Hiatal Hernia in Dogs

Overview of Canine Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is the protrusion of abdominal contents into the thoracic or chest cavity through the esophageal hiatus, which is the natural opening in the diaphragm that allows the passage of the esophagus. These hernias may be persistent or intermittent.

Hiatal hernias occur in both dogs and cats, and males seem to be predisposed. Chinese shar-peis tend to have a higher incidence than other breeds.

Causes of Hiatal Hernias in Dogs

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Hiatal Hernias in Dogs

Baseline tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all patients, and are often within normal limits.

More specific tests include:

Treatment of Hiatal Hernias in Dogs

It is most important to determine whether the dog’s condition warrants admission to the hospital for treatment, or treatment at home as an outpatient. Treatment is important, as untreated animals are predisposed to developing chronic esophagitis with mucosal (lining of the esophagus) ulceration, aspiration pneumonia, stricture (narrowing), and strangulation of abdominal organs.

Treatment in dogs typically involves:

The best initial approach is conservative medial treatment to control esophagitis and clinical signs. Drugs that decrease or inhibit acid production by the stomach such as Tagamet® (cimetidine), Pepcid® (famotidine), Zantac® (ranitidine), Cytotec® (misoprostol), and Prilosec® (omeprazole) encourage and expedite the resolution of gastroesophageal reflux and esophagitis.

Home Care of Dogs with Hiatal Hernias

Administer all medication and diet as directed by your veterinarian. If any change is noted in your dog’s condition, notify your veterinarian. In particular, if coughing or difficulty breathing is observed, contact your veterinarian at once, as this may signal aspiration pneumonia secondary to a malfunctioning esophagus.