Posted May 02, 2023

When a young dog was found to have an unusual form of hernia, Spartan veterinary professionals got to work sorting him out.

Baby Yoda Dom The Dog
Dom joined his family as a Father’s Day gift in 2021. “From the minute we brought Dom home, he has brought us a lot of joy and laughter,” says Dana, his owner.

Dom, a 1.5-year-old English Springer Spaniel, is known by his family to have a playful, joyful heart.

His family and doctors were surprised, however, to discover an unusual physical problem bordering Dom’s heart: a hernia that was allowing other intestines to enter the thoracic cavity, where the heart is located. Clinicians discovered the issue after a bout of respiratory distress brought Dom to his primary veterinarian, who found a hernia and referred him to the MSU Veterinary Medical Center.

The diagnosis made at MSU’s Soft Tissue Surgery Service was “pericardial peritoneal diaphragmatic hernia,” or PPDH. This means that x-rays revealed numerous abdominal organs—his colon, small intestine, and liver—in the pericardial sac, which encases the heart.

PPDH is a congenital disease (meaning it is present from birth) in which a gap connects the heart cavity (pericardium) with the cavity that contains the intestines, stomach, and liver (the peritoneal cavity). It is often an incidental finding that causes no physical abnormalities. However, as Dom’s case was severe, he needed immediate surgery to prevent complications and get back to his comfortable, happy self.


Dom recovered smoothly from surgery, spending two days at MSU before reuniting with his family. As with many young dogs, Dom’s high-energy personality was an unexpected obstacle during recovery.

Dom The Good Boy
Dom plays with his “brother” Percy, who was rescued from a shelter. “I think Dom, in some way, has shown Percy how to be safe and feel love,” says owner Dana.

“His recovery was a challenge because we just couldn’t keep him mellow,” says Potocki. “He loves being outside and chasing anything that moves. Snowflakes, leaves, and bugs don’t stand a chance against his quick reflexes.”

Nonetheless, Dom healed. And at home, the spaniel took a new lease on life.

“I thought Dom was energetic compared to our previous dogs,” says Potocki. “Nothing prepared us for the ‘New Dom’ after his life-saving surgery. Funny what full-capacity lungs and a heart that isn’t restricted do for health!”

Because Dom’s hernia was detected and treated, he is expected to live comfortably as a healthy dog. “We look forward to a long, healthy, and never-boring life with our Dommy Boy, and can’t express enough the gratitude we have for the MSU veterinary clinic and everyone involved in the successful outcome of his surgery and care,” says Potocki. “The love and kindness shown to Dom and our family through this cannot be expressed with mere words.”

Read Dom's clinical case study here.

Categories: Happy Tails