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Perineal Hernia in Dogs

By: Dr. David Diamond

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Perineal hernia is a condition in which abdominal contents protrude into the perineal region adjacent to the anus. The exact cause is not known, but it is thought that hormones may be involved in weakening the muscles that form the caudal (toward the tail) extent of the abdominal cavity, also called the pelvic diaphragm.

Perineal hernias are much more common in dogs than cats. They can occur on one side or both sides at the same time. This problem occurs almost always in intact non-castrated male dogs, and most of the affected animals are over five years old.

Some breeds may be predisposed to having perineal hernias: Boston terriers, boxers, Welsh corgis, Pekingese and collies.

What to Watch For

  • Straining to defecate
  • Constipation
  • Swelling next to the anus
  • Straining to urinate

    Diagnosis

  • Physical examination including palpation of the abdomen
  • Definitive diagnosis by digital rectal examination
  • Occasionally, radiographs with contrast material in the rectum

    Treatment

  • Mild cases may respond well to medical management at first.

  • Oral laxatives and stool softeners may be given to prevent the animal from becoming constipated. Changing the animal's diet to include more fiber may also help keep the stool softer.

  • Enemas and manual removal of hard stool may be necessary.

  • Moderate to severe cases or cases that have progressively gotten worse require surgical correction.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Bring your pet to the veterinarian if he is straining to defecate or urinate. Inability to urinate can quickly lead to deterioration and is considered a medical emergency.

    If medical management is instituted, your dog must be monitored closely to make sure that symptoms do not return.

    If surgical management is done, watch for potential complications after surgery, including:

  • Incision problems
  • Recurrence of swelling or straining to defecate
  • Fecal incontinence

    Neutering of male dogs early in life may decrease their chance of having perineal hernias in the future. Neutering at the time of perineal hernia repair may minimize their chance for recurrence.

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