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Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs: What to Expect

Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs: What to Expect

Dogs of any breed can develop hip dysplasia, an abnormal hip or hip formation. This can cause them discomfort or pain when they move or change positions. Our vets at Babcock Ranch will outline the causes, signs, and treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs, including the benefits of surgery.

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 should. 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.

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can affect not only giant or large breed dogs but also smaller breeds. If left untreated, it can significantly reduce your dog's quality of life, as it causes pain and limits their ability to move normally. As a pet parent, it can be very distressing to see an otherwise healthy dog deal 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. However, 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). Other painful conditions, such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs, could compound hip dysplasia. 

Hip dysplasia is a condition that can be inherited, but other factors may worsen the genetic predisposition. Improper weight and nutrition, accelerated growth rate, and certain types of exercise can all contribute to the development of this condition. Obesity can cause abnormal stress on your dog's joints, which can aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause it. It's crucial to seek advice from your veterinarian regardless of the breed of dog you own.

They can recommend the appropriate diet and daily exercise routine based on your pup's age, size, and breed.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia symptoms can vary among dogs, but the condition typically begins to develop when a puppy is around five months old. However, signs of the condition may not become apparent until the dog reaches middle age or their senior years. As a responsible dog owner, it is important to keep an eye out for these symptoms as your puppy grows into 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 look for various common conditions in dogs, including hip dysplasia. Your veterinarian will assess your pup's overall physical health and the condition of their joints at their regular physical exams. They may move your dog's hind legs to identify any grinding sounds, signs of pain, or reduced range of motion. If your veterinarian suspects hip dysplasia, they may suggest 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 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 their condition's severity, from lifestyle changes 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 and 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 their FHO surgery, your dog may need to stay at the hospital for a few hours or even a few days, depending on their overall health and other factors. Your veterinarian will give you detailed instructions on how to take care of your dog during their recovery period. It's important to make sure your dog doesn't engage in strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days after the surgery. It usually takes about six weeks for your pup to fully recover and be able to resume their normal 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 pup 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)

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. 

Hip dysplasia in dogs can be a painful condition that greatly impacts their mobility. Total hip replacement (THR) surgery is the most drastic and expensive option, usually only recommended if the dog is experiencing significant pain or immobility. THR requires custom-made artificial components and must be performed by certified veterinary surgeons, with a recovery period of around 12 weeks.

Even if hip dysplasia affects both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, with a gap of three to six months between procedures.

Our veterinarians understand the emotional and financial impact of this diagnosis but can recommend a combination of treatments to help your dog recover and improve 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 Babcock Ranch vets today. 

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