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Hip dysplasia is a common developmental disorder of the hip joint that affects almost all breeds of dogs. Over time, dogs with hip dysplasia often develop secondary osteoarthritis. Symptoms associated with hip dysplasia range from none to severe pain and lameness of one or both hind legs and may occur during puppyhood or later in life.

Dogs suspected of having hip dysplasia are diagnosed as having the condition based on palpation of the hip joints during a physical examination and with radiographs. Treatment for the condition often depends on the severity of the clinical signs and may involve medical management (weight control, exercise moderation, anti-inflammatory/pain medications and/or joint supplementation, stem cell therapy, platelet rich plasma therapy) or various surgical interventions (Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO), Femoral Head and Neck Ostectomy (FHO), Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS), Total Hip Replacement (THR)). 

Both hips are usually affected but symptoms may be more severe on one side. Commonly presented with larger breed, Hip dysplasia is manifested by varying degrees of laxity (looseness) of the hip joint with instability and malformation of the joint components. Arthritis is the long-term consequence of hip joint laxity.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia may be subtle. They can include the presence of lameness in one or both hind legs and the reluctance to climb stairs or jump. Dogs that are affected often become less active and less playful. They may be reluctant to go on walks and their gait may be a "bunny hop" at certain speeds.

Once hip dysplasia is diagnosed, the treatment consists of either medical (conservative) or surgical management.

Medical management includes weight reduction, pain management, neutraceuticals/joint supplements (e.g. glucosamine and chondroitin), and physical therapy. Medical management has some long-term disadvantages. First, it can be costly over the lifetime of the pet; second, it does not consistently remove pain associated with arthritis; and finally, it does not give the pet a biomechanically normal hip allowing full athletic activity (unlike a total hip replacement).

Surgical management includes Total hip replacement (THR) which is the only option that will restore the biomechanics of the hip joint to normal with pain-free function. THR is one of the most successful operations used in people and animals. A femoral head ostectomy (FHO) is an old procedure where the femoral head is removed, creating a false hip joint (pseudoarthrosis). Although FHO alleviates pain, it is has been shown scientifically to not restore the biomechanics of the normal hip joint. FHO generally has a three-month recovery. Alternatively, a triple pelvic ostectomy is an operation used to treat very young dogs with hip dysplasia only selected dogs are able to have this operation.

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Surgery

What Is A Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon?

A board certified veterinary surgeon is a licensed veterinarian who has obtained intensive, additional surgical training. A veterinary surgeon can offer special assistance in the following kinds of cases:

  • Traumatic injury and emergencies (such as fractures, skin wounds and lacerations, correction of gastric dilatation-volvulus, and exploratory (abdominal/thoracic) surgery
  • Orthopedic surgeries (such as total hip replacements (THRs), cruciate ligament surgeries (TPLOs), and arthroscopy for joint exploration).
  • Soft tissue surgeries (such as tumor/cancer removal and correction of congenital defects).
  • Neurological surgeries (such as herniated discs and spinal injuries).
  • Trust VCA's Veterinary Surgeons with Your Cat or Dog's Veterinary Surgery
  • If your cat or dog needs veterinary surgery, you can't afford to get anything but the best. Read more about how VCA's team of veterinary surgeons can help your pet survive veterinary surgery.

While your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems, certain diseases and conditions require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive surgical training in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet. Your veterinary surgeon will work closely with your general practitioner veterinarian, as well as'"depending on your pet's condition'"other board certified specialists in internal medicine, veterinary oncology, veterinary neurology, and veterinary radiology.


Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Surgeon?

Just as your own primary care physician may feel the need to refer you to the care of a specialist from time to time, your general practitioner veterinarian may feel your pet needs the additional expertise of a board certified surgeon for certain surgeries. In fact, many general practitioner veterinarians refer all but the most routine of surgeries to specialists'"orthopedic and neurology cases, reconstructive surgeries, tumor removals, etc.

Board certified veterinary surgeons also are often affiliated with referral hospitals where they may have access to specialized diagnostic or surgical equipment, the latest and safest anesthesia monitoring equipment, physical therapy or rehabilitation capabilities, and other critical care services that a general practitioner may not have access to. All of these specialized services may be necessary for the optimal care and recovery of your pet.

You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet to a veterinary surgeon is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of care for his or her problem.

What Kinds of Problems Require the Expertise of a Veterinary Surgeon?

Board certified veterinary surgeons can repair complex fractures, perform total hip replacements, and use advanced techniques to repair torn ligaments (ruptured cruciate ligaments) within the knee. They can also remove cancerous growths, manage extensive or non-healing wounds, and perform reconstructive surgery, such as grafting skin over large injuries. Veterinary surgeons can perform intricate surgeries in the chest or abdomen, such as kidney transplants in cats or repairing heart defects in dogs. Spinal injuries and herniated discs are problems that are also commonly referred to board certified surgeons. Veterinary surgery is also expanding into minimally invasive surgery, such as arthroscopy, thorascopy, and laparoscopy.


Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

In many if not most surgical cases, your regular veterinarian will still supervise your pet's veterinary care, especially if your pet is continuing to cope with a disease or chronic condition. It depends on your pet's particular disease and health problem, however. Typically, though, your general practitioner veterinarian will oversee many aspects of your pet's pre-op and post-op care, just as in human medicine. Recovery periods are often prolonged in many surgical cases, particularly in orthopedic surgery, and it is very important to follow your veterinary team's recommendations concerning at-home recovery guidelines for your pet, follow up care and appointments, as well as any rehabilitation that has been prescribed.

Did You Know?

Just as in humans, a pet's recovery from veterinary surgery can go more smoothly or even result in a better outcome with the addition of rehabilitation options. Many veterinary referral hospitals offer rehabilitation services, such as water therapy, physical therapy, and massage therapy, as an adjunct to surgical care.

If you think that your pet may be a candidate for veterinary surgery, talk to your general practitioner veterinarian, or find a board certified veterinary surgeon near you today.

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