if any other symptoms are observed, such as an impaired general condition, it is advisable that you consult with your veterinarian immediately.