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Dogs and Hip Replacements

 by jaime on 22 Jul 2014 |
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The human body is a complex system that consists of a highly integrated musculoskeletal system that makes all movement possible. When you get up out of your chair after reading this piece, you'll engage your muscles to get your body moving. Tendons and ligaments support movement in your joints, and your skeletal system holds it all together and upright.
 
Your dog's body is just the same. Dogs have a musculoskeletal system that includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, and vital joints that make running, jumping, and playing possible. Older dogs and those suffering from genetic deformities (hip dysplasia) are candidates for hip replacement, but what should you as the owner know about the process?
 
Spotting hip problems
Joint pain has the same impact on the life of a dog as it does on a human. If you notice that your dog whines in discomfort at simple movements, this could be a clear sign of hip problems. Health problems in the hips can lead to stiffness, lameness, poor range of motion, and a lack of interest in exercise in your dog. While it could be a temporary issue causing the pain, the longer these issues are present the more likely it is that something severe is bothering your pooch.
 
Candidates for hip replacements
The presence of hip problems does not mean your dog is automatically eligible for the procedure. In order to be considered a candidate, your dog must reach skeletal maturity first. This means that your dog's skeletal structure must be done growing. This generally occurs by the time your dog reaches nine months. Keep in mind that some larger dog breeds don't reach skeletal maturity until 11 months.
 
Additionally, your dog must be healthy in general to undergo the procedure. A veterinarian may not perform the procedure if your dog has other joint or bone conditions, as well as nerve disease, as these can impact the effectiveness of the procedure. Dogs with arthritic hips are not generally considered candidates for hip replacement, assuming they have normal function that is pain-free.
 
Post-op care
If your dog undergoes hip replacement surgery, it will spend two days in the care of veterinarians. Dogs are usually taken in as patients on the day of the surgery and held until the following day when a vet is comfortable releasing them. At this point, you become responsible for your dog's care.
 
Your dog's surgical incision must be kept clean and monitored on a daily basis. You will need to discourage your dog from licking (as much as possible) the incision site. Additionally, you'll be responsible for monitoring the site for redness, swelling, or any discharge. After roughly two weeks, your vet will be able to remove the sutures from your dog.
 
Throughout its recovery you will need to strictly control your dog's activity levels. In the first two months following surgery your dog should remain on a leash outside. Movement outside should be restricted to bodily functions and a brief walk, no longer than ten minutes in duration. During that same timeframe, your dog should not be running, jumping, or playing inside or outside.
 
Try to avoid taking your dog through rooms with slipper floors and control its pace when using the stairs. It isn't necessary for you to carry them on the stairs, but you do need to firmly grasp its leash to ensure it takes time on the stairs and establishes solid footing with each step. When you cannot be home with your pet, it should be confined to a small room in the house.
 
Once your dog has passed the first two months of recovery, you can begin slowly increasing its activity level. Do not rush your dog. Give it time to get back to previous activity levels. A good guideline is to allow your dog four weeks to get back up to speed.
 
Can hip replacement be avoided?

A hip replacement isn't a necessity in dogs with hip issues. There are non-surgical solutions to certain hip problems, such as physical therapy, but only your veterinarian can help identify the proper non-surgical solution for your dog.
 
If your dog has hip dysplasia, there is no preventative action you can take. Hip dysplasia is an inherited defect that will eventually strike your dog, and there is no product that can prevent it from developing. Hip replacement is a solution to hip dysplasia, but not a preventative tool.
 
When it comes to other hip problems that can occur as a result of normal aging or wear and tear, you can avoid hip problems with proper diet and exercise. If you help your dog maintain a healthy weight it can help decrease the stress on its joint caused by excess weight. Additionally, a good exercise regimen can help strengthen the muscles around the joints.

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