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Hip Dysplasia Surgery for Dogs

Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of one or both of your dog's hips, which leads to pain or discomfort whenever your pup is exercising or simply changing position. Today our Mooresville vets share more about hip dysplasia, its symptoms and the surgeries used to treat this condition.

What is hip dysplasia?

Your dog’s hip joint works as a ball and socket, but when hip dysplasia strikes the ball and socket fail to function normally. Rather than smoothly working together to facilitate comfortable movement, the ball, and socket grind and rub against each other, leading to further hip deterioration and eventual loss of function.

Left untreated hip dysplasia can drastically reduce your dog's mobility. Hip dysplasia is very painful for dogs but can also be very difficult for pet parents to deal with since it can be very upsetting to watch an otherwise healthy dog deal with the symptoms of this condition.

What causes hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is typically a hereditary condition. While often seen in large and giant breed dogs such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers and bulldogs, it can affect a number of smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs.

When hip dysplasia is not treated while in the early stages, it tends to become increasingly severe over time and go on to affect both hips (bilateral). Hip dysplasia may 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. Obesity, accelerated growth rate and some types of exercise can all play a role in the development of this condition. The excess weight of obese dogs puts abnormal stress on the hip joints and may aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause the condition.

What are the signs of hip dysplasia in dogs?

Although hip dysplasia typically begins to develop when the puppy is as young as five months old, your pet may not show signs of the condition until they reach their middle or senior years. As your puppy grows into adulthood watch for the following symptoms of hip dysplasia:

  • Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising
  • Reluctance to exercise, or climb stairs
  • Back legs are stiff when he walks
  • Stiffness when running
  • Difficulties rising from a resting position
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
  • Grinding of the joint when moving
  • Lameness in hind end
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Running with a 'bunny hop'

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

Hip dysplasia is one of the main conditions that veterinarians watch for each time a dog comes in for an examination. During your dog’s yearly wellness exams, your vet will check on their physical health and the condition of all your dog's joints.

During an examination, your vet may move your dog’s hind legs to check for any grinding sounds, signs of pain, or reduced range of motion. If your vet suspects that your dog may have hip dysplasia, blood tests that help detect signs of inflammation may be recommended.

Your vet will also thoroughly examine the health and medical history of your dog including a rundown of specific symptoms, or previous injuries. Knowing your pet’s lineage can offer insights into your dog's likelihood of developing hip dysplasia, although it isn't essential. Standard x-rays can also be very helpful in diagnosing the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia, and to help determine the best treatment for your pup.

What are options are available for dog hip dysplasia surgery?

Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia range based on the severity of the condition, and may include lifestyle changes, pain meds and surgery. There are 3 dog hip dysplasia surgeries commonly used:

Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO)

FHO surgery involves removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint, then allowing the body to create a “false” joint. FHO surgery will not return your dog's 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, however, you can expect to pay from $1,200 to $2,500, including pre-surgical bloodwork, procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care and medications. 

Your dog could be required to remain in hospital after FHO surgery 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.

Typically you can expect your pet to recover from FHO surgery in about six weeks. Once fully recovered your dog can resume their regular physical activity.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

These hip surgeries are most commonly used to treat hip dysplasia in dogs under 10 months old. DPO/TPO surgery involves cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement in the functioning of the ball and socket joint. The cost of this hip dysplasia surgery varies but for most dogs, it will be in the $3,000 range for both hips.

Your pup will require several weeks of quiet recovery before they'll be able to enjoy proper leash walks again, and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) in order for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within as little as four weeks). Recovery from DPO/TPO surgery usually takes about four to six weeks.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

Total hip replacement surgery is typically the first choice for the surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs. THR is the most effective surgery and involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint. THR returns your dog's hip function back to a more normal range and eliminates most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.

A total hip replacement is a drastic treatment option for hip dysplasia and is also the most expensive. This surgery is usually recommended if the dog is in considerable pain or close to completely immobile. The artificial hip components used in THR must be custom-made for your dog, and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons. The cost of THR for hip dysplasia in dogs can be anywhere from $3,500 per hip to $7,000 depending on your dog's condition, size, age, overall health, and other factors. If your dog is bilaterally affected (which is common), surgery can cost up to $14,000, including pre-surgical blood work, surgery, anesthesia and all meds.

THR surgery usually takes about two to three hours, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for one to three days following surgery. Expect a 12-week recovery period in order to allow time for proper healing to occur. If your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, with a three-to-six-month gap between procedures.

At Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital our vets understand that it can be distressing to learn that your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia. Contact us today to book an appointment to discuss surgery or other options to help ease your dog's hip dysplasia symptoms.

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