Hernia (Hiatal) in Dogs

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Hiatal Hernia

A hernia is most likely to occur in puppies less than a year old and is usually inherited (congenital). However, trauma may also bring on an acquired hiatal hernia, and this can occur at any age. A hernia occurs when one part of the body protrudes through a gap or opening into another part. A hiatal hernia, specifically, takes place at the opening of the diaphragm where the food pipe joins the stomach. Part of the stomach pushes through the opening, and a hernia is formed. Although this can occur in any breed or age, and with both genders, there does appear to be a predisposition for male animals, and with Chinese Shar-Pei and English bulldogs more than other breeds.


  • Regurgitation
  • Coughing
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Shortness of breath


  • Congenital, especially with puppies under a year old
  • Acquired secondary to trauma or increased effort to inhale
  • Concurrent — the lower esophageal sphincter slides into the thoracic cavity and allows gastric reflux into the esophagus, causing inflammation of the esophagus


X-rays may show soft-tissue density in the region of the esophageal opening (hiatus), but they may not reveal lesions. However, an enlarged esophagus can be detected using X-ray imaging. Contrast exams can show the esophagus as it is joined to the stomach and may reveal the abnormalities that are causing the problems. Your doctor can also perform an exam called an esophagoscopy, by which an internal scope is used to detect inflammation, and possibly show the end (terminal) of the esophagus sliding into the thorax.

Diagnosis of hiatal hernia is based on examination and observation of one or more of the following manifestations of the condition:

  • Foreign body in the esophagus
  • Abnormal tissue growth in the esophagus
  • Inflammation of the esophagus
  • Enlargement of the lower esophagus
  • Protrusion of the stomach into the esophagus
  • A foreign body in the digestive tract
  • Abnormal tissue growth in the stomach
  • Inflammation of the stomach

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