Surgical correction after consultation with a qualified veterinary professional is the standard of care for treating hernias in dogs. The earlier that a hernia can be repaired is usually the better. Prompt surgical correction can help to prevent the formation of tissue adhesions and entrapment of organs within the site of the herniation.
If the protruding tissue of a hernia can be manually pushed back through the defect in the body wall (which usually but not always is in the abdominal wall), then the hernia may be considered to be reducible. This is most commonly possible with umbilical and inguinal hernias, but it is not often reliably accomplished. If the bulging tissue cannot be pushed back into its correct anatomical position, the hernia is considered to be incarcerated. When the tissue of an incarcerated hernia loses its blood supply, it becomes a strangulated hernia. Strangulated hernias can become true medical emergencies.
Inguinal hernias usually can be repaired surgically, especially if they are discovered early by an owner who notices an unusual bulge in the dog’s groin area. Many inguinal hernias in female dogs are only noticed when the bitch becomes pregnant. Inguinal hernias in male puppies should be watched closely; small defects may close on their own without medical intervention, which of course is the best possible outcome. If small inguinal hernias in male pups do not close spontaneously, they can easily be repaired surgically in almost all cases.
Surgical correction of hiatal (diaphragmatic) hernias is the best standard of care. Surgical correction is often accomplished at the same time as neutering or spaying. Medical treatment with oral antacid preparations and dietary management may help to control signs of hiatal hernias in mild cases, when little abdominal tissue or organs are protruding through the diaphragmatic defect.
The prognosis for dogs with hernias is initially guarded in most cases. Once an affected dog is stabilized and has successful surgical repair of the hernia defect, its prognosis becomes favorable.