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A Dog Owner's Guide to FHO Surgery in Dogs

A Dog Owner's Guide to FHO Surgery in Dogs

Is your dog struggling with a painful hip condition? FHO surgery may be a good option for their treatment. Here, our Plains vets describe dogs' hip anatomy, conditions which may occur in your pup, and what is involved in FHO surgery.

How Hip Problems Happen in Dogs

Hip problems are relatively common in dogs, either caused by genetics, injury, old age, or any combination of those factors. 

When genetics are the key factor, the cause of hip issues is often canine hip dysplasia. This is a condition which causes your dog's joints to develop abnormally.

Legg-Perthes disease is another condition that can affect your pup’s hips. Characterized by a lack of blood flow to the top of the femur, this condition can lead to the spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur, resulting in hip damage and arthritis.

Both of these conditions can cause mobility issues and pain for your dog. To correct the issue, orthopedic surgery may be required.

How Your Dog's Hip Joints Work

Your dog's hip functions very similarly to a ball and socket. The "ball" is located at the head of their thigh bone, and it rests inside their hip bone's acetabulum (the socket portion of the hip joint).

In a dog with hips that function normally, the ball and socket work together to allow them to make free and easy movements. When diseases or an injury disrupts your dog's normal joint function, however, mobility issues and pain can interfere with their ability to move. Inflammation caused by the poor functioning of a damaged hip joint can also reduce the mobility of your pup and their general 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 pup's normal mobility.

Hip Conditions That Can Benefit from FHO Surgery

Numerous hip conditions in dogs can benefit from FHO surgery, including:

  • Legg-Perthes disease
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Severe arthritis
  • Joint dislocation (luxation)
  • Hip fractures
  • Weak muscles in hind legs

In order for your pup to be a candidate for FHO surgery, they must weight less than 50 lbs. The less your pet weighs, the more it will work to their advantage. The false joint created through this surgery will be able to more easily support their smaller body compared to a large or overweight one.

Signs of Hip Pain in Dogs

There are a number signs that point to hip pain in dogs. Your dog may be suffering from a hip problem if they show one or more of the following symptoms:

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

The FHO Surgery Procedure

A surgeon will remove the femoral head when performing FHO surgery. This will leave your pup's acetabulum empty. Your pup's leg muscles will initially be able to hold the femur in place as scar tissue develops between your pooch's femur and acetabulum. Gradually, a false joint will start to form. This scar tissue acts as a cushion between the femur and the acetabulum.

FHO surgery is a relatively inexpensive procedure that can often help to restore pain-free mobility to small dogs.

Recovery from FHO Surgery

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 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 non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which your vet will prescribe. These will help reduce pain, inflammation and swelling at the surgical site.

Your dog should avoid strenuous exercise or activity for at least thirty days after their surgery. Most dogs will require about 6 weeks to recover. While you pup won't be able to run or jump during their recovery period, you can take them for short walks on-leash.

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

About 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.

The gradual increase in physical activity will also prevent their scar tissue from becoming too stiff and will improve your pup's long-term mobility. Exercises to consider during this stage include: walking upstairs on their own or walking on their hind legs while you hold their front legs in the air.

After about a month, if your dog has recovered adequately, your dog 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 due to the amount of muscle mass around the hip joint.

The care requirements your dog will need will vary based on their circumstances. If your pooch doesn't fully recover within the usual 6-week recovery period, our vets may recommend formal physical rehabilitation. If your pet seems to be in pain or is not doing as well as expected following FHO surgery, contact your veterinarian.

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 experiencing hip pain ask your vet about a referral to our Veterinary Surgeon. At Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital, our team of veterinarians and specialists works closely with your primary care vet to ensure your pet will receive the best care possible. Contact us today to learn more.

From Happy Pet Owners

  • My puppy thought it was fun to eat a sock so we had to take him here. Everyone was amazingly kind and I could tell they actually care about animals. They brought him to the back immediately for treatment and then afterwards explained to us what they did and what to expect. The doctor was wonderful and she seemed very knowledgeable. She answered any and all of our questions. I’m comforted with knowing this type of care is available if I need their services again in the future.

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