Common Causes of Dog Hip Problems
Factors such as genetics, old age, and injury can all contribute to the development of painful hip problems in dogs. Two common hip problems seen in dogs that are brought to our Santa Cruz specialist hospital are:
- 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.
These conditions typically cause hip pain that leads to chronic mobility issues for dogs. To correct the issue, orthopedic surgery may be recommended.
How Your Dog's Hip Joint Should 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 Be Treated With FHO Surgery
There are numerous hip conditions in dogs that 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. In order 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 That Your Dog May Be Experiencing Hip Pain
If your dog is suffering from hip pain you may notice 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 Dog - Process
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 a period of time a “false joint” will begin to form and scar tissue will act as a cushion between the femur and the acetabulum.
FHO Surgery Dog - Cost
FHO surgery is a relatively inexpensive procedure that can often help to restore pain-free mobility to smaller dogs. The cost of your dog's surgery will depend upon a number of factors so you will need to consult your veterinarian for an estimate, however, you can expect to pay anywhere from $900 - $1500 for FHO surgery.
The Recovery Process For Dogs Following FHO Surgery
Every dog is unique and will recover at their own pace. That said there are some general guidelines regarding what to expect after your dog's FHO procedure.
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 a number of other factors. Recovery from FHO surgery usually happens in two phases:
Phase 1 of Dog FHO Recovery
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.
Phase 2 of Dog FHO Recovery
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 prior to surgery tend to recover more quickly thanks to the increased strength of muscle mass around the hip joint.
Caring For Your Dog After FHO Dog Surgery
Your veterinary surgeon and team will be sure to provide you with complete instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, and those instructions may vary from one pet to another. Your dog's care instructions will be tailored to your pup's individual circumstances and needs, and should be followed closely in order to help speed healing and avoid complications. If your dog does not fully recover within the typical six-week recovery period, physical rehabilitation therapy may be recommended (physio for pets). 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.