doe big bellyThe Deer-Forest Blog at Penn State University notes that this doe was seen in a landowner’s backyard this summer. Although the massive belly disrupted her normal walking and resulted in more of a waddle, the doe did not show any outward signs of being sick and appeared to have a fawn.

What the heck is going on here?

According to Dr. Justin Brown, PGC Vet, “Based on the enormous size of this tumor, its location, and the fact that the deer is not showing other outward signs of disease, the most likely cause of this mass is a hernia.”

He goes on to write that a hernia occurs when internal organs or tissues pop through an opening in the muscular wall that surrounds the abdomen, but are still covered in skin. Based on the time of year and the fact that it is a doe, potential causes of the hernia include trauma (being hit by a car) or parturition (giving birth). The bottom surface of the mass is covered with blood, which likely resulted from the mass being dragged on the ground.

Sadly, says Dr. Brown, the prognosis for this deer is not good. The protruding organs and tissues are unlikely to go back to their normal position in the abdomen. While the hernia will only result in severe disease if the internal organs are pinched or damaged or if secondary infections occur, the location and size of the mass will impact her ability to move and survive.