Hip Issues in Dogs
Hip problems in dogs can occur due to genetics, old age, injury, or a combination of both of those factors.
- Canine hip dysplasia is typically a genetic disorder. Hip dysplasia causes your dog's hip joints to develop abnormally.
- Legg-Perthes disease is another condition that can affect your pup’s hips. This condition is characterized by a lack of blood flow to the top of the femur, leading to the spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur, resulting in arthritis and/or hip damage.
How a Dog's Hip Joints Work
Your dog’s hip joints function as a ball and socket mechanism. The ball is located at the head of the thigh bone (femur) and rests inside the hip bone’s acetabulum (socket portion of the hip joint).
During normal hip function, the ball and socket work together allowing easy and pain-free movement. When injury or disease breaks down or disrupts your pup’s normal hip function, pain, and other mobility issues can result due to rubbing and grinding between the two parts. Inflammation caused by a poorly functioning or damaged hip joint can also reduce your dog’s mobility and quality of life.
If you have a small dog, FHO (femoral head ostectomy) orthopedic surgery may be able to ease your dog's pain and restore your pet's normal pain-free mobility.
Hip Problems in Dogs That May Require FHO Surgery
Numerous hip conditions in dogs can benefit from FHO surgery, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Severe arthritis
- Joint dislocation (luxation)
- Hip fractures
- Legg-Perthes disease
- Weak muscles in hind legs
That said, not all dogs are suitable for this surgery. To be a candidate for FHO surgery, your dog must weigh less than 50 lbs. A smaller pet’s weight will work to their advantage in this scenario since the false joint that will form after surgery can more easily support a smaller body compared to a larger or overweight dog.
Signs of Hip Pain in Dogs
Your dog may be suffering from a hip problem if they show one or more of the following symptoms:
- “Bunny hopping”
- Limping when walking
- Stiffness in joints
- Decreased tolerance or motivation to exercise or play
FHO Surgery for Dogs
During the FHO surgery, the surgeon will remove the femoral head leaving the socket portion of the hip empty. Your dog's leg muscles will initially hold the femur in place as scar tissue develops between the femur and the acetabulum. Gradually over some time, a “false joint” will begin to form and scar tissue will act as a cushion between the femur and the acetabulum.
Dogs Recovering From FHO Surgery
Every dog is different. Following surgery, your dog may need to stay in the veterinary hospital for several hours or several days for post-surgical care. The duration of your dog's stay will depend upon your pet's overall health and several other factors. Recovery from FHO surgery usually happens in two phases:
In the days immediately following surgery, you and your vet will focus on controlling pain with medications such as prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These will help reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling at the surgical site.
Your dog should avoid strenuous physical activity for 30 days after surgery, and most dogs will require about six weeks to recover. Your pup won't be allowed to run or jump during their recovery period, however, you can take your pooch for short 'on-leash' walks.
If your pet is not in too much pain, your vet may recommend passive range of motion exercises to encourage your dog's hip joint to move through its natural range of motion once again.
Approximately one week after surgery, the second phase of recovery begins and will involve gradually increasing physical activity so your pet can rebuild muscle mass and strengthen the hip joint.
Gradually increasing physical activity helps to prevent scar tissue from becoming too stiff, and will improve your dog's long-term mobility. Appropriate exercise in this phase may include walking upstairs independently, or walking on hind legs while you hold their front legs in the air.
After about a month, if your dog has recovered adequately, your pooch should be ready to resume regular physical activity. That said, high-impact activity should still be avoided at this time.
A mobility aid or dog lift harness may be useful throughout the Phase 2 healing process. Pets who were relatively active before surgery tend to recover more quickly thanks to the increased strength of muscle mass around the hip joint.
Helping Your Dog Recover After FHO Surgery
Care requirements will vary depending on your dog’s circumstances and needs. If your pup does not fully recover within the typical six-week recovery period, formal physical rehabilitation therapy may be recommended. If your dog seems to be in pain or is not doing as well as expected following FHO surgery, contact your veterinarian right away.
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.