Perineal hernia

Compiled by willem Schaftenaar, 2020

Definition: A perineal hernia is a disruption of the pelvic diaphragm musculature that allows contents of the pelvic canal and/or abdominal cavity to herniate into the perineal subcutaneous tissues. In elephants this condition presents as a large bulging mass below the tail. 


1. Pressure on the bulging area sometimes results in urination. This is suggestive for the presence of the urinary bladder in the perineal subcutaneous space.


2. Rectal palpation: if the urinary bladder is present in the perineal subcutaneous space, the bladder may empty when pression is used by the hand through the rectal wall.

3. Transrectal and transcutaneous ultrasonographic examination: visualization of the urinary bladder, cervix uteri or parts of the uterus in the subcutaneous space definitely confirms a hernia perinealis.


The cause of this condition in elephants is unknown. Complications: insufficient emptying of the urinary bladder may predispose for urine retention. There are no reports of urinary infection in elephants due to this condition.


In the 3 cases that I am aware of, clinical signs were limited and did not cause discomfort to the elephant. These elephants were not treated for this condition. There is only one report about surgical repair of the perineal hernia, as the perineal subcutaneous mass became larger over a period of 10 years (Myanmar, 2016).

Treatment results

In one case in a 4 years old female Asian elephant, only the urinary bladder was involved. This case was not treated and the condition resolved within the next 3 years (Bernhardine, 1988, Rotterdam Zoo).

The surgical repair in the Myanmar case was reported as a succesful intervention.