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Umbilical Hernia in Puppies: Causes and Care - PawSafe

Umbilical Hernia in Puppies: Causes and Care

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

umbilical hernia in puppies

When you notice a small, soft swelling near the belly button of your new puppy, it may be an umbilical hernia. This is a condition where abdominal contents — often fat or parts of the intestine — protrude through an opening in the muscles around the navel. Although frequently seen in dogs, understanding this condition is still crucial for the health and wellness of your pup.

Tackling an umbilical hernia in puppies is essential; left unchecked, complications could arise if the herniated area becomes constricted. Fortunately, a wealth of knowledge on this subject, including insights from qualified veterinarians like Dr. Jennifer N. Roberts, will help ensure the best care for your puppy. Early detection and appropriate treatment can lead to a quick and complete recovery.

It’s important to recognize whether a trip to the vet is necessary. Keep an eye out for signs of pain in your puppy or changes in behavior, which could indicate that the hernia is causing discomfort or other problems. In some cases, surgical intervention may be required to correct the hernia and prevent more serious health issues.

Certain breeds like Weimaraners, Pekingese, Basenjis, and Airedale Terriers may be predisposed or more likely to have this issue. This defect allows abdominal organs and tissues to protrude through the opening, causing a bulge under the skin.

One of my own puppies came with an umbilical hernia. It simply felt like a soft spot on his tummy that sometimes made a little bulge. Early on, my veterinarian said there was nothing to worry about, but it was something I would need to keep an eye on. He also said I should be sure to neuter my dog, as the condition can be genetic. It’s also linked to other genetic issues like one testicle not dropping.

So, while an umbilical hernia is usually not too serious and you can fix it with a short procedure called a hernioplasty to fix it, we should also be careful that dogs with this issue should generally not be allowed to breed.

A good tip to consider if you have a puppy with an umbilical hernia is to have closed up at the same time as your puppy is being neutered or spayed. This way your pup will not need two surgeries and this can save you some money. 

Anatomy of a Puppy’s Abdomen

At birth, a puppy’s umbilical cord passes through a small opening in the abdominal muscles – this is the umbilical ring (in humans, we call this the belly button). Normally, this ring closes shortly after birth. If it doesn’t, the gap in the muscle allows fat or sometimes parts of the abdomen to poke through.

Types of Umbilical Hernias

There are a few types of umbilical hernias. A reducible hernia can be pushed back into the abdomen, while a non-reducible hernia cannot, due to the size or adhesion of the protruded contents to the hernia sac. In severe cases, a strangulated hernia can occur if blood flow to the entrapped tissue is compromised, which is a medical emergency.

Recognizing Symptoms

Symptoms of an umbilical hernia can include a soft swelling or bulge at the belly button, discomfort, pain, vomiting, or signs of distress. If you notice these symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care. Sometimes, small hernias close on their own, but larger hernias may require surgical correction.

Diagnosis and Health Concerns For Umbilical Hernias In Puppies

Jack Russell puppy showing belly lying on back

An umbilical hernia occurs when your puppy’s abdominal contents bulge through a gap near their belly button. Knowing how to recognize and address this condition is key to maintaining their health.

Identifying the Condition

To spot an umbilical hernia in your puppy, look for a soft bulge near their belly button. This protrusion could be the abdominal lining, fat, or even parts of abdominal organs. Generally detected during a physical exam, your vet might find it while feeling your pup’s abdomen.

Potential Complications

Although many small bulges aren’t serious and might heal on their own, larger ones may lead to dire health concerns. Strangulation of the hernia can cut off blood supply to trapped tissue, creating an emergency situation demanding immediate care to prevent death or severe damage.

Severity and Monitoring

The severity of an umbilical hernia can vary. Mild cases might require minimal monitoring, but more serious cases could lead to obstruction of the intestines or even strangulated hernia. Your veterinarian will guide you on how frequently you should check the hernia and what signs to watch for.

Relation to Other Hernias

Umbilical hernias are different from other hernias such as those found in the groin (inguinal hernia), near the diaphragm (diaphragmatic hernia), or near the stomach (hiatal hernia). Each type arises in a different location and has specific health concerns and implications that a vet might investigate using ultrasound or x-rays.

Treatment Options For Puppies With Umbilical Hernias

Doodle puppy lying on back getting belly rubs

When your puppy has an umbilical hernia, understanding treatment options is crucial for their health and well-being. Determining the right course of action, from whether surgery is necessary to managing recovery, depends on the specific details of the hernia.

Surgical Approaches

Surgical repair is usually the primary treatment for umbilical hernias in puppies. Reductive hernioplasty is the most common technique, where the protruding tissue is pushed back into the abdomen, and the muscle wall defect is closed with sutures. This is ideal for reducible hernias, where the bulge can be moved back into place. Non-reducible or strangulated hernias, where the tissue is trapped, often need immediate surgery to prevent serious complications.

When to Consider Surgery

Consult with your veterinarian to assess the severity of the hernia. Surgery is generally recommended if the hernia is large or if there is a risk of strangulation, where the blood supply to the protruded organs is cut off. If your puppy has a small, reducible hernia without discomfort, your vet might suggest waiting as some small hernias can close as the puppy grows.

Recovery and Aftercare

After surgery, you’re responsible for your puppy’s at-home care. This includes managing their activity level, ensuring the surgical site stays clean, and giving them any prescribed medications. Healing usually takes 10 to 14 days, with sutures or staples removed after this period. It’s essential to prevent your puppy from scratching or licking at the scar tissue to avoid recurrence.

