Hernias are defects or weaknesses in the muscles that keep organs, such as the intestines, bladder and stomach in the abdomen. The rectum and anus are held in place by five muscles, which altogether are called the pelvic diaphragm. Perineal hernias develop on one or both sides of the anus, due to weakness in the muscles that constitute the pelvic diaphragm. Seen in both dogs and cats, perineal hernias describe the displacement of pelvic and abdominal organs (rectum, prostate, bladder or fat) into the perineal region alongside the anus.
Weakness of the supporting muscles that results in perineal hernia occurs almost exclusively in older and un-neutered male dogs. Unlike in other areas of the body, hormones, like testosterone, are presumed to weaken the muscles and tissues that constitute the pelvic diaphragm. An enlarged prostate gland, more common in un-neutered middle-aged to older male dogs and cats, may cause straining to urinate or defecate (bowel movement), putting additional stress on the pelvic diaphragm. For this reason, veterinarians recommend neutering at the time of hernia repair.
Whenever your pet is showing signs of a health issue, your first step is to contact your primary care veterinarian. If it is indicated that your pet may suffer from a perineal hernia or another serious condition, a veterinary specialist is available at an ExpertVet certified hospital.
Signs and Symptoms
Perineal hernias result in swelling on either side of the anus and can occur on one or both sides. The most common sign associated with perineal hernias in dogs is straining to defecate. This occurs because the rectum balloons into the hernia, and trapped fecal material cannot pass out of the body easily. Constipation and swelling around the anal region are also noticed. Because defecation may become difficult, your pet may experience loss of appetite. Straining to urinate may be seen if the bladder becomes trapped in the hernia. If the small intestine slips into the hernial sac and becomes entrapped, vomiting and depression may be seen. Because perineal hernias can result in organ entrapment of the bladder or intestines, they can become a serious condition that requires emergency surgery to correct.