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A Pet Owners Guide to FHO Surgery in Dogs

Femoral head ostectomy (FHO) surgery effectively treats hip problems and restores pain-free mobility in some dogs. In today's post, our veterinarian will describe how a dog's hip works, the problems that could affect your dog's hip, and what's involved in FHO surgery.

Why Your Dog May Have Hip Problems

Hip problems in dogs can be caused by genetics, old age, injury, or a combination of both factors.

  • Canine hip dysplasia is typically a genetic disorder that 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.
These relatively common conditions can cause mobility issues and pain for your pup. Orthopedic surgery may be recommended to correct the issue.

How Your Dog's Hip Joints Should 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).

During normal hip function, 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 from 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

Numerous hip conditions in dogs 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. To be a candidate for FHO surgery, your dog must weigh less than 50 lbs. A smaller pet’s weight will be advantageous in this scenario since the false joint that will form after surgery can more easily support a smaller body than a larger or overweight dog.

Signs That Your Dog May Have Hip Issues

Your dog may be suffering from a hip problem if they show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • “Bunny hopping”
  • Limping when walking
  • Stiffness in joints
  • Decreased tolerance or motivation to exercise or play

What is an FHO Surgery for a Dog

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 the acetabulum. Gradually, over some time, a “false joint” will begin to form, and scar tissue will act as a cushion between the femur and the acetabulum.

How much does his surgery for a dog cost?

The cost of FHO surgery can vary widely depending on several other factors. Consult your veterinarian to estimate how much you can expect to pay for this procedure. 

How long does it take to recover from hip dysplasia surgery? 

Every dog is different. Following surgery, your pup 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:

Phase 1

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 pup 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.

Phase 2

The second phase of recovery begins approximately one week after surgery. It involves gradually increasing physical activity so your pet can rebuild muscle mass and strengthen the hip joint.

Gradually increasing physical activity helps 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.

If your dog has recovered adequately after about a month, it 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 Pup After FHO Dog Surgery

Care requirements will vary depending on your dog’s individual circumstances and needs. Formal physical rehabilitation therapy may be recommended if your pup does not fully recover within the typical six-week recovery period. If your dog won't use the affected leg after the expected recovery period, seems to be in pain, or is not doing as well as expected following FHO surgery, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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.

Is your dog showing signs of a hip problem? Contact our vets in Anaheim to find out how to schedule an appointment to examine your dog.

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