Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Umbilical Hernia Surgery

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Umbilical hernia is among the most common congenital defects in horses. Small ones often resolve with time and a protocol of owner “reduction”, i.e. repeatedly pushing up of the hernia sac by hand.

Other methods for treating smaller hernias include the placement of various hernia clamps, cattle elastrator bands, or the injection of irritating solutions into the tissue. Hernia belts are also used, and are helpful in some cases. The problem with all of these methods is their lack of precision.

Surgery allows the vet to examine the tissues, and precisely and reliably close the tissues without incorporating bowel or other tissues from the abdomen.

This operation requires general anesthesia and the horse to be on its back. This procedure can be done in the field, but is better performed in a hospital setting. Incisions are made through the skin around the hernia sac, which is exposed and either removed or pushed into the abdomen. The thick ring of fibrous tissue is closed with heavy suture. The skin and under-skin layers are closed in 1-2 more layers. In some cases, sutures or staples may need to be removed.

This surgery is considered relatively simple and has a low rate of complications. In my practice, the operation takes 20-45 minutes.

After surgery, the horse should be confined in a small paddock (up to 20’x20′ in size) for 1-2 weeks. After that, the horse may be turned out. During that time, your role is to monitor the area for swelling or drainage, and call your vet if you have any questions or concerns.

This Treatment Might be used for a horse exhibiting these signsRelated Observations

Related DiagnosesThis Treatment Might Be Used for these Diagnoses

Consider Potential Side Effects & Complications

Like any surgical procedure, there is the possibility of repair failure and infection.

There may be mild swelling at the surgery site, about the size of a man's billfold.

Is It working? Timeframe for effect

In my vet practice, I use absorbable sutures that do not need to be removed. If non-absorbable skin sutures or staples are used, they will need to be removed at 10-14 days.

The hernia should be gone immediately after surgery. Once mild swelling resolves, there should be no evidence of it having been there.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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