Hiatal hernias can be an unpleasant condition for dogs, but with our expertise here at Northwest Referrals, we can ensure that your pet receives a swift diagnosis and the correct treatment. It is important that your dog’s hiatal hernia is treated, as it can cause other health issues that can be problematic. If you are concerned about the health of your pet, and any changes in his behaviour, or habits, please speak to your trusted vet.

What are Hiatal Hernias in Dogs?

Hiatal hernias are where a portion of the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity, through the diaphragm. Hernias can happen in different areas of the body, where a part of the body or organ protrudes into another part of the body, but hiatal hernias are specific to this area of the body. Hiatal hernias form at the opening in the diaphragm where the esophagus joins the stomach.

At What Age Does a Dog Get a Hiatal Hernia?

The majority of dogs diagnosed with hiatal hernias are less than a year of age. Many hiatal hernias are congenital and occur most predominantly in brachycephalic dogs such as English bulldogs. However, sometimes hiatal hernias occur after a trauma or due to severe brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), and this can be at any age, so be mindful of this if your dog has an accident or sings of BOAS.

Can a Dog Live with a Hiatal Hernia?

Hiatal hernias can be successfully managed and treated, in the majority of instances. If left untreated, hiatal hernias can lead to other associated conditions, such as aspiration pneumonia, which can be fatal, so it is extremely important if you suspect your pet has a hiatal hernia that you seek veterinary advice immediately. If your pet is successfully treated and the hiatal hernia is managed, either with medication, surgery, or a combination of the two, then your pet can live a long and happy life.

What Are The Symptoms of Hiatal Hernias?

The main symptom of hiatal hernias in dogs is regurgitation, which is when food or drink is brought back up from the stomach into the mouth. This can be accompanied by vomiting, gagging, difficulty eating, or hypersalivation. While many dogs are occasionally sick, if these symptoms are occurring regularly after your pet has eaten or drunk, then you should seek veterinary advice. Animals with hiatal hernias can suffer from aspiration pneumonia, so the hiatal hernia must be caught quickly and treated.

What Can Cause a Hiatal Hernia in a Dog?

Hiatal hernias can have different causes, depending on the age, breed, and general health of your pet. Most cases of hiatal hernias are congenital, meaning that they are present at birth, and are more common in certain breeds. Brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs, French bulldogs, and pugs can be more prone to hiatal hernias. Some hiatal hernias may be acquired because of trauma, and these can occur at any age. So if your pet is in an accident, and then develops any notable symptoms, make sure you seek professional advice.


Diagnosis of hiatal hernias can be complex. It draws upon the detailed history of your pet and a thorough physical examination. Your pet’s symptoms may fluctuate, so it can be helpful to keep a detailed diary of their health and behaviour over time to show your vet. If your vet suspects hernias, he may well want to investigate further. Clinical imaging can help to see what is going on inside your pet, and a barium contrast x-ray allows your vet to confirm their suspected diagnosis.


The treatment for hiatal hernias varies according to their size and severity. Smaller hernias can sometimes be treated using medication, whilst larger ones are usually best treated with surgery, which can be followed up with medication, if necessary. The surgery is generally very successful and returns the stomach to the correct location, and closes up the gap in the diaphragm. Often a gastropexy is also performed where the stomach is sutured to the body wall, to keep it in the abdomen, and prevent it from sliding back into the chest cavity.


Generally, recovery from surgery is successful. However, there is a risk of aspiration pneumonia, so it is vital that the pet is well cared for and monitored after surgery. If there are any issues or concerns, you must contact your vet immediately. Aspiration pneumonia can be treated, but it needs to be treated quickly, else it can prove fatal. Other than this risk, recovery is generally uncomplicated, as long as the care instructions are closely followed, such as preventing your pet from jumping around in the weeks following surgery.

What is the Survival Rate for a Dog with a Hernia?

Generally, the prognosis after surgery is excellent. Most dogs recover well from the surgery and go on to have long and happy lives. Sometimes follow-up medication is required to ensure the ongoing health of the pet. The main complication is the risk of aspiration pneumonia, but with close monitoring and care of the pet, this risk is reduced.

Come to Northwest Referrals for Hiatal Hernia Treatment

Here at Northwest Referrals, we work with both referring vets and directly with pet owners. Whether you wish to refer a patient to take advantage of our state-of-the-art facilities, such as our imaging equipment and surgery, or wish for a second opinion on the health of your dog, we are here to help. Our experienced and professional team have carried out many successful operations on hiatal hernias and will be here to answer any questions that you may have. We hold the health and happiness of pets at the heart of all that we do, so whether your pet is insured or uninsured, we are here to support you and work with you to ensure the health of your pet. To learn more about hiatal hernias and our treatment, head over to our hernia surgery page to learn more, or simply call our friendly and helpful team today on 01942 242001 James Weston Cert (PM&A).