Total Hip Replacement in dogs or THR is an orthopedic surgery that replaces the ball (head of the femur) and socket (acetabulum) of the hip joint with prosthetic implants. These new components interact smoothly and function in the same manner as a normal hip joint.
The primary indications for a THR are painful hip(s) that affect a dog’s comfort, mobility and activity level. Stiffness, lameness and reluctance to exercise are also signs of problems. There are many indications that a THR may be the right choice for a pet but hip dysplasia is usually a major factor.
To decide what is best for the pet, our surgical team must evaluate pet history, perform a complete physical examination, evaluate radiographs and interpret laboratory data. Many factors must be evaluated before the patient is considered a good THR candidate. Dr George is always available for a courtesy consultation by appointment.
In most dogs 9 months of age is the earliest the procedure can be done to allow the bones to finish growing. There are some giant breeds where it will be necessary to delay surgery until at least 12 months of age until the dog reaches a more mature state.
The goal of surgery is to return the patient to a pain-free, mechanically sound, normal hip function. The majority of dogs are found to be more comfortable and have an improved quality of life following THR. Many owners report that their pet can do things they have not done since they were a puppy. Increase in muscle mass, improved hip motion, and increased activity levels are observed in most patients. Up to 95% of the replaced hips return to normal or near normal function. More than 95% of owners feel that their dog’s quality of life is significantly improved following THR.
Watch Tyler’s Journey through a total hip replacement
The THR Procedure-
All pets are screened before surgery which entails a complete history and physical examination. If additional x-rays of the hips are required they are taken pre-operatively. The pet’s skin is carefully examined for signs of infection. Abnormalities noted on these examinations may indicate that the dog is not a good candidate for a THR. Pets must be free from infection and in excellent health. Preoperative blood work is performed to evaluate internal functions and screen for disease. If the preoperative evaluations reveal no abnormalities, surgery is then scheduled. The routine length of hospitalization for patients with THR is overnight to up to two days following surgery.
THRs may have complications, just as any other surgery. While uncommon, the most described potential complications include hip joint dislocation, infections, and loosening of the implants over time. The risk of any of these complications occurring is low. Hip dislocation can occur because the replaced ball and socket are not locked together. Not until the supportive tissues around the joint have healed following surgery is the hip tight enough for the dog to resume more activity. Once these tissues have healed, the chances of dislocation are almost eliminated. Adhering to postoperative restrictions can minimize this potential complication. Infection is uncommon and many precautions are taken during and following surgery to help minimize its occurrence. Finally, loosening of the implants over time can occur but is rarely reported. Typically, the implants will last the lifetime of the dog without complications. Very rare complications such as femur fracture and blood clots in the lungs have been documented. Anesthesia itself carries only a small risk for complications. It’s a fact that in any patient, young or old, healthy or unhealthy, problems can arise.
At Mohnacky Animal Hospitals we take many precautions to make anesthesia as safe as possible, by using state-of-the-art drugs and monitoring equipment and employing experienced doctors and technicians who oversee many procedures and patients each year. Major anesthetic complications associated with THR surgery are extremely rare.
The postoperative care for the patient is critical. The activity level of the pet must be strictly controlled. For the first month after surgery the dog should only be allowed outside on a leash to urinate or defecate and should be immediately returned to the house afterwards. Inside the house the pet should avoid stairs and slippery floors. If the pet must go up and down some stairs, a leash or hand on the collar to control the speed of the pet on the stairs is necessary. Absolutely no running, jumping or playing is allowed for the first 2 months after surgery. When the dog is not under direct control, he/she should be kept confined to a small room, cage, or crate. For the second post-operative month, similar restrictions apply but the pet may go on longer leash walks. The length of the walk will depend on the dog’s abilities. All postoperative restrictions are discussed in detail and written down at the time of discharge.
At Mohnacky Animal Hospital we re-evaluate the patient at 14 days, 4-weeks and 8-weeks postoperatively. During each postoperative examination the patient shall receive a physical examination and the affected hip radiographed.
Four out of five dogs (80%) of the patients have problems in both hips, but commonly only require one side to be operated upon to return them to a satisfactory and comfortable life. The decision on which hip to replace is based on the owner’s observations, the physical examination findings, and the hip radiographs.
THR is not the only treatment option available. Other possibilities for treatment include medical therapy and other surgical options. Which treatment is best for the patient depends on many factors. The treatment option(s) are discussed after we have taken a history, evaluated radiographs, and completed an orthopedic examination.