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Why dogs sometimes need a THR (Total Hip Replacement)

If your veterinarian has talked to you about hip dysplasia or arthritis in your dog’s hips, you may have heard about “Total Hip Replacement” or THR. While this can sound scary, it’s a common and highly successful surgical treatment that we perform often at Animal Surgical & Orthopedic Center.

In this blog, we cover why dogs sometimes need Total Hip Replacement, and what you can expect from the surgery, and some commonly asked questions & answers.

What is Total Hip Replacement Surgery?

Total Hip Replacement (THR) is a surgical procedure where a damaged hip joint is replaced with artificial components. The ball (head of the femur) and acetabular socket 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.

Why Do Some Dogs Need A Total Hip Replacement?

Total Hip Replacements treat malformation and/or instability of the hip joint in dogs. This is most commonly caused by a degenerative joint disease, such as hip dysplasia or osteoarthritis. Sometimes hip replacements are also used to treat hip fractures and hip luxation (dislocation), when other options are ruled out.

Common signs of these conditions include:

  • Lameness or limping
  • Changes in gait, such as bunny-hopping
  • Pain when flexing or extending hip joints
  • Difficulty lying down or getting up from a lying position
  • Reluctance to exercise, play, or jump
  • Loss of muscle mass in the hips

These symptoms may appear at any age, and generally worsen with age. Some younger dogs may be diagnosed with hip dysplasia via screening X-rays before showing symptoms.

Before total hip replacement in dogs

Hip X-ray Before surgery

After Total Hip replacement in dogs xray

Hip x-ray after surgery

Can my dog be treated without a Total Hip Replacement or other surgery?

Like most surgical procedures, this depends greatly on you, your dog, the severity of the joint disease, and the options available.

There are non-surgical treatment options that are possible depending on the degree of disease progression and the lifestyle of you and your dog.

Dogs with sedentary, low impact lifestyles, and dogs with mild clinical symptoms are the most likely candidates for non-surgical treatments of hip dysplasia and other joint disease. If your dog is highly active and not responding well to medical management, surgery maybe an effective treatment for a pain free and happy life.

One of the most effective non-surgical treatment methods is weight management. Slim dogs have less weight and impact on their joints and can be more comfortable without surgical procedures.

As with any procedure, all options will be considered after a thorough examination and assessment. Talk to your veterinarian about your dog and situation if you think non-surgical treatment options might be right for you.

What dogs are a good fit for THR?

Your veterinarian and surgeon will carefully assess whether your dog is a good candidate for THR based on a number of factors, including the severity of symptoms, your pet’s history, a physical exam, the size of the dog, radiographs (x-rays), and likeliness of a favorable outcome.

Some general guidelines include:

  • Weight between 40 and 120 pounds.
  • Over 10 months of age.
  • Presence of pain that cannot be adequately controlled via medical therapy or other means.
  • No acute or chronic infections of skin, bladder, or other organ systems.
  • No other significant joint or bone disease.
  • No significant neurologic disease.
  • Able to be adequately confined during recovery period.

What is the success rate of THR surgery?

About 95% of dogs have good to excellent function with this procedure, but your diligence in following the surgeon’s discharge instructions plays a major role in the success of the surgery. It is crucial to minimize the possibility of your dog slipping and falling during the first few weeks after surgery, to avoid possible dislocation of the hip joint.

Within a week, most dogs will be moderately weight-bearing on the leg. Full healing and usage of the leg can usually be expected by four months after surgery. These patients have normal pain-free function of the leg, increased muscle mass, no lameness, and increased activity.

What are the potential complications of this surgery?

Total Hip Replacements are highly successful surgeries, but as with any surgery there are occasional complications.

About an 8% complication rate is reported with Total Hip Replacement surgery. Complications that may include:

  • Loosening of implants
  • Infection
  • Fracture
  • Luxation (dislocation)
  • Nerve damage

Sometimes additional surgery may be required to solve these problems, which may include removal or replacement of the implants. These complications can often be reduced by following your surgeon’s and veterinarian’s instructions carefully after the procedure.

As with any surgery requiring general anesthesia, there is also an anesthetic risk. Anesthetic complications are rare, however, and risk is minimized by our use of best practices in anesthesia choice and extensive monitoring of your pet by our surgeons, licensed veterinary technicians, and our advanced monitoring equipment.

Is Total Hip Replacement right for me and my dog?

Surgical procedures like THR are big decisions, and we’re here to support you and answer your questions. We will always recommend the best procedure and treatments that have the highest likelihood of success for your pet, which is why all our consultations are performed directly between you and your surgeon.

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 November 25, 2020 by Animal Surgical in ASOC News, Joint pain management, Pet Health with No Comments

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