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Total hip replacement for dogs

What to expect before, during, and after total hip replacement surgery in dogs

Many dog owners aren’t sure what to expect before, during, or after a total hip replacement surgery in dogs. This blog post will provide important information for pet owners who may have a friend or family member that is considering getting this procedure done on their dog.

What is Total Hip Replacement Surgery?

Total Hip Replacement (THR) is a surgical procedure where a severely damaged/diseased hip joint is replaced with artificial components. The ball (head of the femur) and socket (acetabulum) are removed and replaced with prosthetic implants. The ball is a cobalt chromium stem and ball, and the acetabular socket is reshaped and fitted with a polyethylene cup. Bone cement may or may not be used to fix the implants in place, depending on the implant type selected for your pet by your surgeon.

Total Hip Replacement is a surgical option used to treat severe arthritis, hip dysplasia, fractures (breaks), and dislocation depending on severity. THR is generally regarded as safe and effective, with an excellent chance of significantly improving limb function.

What can I expect before the surgery?

Before surgery, an extensive evaluation with the surgical team will need to be performed to determine if your pet is a good candidate for the procedure.  If your pet is deemed a good candidate then we will recommend preparing your home ahead of time for your pet’s recovery. Successful recovery from Total Hip Replacement surgery always requires your dog to be restricted or confined to prevent failure of the surgery. Preparing your home ahead of time helps ensure an easy transition after the surgery.

For more information on this topic, read our FAQ’s on at-home recovery here.

How does Total Hip Replacement surgery work?

After you’ve scheduled your surgery, your dog will be admitted to the hospital the night before, and will generally stay for one to two nights after surgery. Your dog will receive IV antibiotics before, during and after surgery to reduce the risk of any infections.

Two surgeons will work together within a sterile environment throughout the procedure, with assistance from a veterinary technician. A second technician will closely monitor your dog’s vital signs and anesthesia levels, and an assistant will provide instruments and supplies as called for by the surgeons.

The surgery begins with opening the hip area to visualize the hip joint. The head of the femur is removed, and a special tool is then used to prepare the inside of the femur for the placement of the prosthetic stem, which is fitted with a prosthetic head. Another instrument is used to prepare the acetabulum (hip socket) for placement of a prosthetic cup replacement. Each prosthesis is chosen specifically for your dog based on their size.

After the procedure is completed and the incision is closed, post-op X-rays are taken to ensure that the implants are well-placed. A small bandage may be placed over the incision to keep the area clean during hospitalization.

Before total hip replacement in dogsHip x-ray before surgery

After Total Hip replacement in dogs xrayHip x-ray after surgery

What happens after the surgery?

After surgery, technicians will closely monitor your pet for pain. Since most Total Hip Replacement patients receive an epidural anesthetic, recovery is generally smooth and relatively pain-free.

Tranquilizers may be given to allow your pet to rest quietly, and additional pain medications will be administered as needed.  Your dog will also likely receive antibiotics and anti-inflammatories throughout the hospital stay.

These medications, along with oral pain medications, will be sent home with you to be given during the weeks following surgery. You can read more about these medications here.

It’s critically important you follow the surgeon’s discharge instructions in order to give your pet the best chance of a successful recovery. Minimizing the possibility of slips and falls will greatly help reduce the chance of a severe complication.

Most pets are weight bearing shortly after surgery, require close supervision to prevent overuse of the leg during the healing period. After the surgery, your dog’s activity will need to be restricted to limited on-leash exercise when outdoors, and confined in a small area indoors with no opportunities for strenuous activities.

This activity restriction will need to be maintained until your pet is fully healed. Stairs, slippery surfaces, and interactions with other dogs should be avoided until your surgeon says otherwise.

 How long will my dog be in recovery?

The recovery timeline for Total Hip Replacement surgery depends greatly on your diligence in ensuring your dog doesn’t re-injure themselves.

Within a week, most dogs will be moderately weight-bearing on the leg. If all goes well, you can expect your dog to fully recover and return to normal activity in approximately 16 weeks post-op.

For the first 6-8 weeks after surgery, your dog must be confined when left alone, but can be out with you when you are at home if you can carefully supervise them.

Pet recovery from Total hip replacement

During this period, brief leash walks are allowed only to go outside to eliminate. No running, jumping or playing with other pets is allowed. Avoid stairs and slippery floors as much as possible.

An initial recheck appointment will be made approximately at 2 weeks post-op to evaluate the incision and then at 6 weeks post-op. At the 6 week post-op recheck your surgeon will examine the procedure via x-rays, and if the healing appears normal you will be able to gradually increase exercise in the following 6 weeks.
A second radiographic recheck appointment maybe recommended at approximately 12 weeks post-op pending the patient’s recovery.

Is there anything else I need to know about this procedure?

Total Hip Replacement is generally regarded as a safe and effective treatment, with 90-95% of patients returning to near normal activity with no complications. With any surgery, there are some risks of complications.

THR requires general anesthesia, which comes with an anesthetic risk. Anesthetic complications are rare, and we minimize risk by use of best practices in anesthesia and extensive monitoring of your pet by our surgeons, licensed veterinary technicians, and our advanced monitoring equipment.

Some of the other complications that may occur include loosening of implants, infection, fracture, luxation (dislocation), and nerve damage. These complications are uncommon, and likely will require additional surgery to resolve.

If you’re considering a THR and want to talk to one of our board-certified surgeons about your specific situation, give us a call at (206) 545-4322 to set up an appointment.


Posted April 21, 2021 by Animal Surgical in Joint pain management, Pet Health, Recovery, Surgery with No Comments

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