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Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs: What to Expect

Hip dysplasia can occur in any breed of dog and is an abnormal formation of one or both of a dog's hips, this can lead to them experiencing pain or discomfort whenever they exercise or change position. Here, our Port Jefferson vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment options of hip dysplasia in dogs, and how surgery can help treat it.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Your dog’s hip joints work like a ball and socket. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal development of one or both of your pup's hips. When dogs are diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that makes up their hip hasn't developed properly and are not working as they are supposed to. Instead, the ball and socket rub and grind against each other, causing a breakdown over time and potentially causing an eventual loss of function in the impacted hip joint.

While hip dysplasia is most commonly seen in giant or large breed dogs, smaller breeds can also suffer from this painful condition. Hip dysplasia can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life if left untreated because it causes pain and limits your dog's ability to move normally. Hip dysplasia is also difficult for pet parents to deal with because it can be upsetting to see an otherwise healthy dog struggle with the symptoms of this condition.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Generally, hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition, with genetics being the most common cause of this condition in dogs. Hip dysplasia is seen more frequently in giant breeds and large dogs such as Rottweilers, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, retrievers, and bulldogs, although a handful of smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs are also susceptible.

If this condition goes without treatment in its earlier stages it can continue to get worse with age and affect both hips (bilateral). Hip dysplasia could be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs. 

Despite the fact that hip dysplasia is an inherited condition, there are other factors that may exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Improper weight and nutrition, rapid growth rate, and certain types of exercise can all contribute to the development of this condition. Obesity puts abnormal stress on your dog's joints and may aggravate or even cause hip dysplasia.

Regardless of which breed of dog you own, it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of daily exercise for your pup, and the most appropriate diet for their age, size, and breed.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Every dog is unique in terms of the symptoms of hip dysplasia that they exhibit; however, the condition typically begins to develop when dogs are still puppies, around the age of five months. Although the signs may not be obvious until they are in their forties or fifties. As their puppy reaches adulthood, dog owners should keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • 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

Hip dysplasia is one of many common conditions that veterinarians look for when examining a dog during a routine checkup. Your veterinarian will examine your dog's overall physical health as well as the condition of their joints during their regular physical exams. Your veterinarian may move your dog's hind legs to detect any grinding sounds, pain, or limited range of motion. If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has hip dysplasia, he or she may recommend blood tests to detect inflammation as a result of joint disease.

Your vet will also request your dog’s complete health and medical history including a rundown of specific symptoms, and any injuries that may have caused them. Knowing your pet’s lineage can offer insights into your dog's likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. Standard X-rays can also be very helpful in diagnosing the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia, and to chart a course of action for 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 can benefit both young and mature dogs. This type of surgery entails removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint, allowing the body to create a “false” joint, which decreases the discomfort related to hip dysplasia. Dogs undergoing FHO will not see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.

While factors such as the size and age of your dog, as well as the severity of the condition, will all affect the price of FHO surgery. The cost of hip dysplasia surgery for dogs will include pre-surgical bloodwork, the procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care, and medication. 

Depending on their health and other factors, your dog may need to stay in the hospital for several hours to several days following surgery. Your veterinary surgeon will give you specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, but for at least 30 days, you must keep your dog from engaging in any strenuous physical activity. In most cases, your puppy will recover completely within six weeks of surgery. They can resume regular physical activity once fully recovered.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

These hip surgeries are most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint.

Following these surgeries, your dog will be unable to enjoy proper leash walks for several weeks, and will require regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve in as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks of 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 after surgery. 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 veterinarians understand that hearing a diagnosis of hip dysplasia in your dog can be heartbreaking, as the condition is painful and can significantly reduce mobility. This diagnosis may also cause financial concerns, as surgical options may have an impact on your budget. Having said that, your veterinarian may be able to recommend a treatment option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain some 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 Port Jefferson vets today. 

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