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Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs: What to Expect

Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs: What to Expect

Hip dysplasia can affect dogs of any breed and involves the abnormal formation of one or both hip joints. This condition can cause pain and discomfort for dogs when they engage in physical activities or change their position. Our San Jose vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment options of hip dysplasia in dogs and how surgery can help treat it.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition that can affect dogs of all breeds, but it is most commonly seen in giant or large breed dogs. It is an abnormal development of one or both hip joints, which work like a ball and socket. When a dog has hip dysplasia, the ball and socket do not function properly, causing them to rub and grind against each other. This can lead to a breakdown of the joint over time and potentially result in a loss of function of the impacted hip joint.

Hip dysplasia can cause extreme pain and discomfort for your furry friend, and if left untreated, it can severely reduce their quality of life. Even small breeds can suffer from this condition. It can be challenging for pet parents to manage this condition, as it can be very distressing to see an otherwise healthy dog struggling with the symptoms.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia is a condition that is often inherited by dogs, making genetics the most common cause. This condition is more commonly seen in large breeds such as Rottweilers, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, retrievers, and bulldogs. However, some smaller breeds, like French bulldogs and pugs, are also susceptible to this condition.

If left untreated in its early stages, hip dysplasia can worsen with age and affect both hips. Senior dogs with hip dysplasia may also develop osteoarthritis, which can cause further discomfort.

Apart from genetics, other factors such as improper weight and nutrition, accelerated growth rate, and certain exercises can worsen the condition. Obesity, in particular, puts abnormal stress on a dog's joints and can even cause hip dysplasia.

Regardless of the breed, it's crucial to consult a veterinarian to determine the right amount of daily exercise and the most appropriate diet for your dog's age, size, and breed.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Every dog is different in terms of their symptoms 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 look for common conditions like hip dysplasia in dogs. During your dog's regular physical exams, the vet will examine its overall physical health and the condition of its joints. The vet may move the hind legs to detect any grinding sounds, signs of pain, or reduced range of motion. If there are any indications of hip dysplasia, the vet may recommend blood tests to detect inflammation caused by 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 charting 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.

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 the surgery will include pre-surgical bloodwork, the procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care, and medication. 

After undergoing FHO surgery, your dog may need to stay at the hospital for a few hours to a few days, depending on their health and other factors. Your veterinary surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to take care of your dog after surgery. However, you will need to make sure that your dog does not engage in any strenuous physical activities for at least 30 days. It usually takes about six weeks for your dog to fully recover from the operation. Once they have fully recovered, they can resume their regular physical activities.

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 puppy will require several weeks before they'll be able to enjoy proper leash walks again and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

Hip dysplasia in dogs is commonly treated via total hip replacement surgery, which is considered the most effective option. This procedure involves the use of plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, restoring hip function to a more normal range and alleviating most of the discomfort associated with hip dysplasia.

However, it's important to note that THP surgery is an expensive and drastic option. It's usually recommended only if the dog experiences severe pain or is almost completely immobile. The artificial components used in THR are custom-made for each dog, and certified veterinary surgeons must perform the surgery.

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 San Jose vets today. 

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