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What Is FHO Surgery For Dogs?

What Is FHO Surgery For Dogs?

FHO surgery is performed on dogs who suffer from hip issues or conditions. Our Long Island vets are here to tell you all about your dog's hips, what conditions can occur, and what to expect from FHO surgery including 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 and move in unison to allow your dog to run and play without pain, with 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
  • Hip fractures
  • Legg-Perthes disease
  • Joint dislocation (luxation)
  • Weak muscles in hind legs
  • Severe arthritis

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 the 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. FHO surgery is a relatively inexpensive procedure.

What are the benefits of FHO surgery?

FHO hip surgery for dogs 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 FHO surgery for dogs typically occurs in two phases:

Phase 1

In the days following surgery, the focus will be on controlling pain with medication. These medications will help reduce 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 to the bathroom, he shouldn’t run or jump. If your dog won't use their leg after FHO surgery, contact your vet to see if there's anything you can do to help them start walking. 

If he’s not in too much pain, the vet may recommend a 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.

If your dog is slowing down and showing signs of pain in their hips, it's time to contact one of our Long Island speciality veterinary clinics to book a consultation.

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