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A hernia occurs when an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. An abdominal hernia occurs when an organ or other piece of tissue protrudes through a weakening in one of the muscle walls that encloses the the bird's abdominal cavity. Older female ducks are more likely to develop a hernia as a result of the effects from egg laying, egg binding, or hyperestrogenism. Other less common factors include recent surgery or injury to the area, straining, or abdominal masses.
Hernias develop as a result of muscle weakness and strain, most often associated with egg laying. A duck suffering from a hernia will usually require surgical repair. A delay or lack of treatment can result in the bird traumatizing their abdomen further by rubbing it on surfaces which may lead to respiratory distress, difficulty passing urates and feces, and the entire abdominal viscera moved within the hernial sac. Another serious complication of a hernia is intestinal obstruction, which can be fatal to the bird due to strangulation of tissues.