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What You Need to Know About FHO Surgery in Dogs & Cats

What You Need to Know About FHO Surgery in Dogs & Cats

FHO surgery can be an effective way to treat hip problems and restore pain-free mobility in some dogs and cats. In today's post, our Riverside vets describe how your pet's hip works, problems that could affect your cat or dog's hip, and what’s involved in FHO surgery.

Why Your Pet May Have Hip Problems

Hip problems in dogs and cats can occur due to genetics, old age, injury, or a combination of both of those factors.

  • Hip dysplasia is typically a genetic disorder. Hip dysplasia causes your pet's hip joints to develop abnormally.
  • Legg-Perthes disease is another condition that can affect your pet’s hips. This condition is characterized by a lack of blood flow to the top of the femur, leading to the spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur, resulting in arthritis and/or hip damage.
These relatively common conditions can cause mobility issues and pain for your cat or dog. To correct the issue, orthopedic surgery may be recommended.

How Your Pet's Hip Joints Should Work

Your cat or dog’s hip joints function as a ball and socket mechanism. The ball is located at the head of the thigh bone (femur) and rests inside the hip bone’s acetabulum (socket portion of the hip joint).

During normal hip movements, the ball and socket work together allowing easy and pain-free movement. When injury or disease breaks down or disrupts your dog or cat’s normal hip function, pain and other mobility issues can result due to rubbing and grinding between the two parts. Inflammation caused by a poorly functioning or damaged hip joint can also reduce your pet’s mobility and quality of life.

If you have a small dog that weighs less than 50 lbs. or a cat that is fairly fit, FHO (femoral head ostectomy) orthopedic surgery may be able to ease your pet's pain and restore their normal pain-free mobility.

Signs That Your Pet May Have Hip Issues

Your dog or cat may be suffering from a hip problem if they show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • “Bunny hopping”
  • Limping when walking
  • Decreased tolerance or motivation to exercise or play
  • Muscle loss around their back limbs
  • Increased stiffness and reduced range of motion
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty jumping

FHO Surgery

During the FHO surgery, the surgeon will remove the femoral head leaving the socket portion of the hip empty. Your pet's leg muscles will initially hold the femur in place as scar tissue develops between the femur and the acetabulum. Gradually over some time, a “false joint” will begin to form and scar tissue will act as a cushion between the femur and the acetabulum.

Cost of  FHO Surgery

The cost of FHO surgery can vary depending on several factors. Consult your veterinarian for an estimate on how much you can expect to pay for this procedure. 

Recovery From FHO Surgery

Every pet is different. Following surgery, your pet may need to stay in the veterinary hospital for several hours or several days for post-surgical care. The duration of your cat or dog's stay will depend upon your pet's overall health and several other factors. Recovery from FHO surgery usually happens in two phases:

Phase 1

In the days immediately following surgery, you and your vet will focus on controlling pain with medications such as prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These will help reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling at the surgical site.

Dogs should avoid strenuous physical activity for 30 days after surgery, and most dogs will require about six weeks to recover. Your dog won't be allowed to run or jump during their recovery period, however, you can take your dog for short 'on-leash' walks. 

Cats will need to have their activity restricted by either keeping them comfortably enclosed in a crate or confining them to a small room where they aren't able to jump or run. We suggest hiding their cat tree while they are recovering.

If your pet is not in too much pain, your vet may recommend a passive range of motion exercises to encourage your pet's hip joint to move through its natural range of motion once again.

Phase 2

Approximately one week after surgery, the second phase of recovery begins and will involve gradually increasing physical activity so your pet can rebuild muscle mass and strengthen the hip joint.

Gradually increasing physical activity helps to prevent scar tissue from becoming too stiff, and will improve your pet's long-term mobility. Appropriate exercise in this phase may include walking upstairs independently, or walking on hind legs while you hold their front legs in the air. Discuss with your vet about what activities they recommend for your pet's specific case.

After about a month, if your dog has recovered adequately, your dog should be ready to resume regular physical activity. That said, high-impact activity should still be avoided at this time. A mobility aid or dog lift harness may be useful throughout the Phase 2 healing process.

Most cats recover fully within about 6 weeks of the surgery. If your cat hasn't fully recovered by this time, they may require physical therapy or rehabilitation to ensure a full recovery.

Pets who were relatively active before surgery tend to recover more quickly thanks to the increased strength of muscle mass around the hip joint.

If your dog or cat seems to be in pain or is not doing as well as expected following FHO surgery, contact your veterinarian right away.

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.

Contact our Riverside vets today to schedule an appointment to see if your pet would benefit from orthopedic surgery.

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Riverside Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Riverside companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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