Surgery or Not For Dog Hip Dysplasia

by Michelle with Veterinarian Response
(Whitesburg,Ky)

Reader Question: Is Surgery the best option for a dog with hip dysplasia?


My 6 year old male Labrador retriever has recently started having hip problems. About 8 months ago he was having pain if he stood up on his back legs or when climbing stairs. At that time the vet said it was arthritis.

They started him on glucosamine, and he had not had any more issues until about a week ago. He was doing the same thing as before, and I just assumed it was because the cold weather was making it worse. However, when he he came in this morning, I rubbed over his hips and when I rubbed his right hip, he cried out, and continued to cry and even set down by my legs and was shaking all over. I know my dog, and he had to be in bad pain to act like this, so off to the vet we went.

I was told that his right hip femur bone is almost flat on top, and is rubbing bone to bone. They are starting him on a pain, anti inflammatory med, after taking blood and doing x-rays. The doctor said sooner or later he would need surgery, sooner if the medications don't work.

When I asked about the surgery he said they remove the femur head, and use the muscles in the leg to keep the bone in place. He didn't mention hip replacement. He also said this is not for treatment, but for pain control. I am concerned about all of this, but I don't want to put him through something that may cripple him afterwards. Am I misunderstanding this, and what is the best treatment, and the average cost?

Vet Suggestion For Treating Dog Hip Dysplasia

Hi Michelle,

The best course of treatment for your dog depends on many variables (e.g., your dog’s weight, age, condition of his other joints, concurrent health problems, and desired activity level). For this reason, your best option is to discuss the specifics of your dog’s case with specialists(s) in both the medical and surgical care of advanced hip dysplasia.

Non surgical treatment options include weight loss, physical therapy, exercise, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, nutritional supplements, pain relievers, acupuncture, cold laser therapy, and stem cell therapy. Generally, combination therapy including several of these therapies works better than any one of them alone. Your veterinarian is right that if your dog’s pain can’t be controlled through medical means, surgery is your only other option. Based on your description of the case, your two surgical options are a femoral head ostectomy (FHO) or hip replacement surgery. In general, FHOs tend to work better for smaller dogs (under 50 pounds or so), but some larger dogs do well post operatively also. It’s hard to estimate the cost of these surgeries because they vary based on the part of the country where you reside and many other factors, but a hip replacement would certainly be more expensive. The Ohio State University website is currently quoting $4,400 to $4,700.

Again, a specialist or specialists in advanced pain relief and orthopedic surgery who are familiar with the particulars of your dog’s case are in the best position to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM


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