Should I buy a puppy with an umbilical hernia?
February 15, 2008 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Should I buy a puppy with an umbilical hernia?

We have been planning to buy a male Weimaraner puppy who will be eight weeks old next Friday. He will be AKC registered and we were planning to sire him a time or two. Tonight the current owner advised that he has an umbilical hernia. See picture here. She said she took him to their vet, who said that it is no big deal, just a result of the dam chewing off the umbilical cord, and that it should be repaired when puppy is six months old at the time we get him fixed (which we weren't planning to do).

I have Googled this and find conflicting information. A couple of the websites I found said that umbilical hernias can be deadly if the intestine becomes constricted. Other websites said they go away on their own in time. My concern is that I have four children, and the kids are obviously going to become extremely attached to this dog. I want to avoid any potential heartache in buying a dog with health issues. Am I worrying for naught? Has anyone had any experience with this?
posted by momzilla to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
This sounds oddly like taking a car to a mechanic before buying, but can you take the pup-pup to your own choice of vet just to get an impartial word? The Web can give all kinds of scary health info for humans and furry friends alike, so don't get too freaked out -- just get the advice you need from a qualified, impartial professional.
posted by loiseau at 10:19 PM on February 15, 2008

I have a dog who had an umbilical hernia when he was a puppy. Our vet said it wasn't a big deal, but he would fix it when he was neutered if we wanted. We had it fixed. We've had no problems whatsoever, and he's almost 4 years old now.
posted by disaster77 at 11:06 PM on February 15, 2008

Wondering the same thing as emyd. Are you planning on showing the dog? Making sure he's of good quality to breed? Are his parents championed? If not, don't contribute to pet overpopulation. In fact, if his parents aren't championed and health tested, I'd pass on the dog all together. "AKC registered" is little more than a piece of paper and is no guarantee - or even suggestion - of quality.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:09 AM on February 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

She said she took him to their vet, who said that it is no big deal, just a result of the dam chewing off the umbilical cord, and that it should be repaired when puppy is six months old at the time we get him fixed (which we weren't planning to do).

Momzilla, could you clarify this part a little? This makes it sound like the current owner/breeder of the puppy in question is pretty much expecting you to get the dog fixed as a matter of course, whereas you guys were planning on keeping him intact for future breedings. Health issues aside this might be a disparity that needs to be resolved before you get the dog - reputable breeders take the issue of who gets to carry on the bloodlines very seriously, and in all honesty the decision might not be yours to make.

Even if it is, choosing an animal to breed isn't a simple matter of, "He's purebred and registered - let's breed him!" To breed responsibly, the dog has to make worthwhile contributions to the breed; he has to be better than other Weimaraners, not just a standard exemplar. That means showing the dog and winning titles with him to prove his worthiness. It may turn out after all that work that he doesn't make the cut and you need to fix him anyway. Well, too bad. But if he does, and you decide to breed him, there's genetic testing, finding a bitch of similar quality, approving homes for the pups ... does this sound like something you're up for? It's a heavy commitment not just to the dog in question but to the breed and to the show community. You would be structuring your life around this to at least some degree.

If you're up for it, take loiseau's advice. If you're not up for it, get the puppy fixed and correct his hernia right off the bat.
posted by bettafish at 12:14 AM on February 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

The truth is that you simply cannot "plan" to breed a dog who is an unproven puppy, so your question may be moot.

Responsible breeding requires a series of stringent screening and testing, specific to the breed. These are, hopefully, the same health checks you asked your breeder about both the dam and the sire. He needs to be hip scored and eye tested, and as he matures, both testicles need to descend. You need to look at everything from his jaw line to his temperament to make a responsible decision about whether your adult dog is good breeding material.

If all proves well, you need complete medical histories for him, his dam, his sire, and their dams and sires, too - three generations - which your breeder is unlikely to give you because your backyard breeding competes with her (hopefully) professional breeding, probably to the detriment of the breed standard. Your breeder's contract may, in fact, require you to agree to neuter your dog. Most responsible breeder contracts do.

Given all of that, and your hope to breed your dog, you need to have the animal assessed by an independent, breed-experienced vet - not your breeder's - to determine if the hernia is an inherited true hernia or a much more benign delayed closure (which is not inherited.)

If it is a true hernia, the dog should not be bred and should be neutered as soon as possible. That does not, however, mean you should not take him - because, as you know, the hernia can be corrected when you have him neutered. And just because you can't breed him doesn't mean he wouldn't make a great pet for your family.

So, maybe, reconsider this puppy in a positive light with the breeding taken out of the equation - evaluate him as the family pet he will always be, rather than the stud he may never be - and make your decision from there.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:07 AM on February 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

If you're planning on showing him in AKC dog shows to determine his appropriateness and desirability before you sire him (which you should!) then make sure he can still be shown with that hernia repaired. My mom had a purebred dog and was told that he couldn't be shown in conformation competitions after a procedure like that. She still showed him in obedience trials, tracking trials, drafting trials, and a bunch of other fun stuff, but he wasn't eligible for the doggy beauty contests that everyone thinks of when they hear "dog show."

