An umbilical hernia is the protrusion of abdominal contents beneath the skin at the navel (umbilicus). 
The umbilicus is the healed scar ("belly button") in the mid-abdominal area. It marks the opening through which the prenatal blood vessels and other fetal structures passed before birth. After the umbilical cord is cut at birth, the opening rapidly closes. Occasionally, however, it does not close completely, and an opening in the abdominal wall remains. 
The danger of a hernia is the potential entrapment of intestines through this opening. If the hernia interferes with the blood supply to the trapped bowel, passage of food through the bowel is blocked. Also, the strangulated tissue dies and releases toxins that may kill the animal. 

Most small hernias are no danger to your pet’s health. Some may close before the animal reaches maturity; therefore, no treatment is necessary. Occasionally, surgical repair is delayed in female dogs until it is performed at ovariohysterectomy (spaying). Large hernias may be very serious, since a portion of intestine may become entrapped and its blood supply cut off. 

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:

  • You observe redness and tenderness at the hernia site.

  • Your pet vomits or shows sudden signs of distress.

  • Your pet has painful or difficult bowel movements.



Congenital umbilical hernias are more common in Airedales, basenjis, Pekingese, Pointers,
and Weimaraners. Sometimes cutting the umbilical cord too close at birth can cause an
umbilical hernia, but it is generally considered an inherited defect. 

Umbilical hernias appear as a soft swelling in the umbilical area, Dogs will not outgrow the umbilical hernia, but it's not critical unless the hole is large enough to allow organs or intestines to protrude. If you notice an umbilical hernia in your puppy, ask your veterinarian if it is something that needs to be taken care of right away or if it can wait until your animal is neutered or spayed. 

There are two causes of Umbilical Hernias. One cause is the mother pulling on the umbilical cord too roughly when the puppies are being whelped. 

The other cause is genetic, with the constricting ring at the entrance of the umbilical cord closing incompletely. This can be easily corrected by surgery, If the hernia is so large that you can put your finger through the opening and into the body cavity, the surgery should be done sooner rather than later. The mode of inheritance is unclear, however appears that it may be a dominant trait.

Neutering your pet is an especially good idea in pets with congenital hernias because of the genetic basis for the defect and the potential for passing the genetic defect to offspring.


Roger Ross DVM

The umbilicus is the tube containing blood vessels that attaches the fetus to it's mother through the placenta. The umbilicus is normally bitten off by the mother (or torn or cut and tied off by the midwife, doctor, etc). All mammals have an umbilical cord and all mammals are left with a "belly button". We all know this, right? From Science Fiction movies where we know the aliens from the Earthlings because the aliens don't have a belly button. 

The hole left by the bitten off umbilical cord usually self seals within a few days leaving a small scar of various size and appearance that we call a belly button or umbilicus.

Hernia is the medical term for a hole or a too large opening in the body. An umbilical hernia then, is the medical problem fairly common in puppies where the belly button hole doesn't seal leaving a hole in the abdominal wall covered only by the skin.

This is easy to detect if you get the puppy in the right position and will usually be picked up 
by your veterinarian during the puppy exam. 

Most umbilical hernias ARE NOT SERIOUS (unlike inguinal hernias) medical emergencies. But:

  1. If the hernia is larger than a dime, there's a chance that a loop of intestines may be trapped in the muscular hole causing possible severe, fatal consequences if ignored.
    Because of this possibility, even though not common, we recommend surgical repair of the hernia if it's large.

  2. Umbilical hernias can be passed on genetically. Because of this, we recommend spaying and neutering of these pups to prevent the problem in future generations.

Note: we often fix the hernia at the same time as we spay or neuter.

The surgery itself is minor and uncomplicated. The only danger being the relatively slight danger inherent in any anaesthetic-surgical operation.

Note: This pertains to all types of hernias. The main dangers with herniations is that if the intestines do get trapped within the muscular ring making up the hernia, then it's very likely that the veins supplying those trapped intestines will twist and swell and swell and swell.


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