Zoi, my female American Pit Bull Terrier, is 29 months old and has been having some hip problems. My vet gave us some medication to help with the pain but it doesn’t seem to be working, and lately it’s been getting worse. When I let her play and run around for a couple hours, by nighttime and for the next couple of days she can’t walk on her back left leg. I end up having to carry her out of the car, help her on the couch, etc. I know that Pit Bulls tend to have a higher pain tolerance so I just don’t want her to be in pain.
The vet said that she would need surgery and is recommending femoral head ostectomy. I have been doing some research and almost all of the articles say that this surgery is recommended for small dogs and cats, but Zoi weighs around 65 pounds. I am trying to decide what the best option is for her. Should I continue with the medicine and just limit her play time (which she would hate), or risk the surgery and see if it helps? What are your recommendations?
Hip dysplasia is a devastating and debilitating disease that affects many different breeds of dogs. In general, it tends to cause problems at two times in their life: early on, because of the incongruity of the hip joint and the laxity that results from the hip banging around in an ill-fitting joint; and later in life because of the resulting severe arthritis that develops as a result of the chronic laxity in the joint.
The first step is always radiographs (X-rays) to confirm that this is indeed the cause of your dog’s problems. There are many other developmental and traumatic problems that would have a vastly different treatment than the one for hip dysplasia. If Zoi does have hip dysplasia, you have a few options.
For dogs that are from 6 to 18 months old, a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) can be performed. This surgery rotates the pelvis, improving the coverage of the socket on the ball of the hip. Unfortunately, there is a very narrow window of time in which the surgery can be performed, and since Zoi is 29 months old, this surgery may not be beneficial.
Femoral head ostectomy (FHO), the surgery your vet recommended, essentially removes the ball of the femur so the dog doesn’t actually have a hip joint and thus develops a false joint from the soft tissues around the hip. This surgery is more successful in smaller and lighter dogs, because the heavier and taller the dog, the more difficult it is to carry around all that weight without an actual joint. Zoi is definitely the upper limit of what I would consider for this surgery, but if it is only one side, there is a good chance that she may be much more comfortable and still functional on the leg. If it were both legs, the chance for success is less likely.
A surgical option that is sometimes recommended for dogs with intractable pain is denervation of the hip joint. This is a procedure where the nerves to the joint are severed so the dog no longer experiences pain. It does not, however, do anything to treat or manage the hip dysplasia itself.
The final surgical option is a total hip replacement (THR). This is the surgery of choice for the treatment of hip dysplasia, although it is very expensive (a minimum of $10,000). Since most people cannot afford to have this surgery for their dogs, the dog ends up having a salvage procedure (such as the FHO or the denervation surgery), or pet owners try to manage the dog’s symptoms with exercise, physical therapy, weight control (you should keep Zoi as skinny as possible) and pain relievers.
If you are still not comfortable with the FHO surgery recommended by your veterinarian, you should consider consulting with a veterinary surgeon to get a second opinion.