Also, two other considerations...first, Weimaraners have a pretty strong temperament. Have you hung around a lot of intact males? Will he be appropriate given your family life? We had a purebred intact male when I was a kid and he was wonderful with me and my siblings, but he was also one of those "gentle giant" breeds. And second, breeding isn't a weekend hobby. It's a lot of work and a lot of expense! Make sure you read up and ask around for advice before you jump in.

Good luck with your new dog!
posted by christinetheslp at 2:40 AM on February 16, 2008

Our dog had an umbilical hernia which had already been fixed when we got her at about 2 - 3 months old. She is now 2 yrs, and doing fine. Not uncommon, no big deal once it is fixed.
posted by Daddy-O at 3:01 AM on February 16, 2008

Oh goodness. When someone mentions leaving a dog intact, it fuels canine fire. Listen, the only ones who are dead set against breeding are the ones who want to control every aspect of dogs, which were not designed by nature to be done that way. The kind of scientific control they want is the same as cloning really, and it just doesn't work. A dog is a pet and a friend. Just because they want to "breed out" imperfections only means that they no longer view dogs that way, but as an investment. It's all politics and I'm sure I'll get slammed for saying it, but it's true. I'm also not saying you should consider breeding your dog, I'm just warning you not to take their horrified attitudes, as well as their telling you that you can't breed, on a personal level.

Now on to your question... You could get a hernia repair without having to get the dog fixed, if that's your question. The younger, the better. It shouldn't cost much and I would expect the cost to be about as much as it is to neuter him. I definitely would not wait to see if it goes away.

Just call the vet first to get a ball park estimate, or better still... do as loiseau says and take him to the vet first. A puppy exam is usually fairly cheap.
posted by magnoliasouth at 7:34 AM on February 16, 2008

totally agree with violetk, 45moore45, and biscotti.

On the hernia question, umbilical hernias are very common, and most vets do the repair when they spay or neuter. Seconding also the "spend time with an unneutered adult Weimaraner" and get a feel for what that's like.
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:11 AM on February 16, 2008

*I* had an umbilical hernia, from childhood into my 40s when I finally got it fixed. If it gets to the point of potentially killing the dog (i.e., the intestine actually comes out and gets strangulated or whatever the medical term is), the dog will be in extreme discomfort and it will be obvious that attention is needed. Even in that case, with prompt medical attention the dog will be fine.
posted by Doohickie at 11:02 AM on February 16, 2008

[a few comments removed - if your answer isn't talking about hernias, please take it to MetaTalk or email]
posted by jessamyn at 12:02 PM on February 16, 2008

Is the breeder offering a guarantee? I second taking the dog to your own vet and getting a second opinion. Also, any reputable breeder would offer to pay to correct any problem, or offer you a second puppy should anything happen to this one.
posted by tejolote at 1:04 PM on February 16, 2008

If the breeder is expecting you to have the puppy neutered, they may sell him to you on a limited regististration, which means if you do use him for stud against their wishes, any puppies that come as a result will not be able to be registered with AKC. As bettafish said if he is a purebred dog of champion bloodlines, whether or not you have him fixed may not be your choice but the breeders.

It is against AKC show rules to show a dog with a hernia repair so won't be able to show him if you are planning on doing that. Other than that, there isn't any problem with having it repaired.
posted by tamitang at 6:07 PM on February 16, 2008

It is against AKC show rules to show a dog with a hernia repair so won't be able to show him if you are planning on doing that.

Not true. (scroll down to "Surgery, Allowable Procedures, "repair of umbilical hernias" is number 5). And yes, the dog should be on limited registration if he's from an ethical breeder.

Have the hernia evaluated by a vet, they can range in severity from a minor cosmetic defect (which can wait to be repaired until the dog is under anesthetic for another reason, like neutering), to a life-threatening problem. Umbilical hernias are hereditary approximately 90% of the time, and are only rarely caused by trauma (the breeder has likely misled you about this) so dogs with them should not be bred. If you absolutely must breed your puppy, then you should not buy this one.
posted by biscotti at 6:16 AM on February 17, 2008

I can't speak to the issues about breeding, but I do suggest that if you're not planning to have the hernia repaired surgically by a vet, then you should not buy the puppy.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:11 PM on February 17, 2008

Late update: we purchased the puppy, and he is wonderful and in good good health. I took him to the vet who said the hernia can be repaired sometime after he is 16 weeks old. It will cost less than $100. Interestingly, the vet said that 90% of umbilical hernias are not hereditary. This was the dam's second litter of puppies. With the first litter, the dam's owner cut the umbilical cords herself, and there were no umbilical hernias with that litter. With this second litter, she let the dam cut the umbilical cords and there was at least one hernia as a result.
posted by momzilla at 10:49 AM on February 28, 2008

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