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Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs: What to Expect

Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs: What to Expect

It is possible for any breed of dog to develop hip dysplasia, which is an unusual formation of one or both hips that can cause pain or discomfort during movement. Our veterinarians at Roswell provide valuable insights on the causes, symptoms, and treatment methods for hip dysplasia in dogs, including surgical options.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Your furry friend's hip joints function similarly to a ball and socket. However, hip dysplasia can cause abnormal development in one or both hips. This leads to an improper working of the ball and socket, resulting in rubbing and grinding against each other. Over time, this can cause a breakdown and even lead to a loss of function in the affected hip joint.

Although hip dysplasia is commonly seen in large breed dogs, smaller breeds can also experience this painful condition. Without treatment, hip dysplasia can significantly reduce your dog's quality of life due to pain and limited mobility. Moreover, this condition is challenging for pet owners as it can be distressing to watch an otherwise healthy dog suffer from its symptoms.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia in dogs is mainly caused by genetics, making it a hereditary condition. Larger breeds such as Rottweilers, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, retrievers, and bulldogs are more prone to this condition, but some smaller breeds like French bulldogs and pugs are also susceptible. If left untreated, it could worsen with age and affect both hips.

Senior dogs with hip dysplasia may also suffer from osteoarthritis, which could be painful. Although genetics play a significant role, other factors such as improper weight and nutrition, accelerated growth rate, and certain types of exercises can worsen the condition. Obesity puts abnormal stress on your dog's joints and could aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or cause it. Therefore, it's vital to consult your vet on the appropriate daily exercise and diet for your dog's age, size, and breed, regardless of the breed.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Every dog is different in terms of the symptoms they display of hip dysplasia however, the condition usually starts to develop when dogs are still a puppy around the age of five months old. Although the signs may not be obvious until they reach middle age or their senior years. Dog owners should keep an eye out for these symptoms as their puppy enters adulthood:

  • Stiff back legs when walking
  • Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump, or climb stairs)
  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Running with a 'bunny hop'
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when they move

Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

During a routine checkup, veterinarians often check for common conditions like hip dysplasia in dogs. Your pup's physical health and joint condition will be examined during regular physical exams. The vet may move your dog's hind legs to identify grinding sounds, pain, or reduced range of motion. If signs of hip dysplasia are suspected, blood tests may be recommended to detect inflammation resulting from joint disease.

Your vet will also request your dog's complete health and medical history, including specific symptoms and any injuries that may have occurred. Understanding your pet's lineage can provide insight into the likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. Standard X-rays can be helpful in diagnosing the severity of the condition and determining the best course of treatment.

Treating Canine Hip Dysplasia

The treatment options available for dogs with hip dysplasia will vary depending on the severity of their condition, from changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise to pain meds and surgery

Surgical Treatment Options

When treating hip dysplasia in dogs, there are 3 main surgical options available:

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

FHO surgery can be helpful for both young and mature dogs suffering from hip dysplasia. During this procedure, the femoral head or ball of the hip joint is removed, allowing the body to create a "false" joint, which reduces discomfort.

Although FHO surgery cannot restore normal hip function, it can effectively manage pain. The cost of this surgery depends on various factors such as the size and age of the dog and the severity of the condition. The surgery cost will include pre-surgical bloodwork, the procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care, and medication.

After the surgery, your dog may need to stay in the hospital for several hours or days depending on their health condition. You will receive specific instructions from your veterinary surgeon on how to care for your dog after FHO surgery, but it is essential to prevent any strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. Most dogs can fully recover after six weeks of post-surgical care and gradually resume their regular physical activity.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

Hip surgeries are frequently done in dogs below 10 months old. They involve precise cuts in the pelvic bone, which are then rotated to enhance the ball and socket joint. After the surgery, your furry friend will need some weeks to recover before they can resume leash walks. Regular physiotherapy for dogs will be necessary to regain full mobility, although joint stability may improve in as little as four weeks. Generally, dogs recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

Total hip replacement is typically the first choice for surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, since it is the most effective. THR involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, bringing hip function back to a more normal range and eliminating most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.

That said, THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive. This surgery is usually recommended if the dog is in considerable pain or close to completely immobile. The artificial components used in THR must be custom-made for your dog, and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons.

Total hip replacement surgery usually takes about two to three hours, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for one to three days following surgery. To ensure proper healing, expect a 12-week recovery period. Even if your dog's hip dysplasia appears in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, allowing a three-to-six-month gap between procedures.

Our vets understand that hearing a diagnosis of hip dysplasia in your dog can be heart-wrenching, as the condition is painful and can visibly reduce mobility. This diagnosis can also cause some financial concerns as surgical options can impact your budget. That said, your veterinarian may be able to recommend an option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain some of their hip function.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you believe your pup is suffering from hip dysplasia, contact our Roswell vets today. 

Experienced Emergency Vet Care

Animal Emergency Center of North Fulton is an after-hours and critical care hospital, providing veterinary emergency care since 1991. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact us to get the help your pet needs.

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