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FHO Surgery in Dogs: What You Need to Know

FHO Surgery in Dogs: What You Need to Know

FHO surgery may be a good option if your dog is suffering from a hip condition or issue. In this post, our Matthews vets explain hip anatomy of dogs, conditions that may occur, what’s involved in FHO surgery procedure and recovery.

How do hip problems occur in dogs?

Injury, old age or genetics can lead to hip problems in dogs. For instance, the genetic disease canine hip dysplasia can cause abnormal hip joint development.

Legg-Perthes disease is another condition affecting dogs’ hips and is characterized by a lack of blood flow to the top of the femur. These conditions and others can cause mobility problems and pain for your dog. Orthopedic surgery may be required to correct the issue.

How does hip joint anatomy work?

Your pup’s hip joint functions like a ball and socket. At the top of the long thigh bone (femur) is the ball (the head of the femur), which rests inside the acetabulum of the hip bone (the socket part of the joint).

In healthy dogs, this ball and socket joint work together to allow your dog to run and play pain-free, with easy hip movement in all directions. However, disease or injury can break down or disrupt the normal anatomy, leading to abnormal joint function.

This results in grinding and rubbing between the ball and socket, which can cause chronic pain, inflammation and decreased mobility for your dog. As you might imagine, this reduces your pet’s quality of life.

To correct it, your pooch will need FHO (femoral head ostectomy) orthopedic surgery.

Which hip conditions can benefit from FHO surgery?

A number of hip conditions in dogs can benefit from FHO surgery, including:

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

To be a good candidate for FHO surgery, your dog must weigh less than 50 pounds - a smaller pooch’s weight will work to their advantage in this case, as the false joint can more easily support the body compared to a larger or overweight dog.

If your dog weighs more than 50 pounds, consult your veterinarian on whether FHO surgery would be the best choice.

What are signs of hip pain in dogs?

These are signs that your dog may be suffering from hip pain?

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

What’s involved in the FHO surgery procedure?

A surgeon will perform an FHO surgery to remove the femoral head, leaving the acetabulum empty.

Though the leg muscles will initially hold the femur, a “false joint” will form over time as scar tissue develops between the femur and acetabulum. The tissue acts as a cushion between these two areas. An FHO surgery is a relatively inexpensive procedure.

What are the benefits of FHO surgery?

FHO surgery will restore pain-free mobility to the hip for most dogs as a result of the head of the femur being removed.

What should I expect as my dog recovers from FHO surgery?

After surgery, your dog may need to stay in hospital for anywhere between several hours to several days, depending on his health, the surgery and other factors.

Recovery from surgery typically occurs in two phases:

Phase 1

In the days immediately after surgery, the focus will be on controlling pain with medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by your vet. This will help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.

Strenuous physical activity should be avoided for 30 days following surgery, and most pooches will require about six weeks to recover. While your dog may take short, leashed walks to go tho the bathroom, he shouldn’t run or jump.

If he’s not in too much pain, the vet may recommend passive range of motion exercises to get the hip joint used to moving through its natural motion.

Phase 2

Phase 2 begins about one week after surgery and involves a gradual increase in physical activity so your dog can rebuild muscle mass and strengthen the hip joint.

This physical activity will also help keep scar tissue from becoming too stiff and improve mobility. Appropriate physical activity may include walking on hind legs while you hold their front legs in the air, or walking up stairs independently.

Highly demanding physical activity should still be avoided for the first month after surgery. After this timeframe, your dog may resume physical activity.

Your and your dog may find a dog lift harness or other mobility aid useful during Phase 2. Pets who are relatively active prior to surgery tend to recover more quickly thanks to the amount of muscle mass surrounding the hip joint.

Care may vary depending on your dog’s individual circumstances and needs. If your pooch does not fully recover within the typical 6-week period, he may need formal physical rehabilitation or therapy. If your pet seems to be in a lot of pain or is not doing well at any point following surgery, contact your veterinarian.

What should I ask my vet about FHO surgery?

    • Would my dog be a good candidate for FHO surgery (may need a physical exam to determine this.)?
    • Who would be the best surgeon to perform the FHO?
    • If physical therapy or rehabilitation is needed following surgery, would you be able to recommend a facility?

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.

Matthews North Carolina Veterinary Surgery

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews, pets with orthopedic issues are diagnosed and treated by our board-certified veterinary surgeons. At CVS Matthews we provide comprehensive medical and surgical care for pets experiencing hip conditions and other health issues. If you live in the Matthews area and think that your pet might have a IVDD, request a referral to our board-certified veterinary neurologist or visit our emergency vets for care.

If your dog is showing signs of a hip condition, it is essential to seek veterinary care. Contact your primary care vet for a referral prior to booking a surgical appointment with our veterinary surgeons in Matthews NC. 

Caring for Pets in Matthews

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews accepts new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our 24/7 emergency service accepts all clients.

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704-815-3939