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Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs: What to Expect

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

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Dogs have ball and socket hip joints, which can develop abnormally, causing a condition known as hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when the ball and socket of the hip joint do not develop properly, leading to rubbing and grinding against each other.

Over time, a breakdown in the hip joint may be experienced, potentially resulting in loss of function. While hip dysplasia primarily affects large or giant breed dogs, it can also impact smaller breeds.

If left untreated, hip dysplasia can greatly reduce a dog's quality of life due to the pain and difficulty in moving normally. Additionally, it can be emotionally difficult for pet owners to watch their otherwise healthy dog suffer from the symptoms of this condition.

What causes hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition, and genetics is the most common cause of this condition in dogs. It is more frequently seen in giant breeds and large dogs like Rottweilers, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, retrievers, and bulldogs, although smaller breeds like French bulldogs and pugs are also susceptible. If left untreated in its early stages, it can worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral). Hip dysplasia can be compounded in senior dogs by other painful conditions like osteoarthritis.

Although hip dysplasia is inherited, other factors can exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Improper weight and nutrition, an accelerated growth rate, and some types of exercise can all play a role in the development of this condition. Obesity can put abnormal stress on your dog’s joints and may aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause the condition.

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

What are signs my dog might have hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia symptoms can vary between dogs, but they often emerge when the dog is still a puppy, around five months old. However, the signs may not become noticeable until the dog reaches middle age or senior years. Dog owners must be vigilant for 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

How is hip dysplasia in dogs diagnosed?

Hip dysplasia is a common condition that veterinarians check for during a dog's regular checkup. They will assess your dog's overall physical health and the condition of their joints. The vet may move your dog's hind legs to identify any signs of pain, reduced range of motion, or grinding sounds. If your dog is suspected of hip dysplasia, the vet may recommend blood tests to detect inflammation caused by joint disease.

During the exam, the vet will also ask for your dog's complete medical history, including any specific symptoms and injuries. Knowing your dog's lineage can provide insight into the likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. Standard X-rays can be very helpful in diagnosing the severity of the condition and creating a treatment plan.

Can hip dysplasia be cured in dogs? 

The treatment options available for dogs with hip dysplasia will vary depending on the severity of their condition, ranging from lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to pain medications and surgery

What are my dog's hip dysplasia surgery options? 

When treating hip dysplasia in dogs, there are three main surgical options available:

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

FHO surgery can benefit both young and mature dogs who have hip dysplasia. This type of surgery involves removing the hip joint's femoral head (ball), allowing the body to create a “false” joint and reducing discomfort related to hip dysplasia. While FHO surgery won't restore normal hip function, it can effectively manage the pain associated with hip dysplasia.

The cost of FHO surgery will vary depending on factors such as your dog's size and age and the severity of the condition. The cost will include pre-surgical bloodwork, the procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care, and medication. 

After surgery, your dog may need to stay in the hospital for several hours or days, depending on their health and other factors. Your veterinary surgeon will give specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery. Still, you will need to prevent your dog from doing any strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, it takes around six weeks for your pup to recover from the operation fully. Once fully recovered, they can resume regular physical activity.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

Hip surgeries are usually performed on dogs under ten months of age. This procedure cuts the pelvic bone at specific locations and then rotates to improve the ball and socket joint. After the surgery, your dog will need several weeks of rest before they can go for proper leash walks again. Regular physiotherapy for dogs is also required for full mobility to return. However, you may notice an improvement in joint stability within as little as four weeks. In most cases, dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can reduce mobility in dogs. Total hip replacement surgery is often recommended as the most effective surgical treatment. The entire hip joint is replaced with plastic and metal implants during the procedure. This can eliminate most of the discomfort caused by hip dysplasia and restore a more normal range of hip function.

However, total hip replacement is a drastic and expensive option. It is usually recommended only if the dog is experiencing significant pain or is close to being completely immobile. The artificial components used in the surgery must be custom-made for the dog, and certified veterinary surgeons must perform the procedure.

The surgery typically takes two to three hours, and the dog may need to be hospitalized for one to three days afterward. A recovery period of 12 weeks is necessary to ensure proper healing. Even if hip dysplasia is present in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, with a three-to-six-month interval between procedures.

We understand that receiving a diagnosis of hip dysplasia for your dog can be heartbreaking. It can also raise financial concerns due to the expense of surgical options. However, your veterinarian may be able to recommend a combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain some of their hip function.

How much does surgery cost for hip dysplasia in dogs? 

The cost of surgery for dogs with hip dysplasia varies widely across the country and even between hospitals relatively close to one another.

Factors that affect the cost of this therapeutic surgery include the size of your dog, its overall health status, the bloodwork required, the procedure being performed, the components required, the cost of anesthesia, the post-surgical care and medications required, and more.

If you are concerned about how much your pet's surgery will cost, ask your veterinary surgeon for a detailed estimate. This will give you the most accurate estimate and allow you to ask any questions you may have.

Can a dog live a normal life with hip dysplasia? 

If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, it's essential to work with your veterinarian to create a plan that will help your dog stay mobile and comfortable for as long as possible. Your vet can help address the question that is likely on your mind - how long can a dog live with hip dysplasia?

The answer to this question depends on several factors that can vary from dog to dog. This is why it's crucial to discuss your dog's situation with your vet since they have in-depth knowledge about your dog's health. However, the good news is that many dogs with hip dysplasia can live a normal life expectancy. With early diagnosis and proactive care, dogs with hip dysplasia can often live as long as dogs without this condition.

How long does it take for a dog to recover from hip surgery? 

The recovery time for a dog after hip surgery can vary depending on several factors, including the type of surgery performed, the dog's age, overall health, and adherence to post-operative care guidelines. Generally, it can take several weeks to a few months for a dog to fully recover from hip surgery.

Your veterinarian will provide specific instructions for post-operative care after surgery, including restrictions on activity, medication administration, and follow-up appointments. It is crucial to closely follow these instructions to ensure a smooth recovery and optimal outcome.

During the initial recovery period, your dog may need to rest and avoid strenuous activity to allow the surgical site to heal properly. You may also need to assist your dog with mobility, such as using a sling or harness to support them while walking or assisting with physical therapy exercises recommended by your vet.

As your dog progresses through the recovery process, you may notice gradual improvements in their mobility and comfort level. However, it's essential to be patient and allow sufficient time for the healing process to take place fully.

Your veterinarian will monitor your dog's progress through follow-up appointments and may recommend additional therapies or adjustments to the treatment plan as needed. With proper care and patience, many dogs can regain mobility and enjoy an improved quality of life after hip surgery.

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 suffers from hip dysplasia, contact our Milledgeville vets today to book a consultation.

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