Diaphragmatic Hernia in Dogs
Diaphragmatic hernias occur in dogs when the abdominal organ (such as the stomach, liver, intestine, etc.) moves into an abnormal opening in the animal’s diaphragm, the sheet of muscle separating the abdomen from the rib cage area. This can occur because of an acquired injury from a forceful blow, such as a car accident, or because of a defect at birth (congenital).
Symptoms and Types
Signs of a diaphragmatic hernia include irregular heartbeat, labored breathing (especially after a forceful blow) and symptoms of shock. The abdomen may move rapidly (palpitate) or feel empty. Reactions such as vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating can occur because of damage to the bowel or stomach.
In congenital cases, the symptoms may not be evident immediately. Gradual symptoms include muffled heart sounds or heart murmurs, abdominal defects, and trouble breathing. Signs may occur suddenly with damage to the bowel, spleen, or liver.
Most commonly, diaphragmatic hernia is caused by a trauma such as being hit by a car or other forceful blow. Therefore, diaphragmatic hernias occur most commonly in animals that are allowed to roam outdoor and in male dogs. The pressure of such an impact causes a tear in the diaphragm, allowing an internal organ to protrude through the rip.
The reason for congenital diaphragmatic hernias is not known, although certain breeds are more likely to develop this abnormality. Weimeraners and Cocker Spaniel dogs may be predisposed, while Himalayan cats also show higher numbers of congenital diaphragmatic hernias. Other birth defects may be evident in animals born with a diaphragmatic hernia, and the condition may cause further problems including rib fractures, organ failure, and impaired lung expansion.
The most useful diagnostic test is through the use of X-rays (radiographs) to reveal inner abnormalities. If this is insufficient, further imaging processes like ultrasounds may be used.
Other symptoms that initially appear to be caused by a diaphragmatic hernia include a gathering of excess fluid in the space around the lungs or abnormally fast breathing due to other causes.