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Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs

Hip dysplasia is a progressive, degenerative disease that begins when your dog is just a puppy, but generally isn't diagnosed until noticeable symptoms appear in adulthood. Today, our Memphis vets discuss treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs and ways to help reduce the impact of this painful condition on your dog's mobility.

The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia

Your dog's hip joints work similarly to a ball and socket. In a functioning hip, the ball at the top of the thighbone is able to rotate within its pocket in pelvis. If your pup is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that make up their hip haven't developed properly and aren't able to rotate the way they are supposed to. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, causing continued breakdown, pain, and eventual loss of function in the affected hip.

Although most common in giant or large breed dogs, smaller dog can also suffer from hip dysplasia. While dogs are usually diagnosed with this issue when they are adults when the hip dysplasia is severe, it can be seen in puppies as young as four months old.

The condition causes a dog a significant amount of pain, and reduces their ability to move normally. If left untreated, hip dysplasia can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life.

The Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia is predominantly a hereditary condition. Large and giant dog breeds such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs, are the most common victims of hip dysplasia. Some smaller breeds are often susceptible as well, such as French bulldogs and pugs.

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 issue. Poor weight management and nutrition, accelerated growth rate, and some types of exercise can all play a role in the development of the condition. For example, 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 prevent your dog from developing hip dysplasia, it’s important to consult your vet regarding the amount of daily exercise your pup requires, and the most appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia to Watch For

Each dog is different when it comes to the hip dysplasia symptoms they exhibit. The severity and the extent of the symptoms also depend on how serious the condition is and where it is in its progression. Pet parents should watch for the following symptoms as their dog grows into adulthood:

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

Treating Hip Dysplasia in Puppies & Dogs

Treatment options for hip dysplasia are based on the severity of your dog'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.

The Types of Hip Dysplasia Surgery

When it comes to the surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, there are three main surgical options available:

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

FHO can often benefit both puppies dogs 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. 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. In most cases, you can expect your pup to recover completely after about six weeks. Once fully recovered, they can continue their usual physical activity.

Factors such as the size and age of your dog, as well as the severity of the condition, will all affect the cost of FHO surgery to treat your dog's hip dysplasia.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

DPO/TPO surgeries are most commonly performed in puppies and young dogs under 10 months old. It involves cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint.

Following the surgery, your pup will require several weeks of reduced activity before they'll be able to properly enjoy leashed walks again and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) in order for full mobility to return (although you may notice an improvement in joint stability within as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

In many cases, total hip replacement is the best surgical treatment option for 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 for 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 the surgery. 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.

Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Although hip dysplasia is largely a genetic condition, there are a few things that pet parents can do to help reduce the risk of their dog suffering from the debilitating effects of this condition:

Choose a Reputable Breeder

Because hip dysplasia is predominantly a hereditary condition, the best way to avoid having to care for a dog with hip dysplasia is to select a puppy from a reputable breeder. A good breeder will know the medical history of the parents and grandparents and be aware of any family history of hip dysplasia. Spending time researching your breeder could save you a lot of heartache and money in the long run.

Help Your Dog Maintain a Healthy Weight

If you're already a pet parent, the best way to help prevent hip dysplasia in dogs is to help your pooch maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional stress on your pup's joints and can lead to unnecessary discomfort and joint pain.

Supplements & Diet

If your dog is experiencing joint pain or faces a high risk of developing hip dysplasia speak to your vet about supplements such as glucosamine and fish oils that could help your dog's joints to stay healthy. There are a number of readily available, high-quality dog foods on the market that contain ingredients to help your dog retain comfortable mobility. 

Appropriate Exercise & Play

Different breeds and sizes of dogs require different levels of activity to occupy their minds and to keep their body's healthy. Excessive exercise or inappropriate exercise could magnify your dog's genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia. Do your research, speak to your breeder, and consult your veterinarian to get a thorough understanding of the right exercise for your dog.

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 your dog is exhibiting signs of hip dysplasia, contact our Memphis vets to book an examination for your pup. Our vets can offer treatments to help get your pup moving comfortably again.

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