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Perineal Hernia in Dogs

By: Dr. David Diamond

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A hernia is the abnormal protrusion of tissues or organs from one region into another through an opening in the wall of the cavity that normally contains it. A perineal hernia describes herniation of some of the abdominal contents through the pelvic diaphragm, which is composed of several muscles that run from the sacrum and tail vertebrae to the pelvis and surround the end portion of the rectum.

Although there is not a definite understanding of what causes this condition, it may be caused by hormonal influences, especially male hormones, involved in progressive weakening of the pelvic diaphragm musculature. Any animal that has another condition that leads to straining to defecate or urinate may get a perineal hernia secondarily. Common underlying conditions that cause straining include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Obstructive disorders of the rectum or colon, such as tumors
  • Obstructive disorders of the urinary tract, such as stones or tumors
  • Cystitis (bladder infection)
  • Prostatic abnormalities
  • Anal sac diseases

    Perineal hernias are most common in middle age to older male dogs that have not been neutered. It is for this reason that hormones have been implicated as a possible contributing factor in causing this problem.

    This condition is most commonly seen in Boston terriers, boxers, Welsh corgis, Pekingese and collies, although it can occur in any breed.

    Straining to defecate or inability to defecate are frequent symptoms of perineal hernia. Usually there is a soft swelling alongside the anus that accompanies the straining. Early in the course of the problem, there may be no swelling or only a small one, but as the condition worsens the swelling tends to get bigger as more abdominal contents herniate out of the abdomen. In unusual cases, the intestines can get pushed into the hernia and become trapped leading to vomiting, pain or shock. In other cases, the bladder can move into the hernia and get stuck as it distends with urine. This rapidly becomes an emergency situation because the dog is unable to urinate.

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