umbilical hernias and other congenital defects of cat


Serious birth defects are uncommon in mixed breed kittens, but each member of the litter whether purebred or not should be examined soon after birth and watched as he or she develops to detect any which may be present. Problems to look for soon after birth because they may need veterinary intervention include cleft patate (hole in the hard palate that makes nursing difficult or impossible), imperforate anus (anus sealed closed by skin preventing stool passage), and umbilical hernia.

A hernia is a protrusion of a part of the body or of an organ through an abnormal opening in the surrounding tissues. In an umbilical hernia a portion of fat or internal organs protrude through an incompletely closed umbilical ring. Most umbilical hernias are present at birth, but some may be acquired if the mother chews the umbilical cord too short, leaves the placentas attached too long, or through other careless handling of the cord and/or placenta. Congenital umbilical hernias in kittens are usually small, often get smaller as the kitten ages, and usually do not require surgical repair. If your kittens have large umbilical hernias or hernias you can push into the abdomen with your finger, consult your veterinarian about the necessity of repair.

Heart defects are sometimes present at birth and are sometimes the cause of ruting (smaller-than-average-size kittens). Kittens with such defects who survive until weaning are usually diagnosed abnormal by a veterinarian at their first physical exam.

Problems that are noticed after the first three weeks of age usually consist of abnormalities in the development of walking. Incoordination may result when kittens are infected with the panleukopenia virus while still in the uterus. There are, however, many other causes of locomotor difficulties. If you notice any, a veterinarian should be consulted.