Diaphragmatic Hernia In Cats, What Is Diaphragmatic Hernia In Cats?

Diaphragmatic hernia occurs in cats when the continuity of the diaphragm is disrupted and this causes the abdominal viscera to protrude into the chest. In small animals, such as dogs and cats, diaphragmatic hernias typically follow aggressive traumas, such as car accidents or falling from a high building.

There are two types of diaphragmatic hernia in cats: traumatic diaphragmatic hernia and congenital diaphragmatic hernia. While the term is used synonymously with both forms, it should be viewed separately, because the underlying causes are somewhat different.

Recommended: VETSCAN Canine Flex4 Rapid Test


The traumatic diaphragmatic hernia is caused by a blunt force that tears the diaphragm.


Congenital diaphragmatic hernia is present at birth, possibly due to fetal development inside the womb. The most common form of congenital diaphragmatic hernia in cats is called peritoneal pericardial diaphragmatic hernia (PPDH).

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Diaphragmatic Hernia In Cats?

Medical symptoms depend on the severity of hernia. There may be no perceptible clinical symptoms of tiny tears or in cats born of diaphragmatic hernia. Many pet owners report periods of mild gastrointestinal problems and mild breathing problems, particularly when they are stressed. In serious or acute cases, respiratory failure, systemic shock, irregular heart rhythms, and muffled heart and lung sounds are common. When palpated, the abdomen might feel empty.

Diagnosing Diaphragmatic Hernia In Cats

Careful physical examination by the veterinarian, including listening to and tapping the chest and abdomen, typically signals the existence of chest disease. Definitive diagnosis is most commonly made by x-rays, which can show changes in the shape of the diaphragm and the displacement of the abdominal organs. Specialized x-rays that use dyes to highlight the digestive organs are often required to make a diagnosis.

Treating Diaphragmatic Hernia In Cats

Surgery is the only cure for diaphragmatic hernia. Before surgery, the cat must be treated for shock (if the trauma has just occurred) and breathing and heart rate must be stabilized.

Surgery can be complex and challenging depending on the extent of the tear in the diaphragm. Vets managing anesthesia must ‘breathe’ the entire duration of the operation for the animal to ensure that oxygen continues to circulate through the lungs and reaches the bloodstream.

When the hernia is almost completely healed, and closed, the anesthesia becomes much more fragile. The lungs must be widened by pressing the oxygen bag at the precise moment when the last suture covers the chest cavity. The amount of oxygen provided is crucial – too much, and the anesthetist threatens to break down lung cells, too little, and the lungs do not grow to maximum capacity.

Preventing Diaphragmatic Hernia In Cats

To minimize the risk that your pet will experience a painful diaphragm hernia, keep your cat indoors. The most common cause of diaphragmatic hernia and other severe injuries is trauma caused by a motor vehicle accident. Please call your veterinarian immediately if your cat has been hurt or if you find any suspicious signs.