Q: What is an umbilical hernia? Should it be removed, and is it life threatening?
A: An umbilical hernia is a small “rent” or opening in the body wall of animal located just behind the umbilicus (where the umbilical cord attaches to the fetus) and underneath the skin layers. A hernia allows for the contents of the abdomen, usually no more than just abdominal fat, to find its way out of the abdomen and into the space between the animal’s body wall and its skin layers. This phenomenon creates the appearance of a small abdominal sac or out-pouching of abdominal skin at the mid-abdomen.
An umbilical hernia should definitely be repaired. While not immediately life threatening, it can become a life threatening emergency. Over time and with increased activity on the part of the animal, the rent or opening may become larger and more pronounced. If this scenario were to occur, there is now a possibility that more than just abdominal fat can pass through the opening. In fact, if the opening is large enough, parts of the gastrointesintal tract (G.I.) may pass through it and become entrapped, no longer able to return to their normal position or maintain their normal function, ultimately upsetting the health of the G.I. tract and potentially causing other, more major, issues.
This situation, known as an incarcerated bowel, is an emergency and requires surgery to repair immediately. If your pet is suffering from this, please go to the vet immediately.
Credit: Reviewed by Dr. Amy I. Attas