A diaphragmatic hernia can cause significant respiratory difficulty. The trauma that caused the hernia may also result in rib fractures, lung lacerations, and lung bruising. These injuries may lead to pneumothorax (air in the chest outside the lungs), or hemothorax (blood in the chest cavity). If abdominal contents have entered the chest cavity, this can further compromise the ability to expand the lungs. Abdominal organs, displaced through a diaphragmatic hernia, may experience compromise to their blood supply.
Signs associated with an acute diaphragmatic hernia are usually related to difficulty expanding the lungs with the additional contents in the chest. Signs observed include:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Rapid, shallow breathing pattern.
- Abnormal breathing posture.
If the initial instance is tolerated, a diaphragmatic hernia may be diagnosed later in life. Over time, abdominal organs, such as the liver or intestines, can become adhered in the chest cavity, and your pet may exhibit signs associated with liver or gastrointestinal diseases such as vomiting or anorexia.