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Hip Dysplasia & Surgery in Dogs

Hip Dysplasia & Surgery in Dogs

When a dog's hips don't form properly it can lead to a painful condition called hip dysplasia. Today, our Yucaipa vets share the signs and causes of hip dysplasia and the surgery options to help treat your dog.

What is hip dysplasia?

When a dog is experiencing hip dysplasia it means that the ball and socket that moves their limbs have not properly formed and may cause discomfort along with a slew of other symptoms. The ball and socket grind and rub against each other, leading to continued breakdown, pain, and eventual loss in the function of the affected hip(s).

While hip dysplasia mainly affects large dogs it also has the potential to affect other smaller breeds of dog. If hip dysplasia is left untreated, it can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life, as the condition causes significant pain and reduces your dog's ability to move normally. 

How does hip dysplasia in dogs occur?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is known to be a hereditary condition which is why it tends to affect certain breeds more than others. Breeds that commonly suffer from hip dysplasia include large and giant dogs such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs, but several smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs may also be susceptible.

If hip dysplasia is left untreated in the early stages, it will likely continue to worsen with age and affect both hips. Hip dysplasia may also be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs. 

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

To help avoid hip dysplasia it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of daily exercise for your pup, and the most appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size.

What are the common signs of hip dysplasia in dogs?

Every dog is different when it comes to displaying symptoms of hip dysplasia. The condition generally starts to develop when the puppy is about five months old, but it may not become apparent until your dog reaches their middle or senior years. Pet parents should watch for the following symptoms as their pooch grows into adulthood:

  • Pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)
  • Back legs are stiff when he walks
  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when he moves
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Running with a 'bunny hop'

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

Whenever a dog comes in for an examination your vet will check for signs that point to hip dysplasia. Your vet will evaluate the motion of your dog's joints during their physical exam. Your vet may move your dog’s hind legs to identify any grinding sounds, signs of pain, or reduced range of motion. If your vet suspects that your dog may have hip dysplasia, they might recommend blood tests that can indicate inflammation as a result of the disease.

Your vet will also ask you about your dog's health and if there are any symptoms or injuries that may be of concern. 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.

What are the treatment options for dogs with hip dysplasia?

Treatment options for hip dysplasia range based on the severity of your pup's condition. Your vet may recommend simple changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise, or more intensive treatments such as pain meds or orthopedic surgery for your dog. 

The Different Types of Hip Dysplasia Surgery

There are three main types of surgery that are used to treat hip dysplasia:

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 are unlikely to see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.

After the surgery, your dog could be required to remain in the hospital for anywhere between several hours and several days, depending on their health, and other factors.

Your veterinary surgeon will provide you with specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, but you will need to prevent your dog from doing any strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days.

Recovery after FHO surgery is approximately 6 weeks.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

DPO/TPO 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 of reduced activity 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 improvement within as little as four weeks).

The recovery time after DPE/TPO surgery is typically 4 to 6 weeks.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

In many cases, total hip replacement is the best choice for the surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, since it is typically 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.

However, THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive. Most vets recommend this surgery for dogs that are experiencing considerable pain or those that have lost their mobility. The artificial components used in THR are custom-made for your pooch, and the surgery is performed by a certified veterinary surgeon.

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.

Your dog will have one hip repaired at a time with a 12-week recovery period after surgery and 3 to 6 months between each surgery.

How should you prepare for your dog's recovery?

You should make a point of creating a recovery plan with your vet in order to help your dog stay comfortable and feel better sooner. You should decide where you will confine your dog during the post-operative period before bringing your pet home. Because your dog's mobility will be limited, we recommend that you use the following:

  • A dog crate that is large enough that he/she can stand up and turn around
  • A gated-off area such as the kitchen
  • Confinement to a room

What activities should my dog avoid doing?

Here are the things that you should prevent your dog from doing in order to allow your dog to heal as well as possible:

Do Not Allow Jumping

If your dog jumps and extends their legs, they could cause issues that might slow the healing process.

No Walking Up or Down Stairs

You should use a baby gate to block any access to stairs for the first few weeks after surgery. Stairs could cause further complications.

Avoid Playtime

While it may make your dog sad, you should avoid allowing your dog to play or socialize until your vet says that it is okay.

No Licking the Incision

After your dog has surgery you should prevent them from licking the incision site as this can cause bacteria to enter the wound causing infection.

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.

Are you concerned that your dog may be experiencing the symptoms of hip dysplasia? Contact our Yucaipa vets to book an examination for your pup.

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At Oak Glen Animal Hospital, we are always accepting new patients. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of your pet. Contact us today to book your first appointment and learn more.

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