FHO can be an effective surgery for treating different forms of hip problems in dogs. In this post, our Fort Oglethorpe vets explain the hip anatomy of dogs, hip problems that could affect your canine companion, and what’s involved in FHO surgery and recovery.
How Hip Problems Occur in Dogs
Hip problems in dogs occur for a number of reasons including genetics, old age, injury, and a combination of both of those factors.
- Canine hip dysplasia is typically a genetic disorder. Hip dysplasia causes your dog's hip joints to develop abnormally.
- Legg-Perthes disease is another condition that can affect your pup’s hips. This condition is characterized by a lack of blood flow to the top of the femur, leading to the spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur, resulting in arthritis and/or hip damage.
How Your Dog's Hip Joints Work
Your dog’s hip joints function as a ball and socket mechanism. The ball is located at the head of the thigh bone (femur) and rests inside the hip bone’s acetabulum (socket portion of the hip joint).
When the hip is functioning normally, the ball and socket work together allowing easy and pain-free movement. When injury or disease breaks down or disrupts your pup’s normal hip function, pain and other mobility issues can result due to rubbing and grinding between the two parts. Inflammation caused by a poorly functioning or damaged hip joint can also reduce your dog’s mobility and quality of life.
If you have a small dog, FHO - femoral head ostectomy - orthopedic surgery may be able to ease your dog's pain and restore your pet's normal pain-free mobility.
Hip Conditions in Dogs That May Benefit from FHO Surgery
There are numerous hip conditions in dogs that can benefit from FHO surgery, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Severe arthritis
- Joint dislocation (luxation)
- Hip fractures
- Legg-Perthes disease
- Weak muscles in hind legs
That said, not all dogs are suitable for this surgery. In order to be a candidate for FHO surgery, your dog must weigh less than 50 lbs. A smaller pet’s weight will work to their advantage in this scenario since the false joint that will form after surgery can more easily support a smaller body compared to a larger or overweight dog.
Signs & Symptoms of Hip Pain in Dogs
If you notice one or more of the following symptoms, your dog may be suffering from hip problems.
- “Bunny hopping”
- Limping when walking
- Stiffness in joints
- Decreased tolerance or motivation to exercise or play
Dog FHO Surgery
During the FHO surgery the surgeon will remove the femoral head leaving the socket portion of the hip empty. Your dog's leg muscles will initially hold the femur in place as scar tissue develops between the femur and acetabulum. Gradually over a period of time a “false joint” will begin to form and scar tissue will act as cushion between the femur and the acetabulum.
FHO Surgery Dog- Cost
FHO surgery is a relatively inexpensive procedure that can often help to restore pain-free mobility to smaller dogs. The cost of your dog's surgery will depend upon a number of factors so you will need to consult your veterinarian for an estimate, however, you can expect to pay anywhere from $900 - $1500 for FHO surgery.
FHO Surgery Dog Recovery
Every dog is different. Following surgery, your dog may need to stay in the veterinary hospital for several hours or several days for post-surgical care. The duration of your dog's stay will depend upon your pet's overall health and a number of other factors. Recovery from FHO surgery usually happens in two phases:
In the days immediately following surgery, you and your vet will focus on controlling pain with medications such as prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These will help reduce pain, inflammation and swelling at the surgical site.
Your dog should avoid strenuous physical activity for 30 days after surgery, and most dogs will require about six weeks to recover. Your pup won't be allowed to run or jump during their recovery period, however, you can take your pooch for short 'on-leash' walks.
If your pet is not in too much pain, your vet may recommend passive range of motion exercises to encourage your dog's hip joint to move through its natural range of motion once again.
Approximately one week after surgery, the second phase of recovery begins and will involve gradually increasing physical activity so your pet can rebuild muscle mass and strengthen the hip joint.
Gradually increasing physical activity helps to prevent scar tissue from becoming too stiff, and will improve your dog's long-term mobility. Appropriate exercise in this phase may include walking upstairs independently, or walking on hind legs while you hold their front legs in the air.
After about a month, if your dog has recovered adequately, your pooch should be ready to resume regular physical activity. That said, high-impact activity should still be avoided at this time.
A mobility aid or dog lift harness may be useful throughout the Phase 2 healing process. Pets who were relatively active prior to surgery tend to recover more quickly thanks to the increased strength of muscle mass around the hip joint.
Caring For Your Pooch After FHO Dog Surgery
Care requirements will vary depending on your dog’s individual circumstances and needs. If your pup does not fully recover within the typical six-week recovery period, formal physical rehabilitation therapy may be recommended. If your dog seems to be in pain or is not doing as well as expected following FHO surgery, contact your veterinarian right away.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always consult with a vet before making medical decisions for your pet.