Umbilical hernias are one of the most common congenital (“birth”) defects in horses. An umbilical hernia is a small defect in the body wall where the umbilical cord once exited the foal’s abdomen. The defect consists of a hole in the body wall which is covered by intact skin. In most horses, this hole slowly closes as the foal grows. Occasionally, however, the foal grows to a weanling or even yearling without having the hole close naturally. The result is a bulge on the bottom of the abdomen where abdominal fat or even intestine can protrude through the hole in the body wall and remain under the skin. The bulge causes a cosmetic defect in the horse’s appearance,
and sometimes can even cause more serious problems by allowing intestine to become trapped in the body wall defect. If intestine becomes trapped, the weanling will display signs of colic, and in this case, surgical repair of the hernia is considered an emergency procedure. If the hernia is simply causing a cosmetic problem, then the surgical repair may be performed on an elective basis.
Umbilical herniorrhaphy, or surgical closure of an umbilical hernia, is performed with the horse under general anesthesia and on its back. The small amount of excess skin over the bulge is removed, and the edges of the body wall along the hole are sutured together. (See diagram to right.)
The skin is then sutured closed. Post-operatively, horses are stall-confined and treated with oral antibiotics and phenylbutazone for several days. Turnout and exercise restrictions depend on the size of the hernia. The larger the hernia, the more exercise restrictions will be required to allow the body wall to heal properly. Complications from umbilical herniorrhaphy are very rare.
Dental & Sinus Surgery
Rhinebeck Equine is equipped to perform a wide variety of general soft tissue surgical procedures, from simple conditions which can be addressed in the standing, sedated horse using local anesthesia to more complex conditions which require general anesthesia and intensive post-operative medical care.