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The hip joint is composed of a ball and socket formation. In dogs, the hip joint is found on either of the two hind limbs. It is the connection from the pelvis to the leg. Dogs may develop many different issues that affect the hip joint and how it functions. These may be genetic conditions or they may be due to injury to the body.
Hip problems are very painful for dogs. A dog suffering from a damaged hip joint is likely to show signs of lameness and difficulty rising. Medication may be used to alleviate mild cases of hip degeneration, but eventually, most hip issues require surgery. For small to medium-sized dogs, a femoral head and neck ostectomy can provide relief to the animal. This procedure is not overly complicated, and can be performed by most board-certified veterinary surgeons.
To determine whether the dog is healthy enough to undergo general anesthesia, full blood work will need to be run. X-rays or an ultrasound will be used to visualize the joint damage and plan the surgery. Fasting is required for several hours prior to the operation. A sedative will be given to the dog and then an IV catheter will be placed. It is important to replenish all fluids and electrolytes before commencing the surgery.
Once the dog has been put under using general anesthesia, an endotracheal tube may be placed. The hip area can then be shaved and disinfected. Both a ventilator and a heart monitor will be used throughout the surgery. An epidural catheter may also be placed. The incision will be made at the top of the affected limb. At this point the femoral head and neck will be removed using surgical tools. The removed tissue may be sent to a lab for further evaluation in some cases. Once the leftover bone has been placed in the joint, all tissue layers may be closed, and the skin sutured shut.
This procedure is the most effective when performed on small or medium sized dogs. Dogs who are of proper weight also tend to fare better than those who are overweight. This is because the joint heals and functions better the less pressure there is on it. Dogs who are full grown adjust to this surgery better than puppies. In general, most dogs who undergo this surgery experience a huge improvement in both pain and movement. Some may have weakness in the affected joint.
Pain medication will be administered before the dog wakes from the anesthesia. Its vital functions will continue to be monitored for several hours following surgery. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will be given to reduce inflammation at the surgical site. A course of antibiotics will likely be prescribed to the dog to stave off any bacteria from the wound.
As a dog heals from a femoral head and neck ostectomy, moderate activity is encouraged to help build muscle strength in the newly formed joint. Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy should also be started as soon as possible to increase the range of motion in the limb. In the first three weeks after surgery, the dog should begin bearing all of its weight on the affected leg. Two separate follow-up appointments will be needed to assess healing at weeks two and eight. It can take up to six months for the joint to fully heal after surgery.
The cost of a femoral head and neck ostectomy can range from $1,000 to $3,000. This will depend on how much general anesthesia is used, what type of diagnostic imaging is needed and which medications are prescribed post surgery. Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy can cost as much as $75 per session. A general veterinarian can perform this procedure, which does make it more affordable than surgeries requiring a specialist.
As with all surgeries, the use of general anesthesia comes with rare but serious risks. Some dogs develop adverse reactions that can lead to cardiac arrest or respiratory difficulties. The surgical site can develop an infection if it is not kept clean enough. Movement problems may exist if physiotherapy is not started soon after surgery. It is possible for the sciatic nerve to be damaged during the procedure. The leg that undergoes the operation will be shorter than the others, however this does not cause much of an issue in most dogs. Larger dogs often experience severe periods of lameness following this procedure and are generally recommended a total hip replacement instead.
Many considerations that affect the hip are hereditary. Dogs who suffer from hip dysplasia or from Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease should not be bred. When obtaining a dog, always inquire about its family health history. Dogs who develop arthritis can be given supplements to slow down its degeneration. Both glucosamine and chondroitin are effective at slowing or even stopping the progression of arthritis.
Many occurrences of blunt force trauma can be avoided by the use of a leash when the dog is on walks. It is also important to secure the outdoor areas that the dog uses so that there are no spots that the dog may escape from. Vigorous play should be discouraged, along with jumping up onto high furniture.
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