Perineal Hernias in Dogs: What to Do

A sad dog laying on a couch

In most companion dogs, perineal hernias are a rather infrequent condition. When they do arise, they mainly affect male dogs that have not been neutered. Surgical repair, fortunately, is a viable solution for this pelvic problem.

What Is a Perineal Hernia in Dogs?

When the pelvic diaphragm weakens or collapses altogether, a perineal hernia develops. The pelvic diaphragm is a muscle "wall" that supports the rectal region and keeps the contents of the abdomen apart from the rectum in normal circumstances. Parts of the intestines and/or bladder may slide beyond the pelvic diaphragm and displace contents of the rectal region if the pelvic diaphragm is weak or fails.

Signs of Perineal Hernias in Dogs

  • Swelling beside the anus
  • Straining to defecate and/or urinate
  • Inability to defecate and/or urinate
  • Abnormal tail position
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Depression

Swelling on one or both sides of the dog's anal entrance is usually the first indicator of a perineal hernia. Other symptoms, such as constipation and feces issues, may or may not emerge. Urinary issues such as incontinence and difficulties peeing can result from perineal hernias involving the dog's bladder.

Veterinarians typically diagnose perineal hernias based on rectal exam findings. Radiographs may be necessary to see how the bladder and intestines are affected by the hernia.

Causes of Perineal Hernias

Perineal hernias are uncertain in their precise etiology. Although puppies can be born with congenital or hereditary perineal hernias, the majority of perineal hernias affect middle-aged to elderly dogs. Because unneutered males are more likely to be impacted than neutered males, vets believe hormones may play a role in perineal hernia formation. Perineal hernias can occur in female dogs, although they are uncommon.

Perineal hernias appear to have a hereditary propensity in some dog breeds. The Boston Terrier, Boxer, Pekingese, and are among these dog breeds.


A perineal hernia can only be treated with surgery. Perineal hernias that are severe may necessitate immediate surgery. Minor hernias can be managed conservatively at first to alleviate symptoms until surgery is available. Feeding high-fiber, moist meals and using stool softeners are examples of conservative therapy. A veterinarian may need to manually remove affected feces on a regular basis. Perineal hernias worsen with time, necessitating surgical treatment.

Herniorrhaphy is the surgical repair of a hernia. Perineal hernias in dogs can be repaired using a variety of surgical techniques, but the ultimate objective is to reconstruct the pelvic diaphragm. The contents of the abdominal cavity are usually returned to the abdomen, and the pelvic diaphragm is repaired or replaced. A urinary catheter will be implanted to empty the bladder first if the bladder is caught in the hernia. To avoid recurrence, the bladder and colon may be sutured to the abdominal wall. Sometimes, as part of the mending procedure, prosthetic implants are employed. In order to decrease the prostate and limit the possibility of recurrence, male dogs are usually neutered during the treatment.

Although most dogs heal successfully after perineal hernia surgery, problems can arise. Infections and rectal prolapse, fecal incontinence, nerve injury, and rectal fistula (a hole or tunnel that grows from the rectum to a surrounding region of the body) are all possible problems. Thankfully, significant consequences are uncommon. The majority of dogs will totally recover and resume their usual lives.

In order to avoid infection, antibiotics are usually given after surgery. During rehabilitation, most dogs will require a high-fiber diet and stool softeners. Allow your dog to lick or chew the incision, but keep it clean and dry. While your dog is recovering, an e-collar (Elizabethan collar or "cone") will be required since canines cannot resist the impulse to lick or chew the surgical site.

Be sure to follow your vet's recommendations for postoperative care. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog is not recovering as expected.

How to Prevent Perineal Hernias

Perineal hernias in dogs are difficult to prevent. Perineal hernias in progeny can be reduced by selective breeding; dogs with a history of perineal hernias should not be used for breeding.

If you see swelling near the rectum, abnormal urination/defecation, or any other indicators of sickness, please call your veterinarian right once.