FHO Surgery in Dogs

In certain cases, a dog may experience issues that result in the need for orthopedic surgery to correct. Here, our East Setauket vets share some common conditions that can affect your dog's hips and how treatments like FHO surgery can help to treat and manage your dog's condition.

Hip Issues in Dogs & How They Happen

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.

What is the purpose of the hip?

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

Dog Hip Conditions That May Require 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

For your pup to be a candidate for FHO surgery, it must weigh 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 That Your Dog is Experiencing Hip Pain

Several signs 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 of Your Dog's Recovery

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 your pup won't be able to run or jump during its recovery period, you can take them for short walks on a leash.

If your pet is not in too much pain, your vet may recommend a passive range of motion exercises to encourage your dog's hip joint to move through its natural range of motion once again.

Phase 2 of Your Dog's Recovery

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 before 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 showing signs of pain in their limbs or joints, the first step should be to schedule an examination. Contact our vets in East Setauket today to book and appointment.