Diaphragmatic hernia in cats: causes, symptoms and treatment

Diaphragmatic hernia in cats: causes, symptoms and treatment

Diaphragmatic hernia in cats

The diaphragm is a very thin muscle that separates the abdomen and the chest. It allows the lungs to have enough space to breathe within the cat’s rib cage. A tearing or disruption in this muscle is what we know as diaphragmatic hernia in cats.

The type of hernia that involves congenital forms is more frequently found in kittens. It should be distinguished from the type that is caused by a trauma.

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Causes of diaphragmatic hernia in cats

So we distinguished then two types of diaphragmatic hernia in cats: congenital and traumatic. The first one is present at birth due to a fetal development issue inside the womb. The second type is caused by a blunt force, causing the diaphragm to break.

The main cause for a diaphragmatic hernia is because the diaphragm did not develop fully when inside the womb. The symptoms of this kind of hernia might not present themselves but until the cat turns 1 or 2 years of age.

Symptoms of diaphragmatic hernia in cats

The symptoms displayed will depend on the cause of the hernia and how severe it is. The most common symptoms associated with diaphragmatic hernia are:

  • Lethargy
  • Muffled heart sounds
  • Irregular lung sounds
  • Labored breathing
  • Arrhythmia
  • Tachypnea (increased respiration)
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Pale mucous membranes

The above symptoms might disappear when the condition gets better. Because of the tissues that were herniated take a much longer time to a full recovery, some symptoms might be triggered by physical activity or as a response to stressful situations. Depending on the organ being affected, some of these symptoms are:


For cats, the only treatment available is surgery, which should be done once the cat has been stabilized. To do this, the veterinarian and his team will place the feline on oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids. During surgery, the doctor will focus on repositioning the organs that were misplaced and repair the damaged tissue.

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