Cost Considerations

The cost of umbilical hernia surgery can vary depending on the procedure’s complexity, the need for anesthesia, and your location. Generally, it includes pre-surgical bloodwork, the surgical procedure itself, and any post-operative care. Most pet insurance plans cover hernia surgery if it’s not a pre-existing condition. It’s best to discuss a full quote with your veterinarian before deciding on treatment options.

Preventive Measures and Breeding

Before bringing a new puppy into your world, understanding the ways to prevent umbilical hernias is vital. Breeding choices can impact your puppy’s health, and spaying or neutering plays a crucial role.

Reducing Genetic Risk

Breeding dogs with known hereditary conditions can increase the chances of puppies having health issues, like umbilical hernias. If you’re breeding dogs:

  • Know the family history: Avoid breeding dogs that have had umbilical hernias or other genetic weaknesses.
  • Vet checks: Ensure the mother is healthy and her placenta functions well to minimize risks to the fetus.

Proper care during and after pregnancy can reduce the risk of hernias forming where the umbilical cord was attached.

Spay and Neuter Impact

Spaying and neutering your dogs can have more benefits than just population control. Such procedures could minimize the chance of passing on genetic predispositions to conditions like umbilical hernias. When you spay or neuter your dogs, you help:

  • Reduce the number of puppies potentially born with this condition.
  • Decrease the pressure on the mother’s body from repeated litters, which can affect her health and that of her pups.

By being informed and taking these steps, you contribute to the well-being of not just your potential puppies but the overall health of the breed.

Living with Umbilical Hernias

When your puppy has an umbilical hernia, you may worry about their comfort and health. It’s key to understand when you can manage at home and when to seek a vet’s help.

Managing Non-Surgical Cases

Some small umbilical hernias may not require surgery and can be managed with careful monitoring. Your vet might suggest watching the hernia to see if it closes on its own as your puppy grows. You’ll want to check the hernia site regularly for any signs of change. If the hernia is reducible, meaning you can gently press it back into the abdomen, it’s less of a health risk. However, be mindful not to cause your puppy discomfort or aggression during your checks.

Observation and Care

When living with small hernias, observation is crucial. Always keep an eye out for any changes in size, shape, or if the hernia becomes irreducible, at which point you should contact your veterinarian immediately. This could signal a health risk. Schedule regular physical exams with your vet to ensure the hernia isn’t growing or posing a danger to your puppy’s health. It’s essential that your puppy avoids rough play that might put pressure on the hernia site to prevent complications.


When your puppy has an umbilical hernia, you might notice a bulge around their belly button. This happens when some abdominal fat or even part of an organ squeezes through a gap in the muscle wall. It’s a pretty common issue in puppies, and many times these hernias close up on their own as the pup grows.

Here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • Size Matters: If the hernia is small, it may not be a big deal. Bigger hernias could be more of a problem.
  • Watch Out for Symptoms: If your pup seems bothered by it, like biting at it, or shows signs of pain, it’s time to visit the vet.
  • Potential Causes: It’s thought that umbilical hernias in dogs can be passed down from parent to pup, so it might be a genetic thing.

Remember that even if the hernia doesn’t seem to bother your pup, it’s a good idea to mention it to your vet on the next visit. They can help you figure out if it’s something that needs treatment or just routine monitoring. If a hernia is causing issues, like vomiting or your pup not wanting to eat, then don’t wait – get to the vet straight away. This could mean that it needs more urgent attention.

In general, many puppies with umbilical hernias lead happy and healthy lives, especially with proper care and attention from their humans like you!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If your puppy has an umbilical hernia, you probably have many questions. This section covers the essentials of what you need to know.

What should I do if my puppy has an umbilical hernia?

You should consult a veterinarian if you suspect your puppy has an umbilical hernia. They can assess the severity and discuss the best course of action with you.

Can a hernia in a puppy heal on its own, or will it need treatment?

Small umbilical hernias may close on their own as your puppy grows. However, larger hernias often require surgical treatment to prevent potential complications.

Are there any home treatments for a puppy’s umbilical hernia?

No home treatments are recommended for an umbilical hernia. Monitoring the hernia for changes and following veterinary advice is crucial.

What signs might indicate my puppy has an umbilical hernia?

Signs of an umbilical hernia include a soft swelling or bulge near the belly button. If the hernia is causing discomfort or other symptoms, it may require immediate veterinary attention.

How much might I pay for my puppy’s umbilical hernia to be fixed by a vet?

The cost to repair an umbilical hernia can vary. It depends on the size of the hernia and the complexity of the required surgery. It’s best to get an estimate from your vet.

Is it safe to adopt a puppy that has an umbilical hernia?

Adopting a puppy with an umbilical hernia can be safe, especially if it’s small and not causing any problems. However, discussing the condition with a vet will help you understand any risks and future needs.

Final Thoughts

When you’re facing the issue of an umbilical hernia in your puppy, it’s natural to feel worried. But, it’s important to remember that many puppies live full and happy lives, even with this condition. Your quick action and attention can help ensure the best outcome for your pup.

  • Look for a soft, squishy bulge near the puppy’s navel, which is the most common sign of an umbilical hernia.
  • Keep in mind that not all hernias are emergencies, but they do require monitoring.
  • If you see symptoms like vomiting or abdominal pain, contact your vet immediately. These could indicate complications.

Know that surgery, generally safe and often successful, may be required for larger hernias. It’s designed to prevent any serious issues and help your puppy get back to their playful self.

Finally, maintaining regular vet visits is key. They enable early detection and timely intervention, and they’re a crucial part of taking care of your puppy’s health. With the right care, your puppy with an umbilical hernia can thrive just like any other dog.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.