Umbilical hernias

Puppies are attached to their mothers via the umbilical cord and this cord allows nutrients to pass through from the mother to the puppy, just like human babies. After the puppy is born (whelped) the cord is cut and the remaining stump dries up and falls off to leave a circular spot on the puppy’s belly. On the inside of this spot the abdomen will close and seal off soon after birth. Sometimes though, this does not close off completely and a small opening is left and a small amount of tissue is able to poke out and looks like a round lump under the skin, resembling an out facing belly button. If the opening stays open, it is known as an umbilical hernia. Umbilical hernias are very common in most breeds but especially the smaller breeds such as Moodles.

How do I tell if my puppy has an umbilical hernia?

If your puppy has an umbilical hernia, it will look like a bubble underneath the skin but will often appear and disappear depending on what position your puppy is in. The best way to see it is if you have someone else stand behind the puppy and gently lift the puppy up from underneath the puppy’s ‘armpits’ to expose the puppy’s belly to you while keeping the puppy’s hind feet on the ground or a table. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose an umbilical hernia very quickly by its appearance and by gently manoeuvring the tissue that is poking out back into the puppy’s abdomen. The usual size of an umbilical hernia will vary depending on the size of the puppy with larger breeds having larger hernias but the average size is about the size of a marble.

Will an umbilical hernia hurt my puppy?

Generally a small umbilical hernia will not affect a puppy in any way and most of the time it would be considered unnecessary surgery to repair an umbilical hernia for that alone. Exceptions to this are where the umbilical hernia is very large and there is a risk of health effects to the puppy but these are very rare. Usually the hernia is repaired when the puppy is desexed (spay or neutered). If it is a female puppy, most veterinarians will make the incision for the desexing or spay through the hernia and repair the hernia when they suture the opening made for the desexing, i.e. they go through the same hole so to speak. You can ask your vet about this as they will do what is best for your dog. Small umbilical hernias will often close up by themselves over time and this is often the case in many small breeds of dogs.

Do I need to have the hernia repaired?

Again this will depend on the size of the hernia but in most cases it is best to wait until the time of desexing to have it repaired if it does not close up by this time. Your veterinarian may recommend that it is not repaired if it is very small and would not cause your dog any issues but always consult your vet for health advice for your dog.

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