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Dislocated Hip in Dogs

What Is a Dislocated Hip in Dogs?

A dislocated hip in dogs, medically termed as coxofemoral luxation, occurs when the ball part of the joint pops out of the socket. This displacement not only affects the joint capsule, which is responsible for stabilizing the hip joint, but also poses risks to the ligaments, muscles, and bones surrounding the hip.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a dislocated hip in dogs include severe pain. Affected dogs usually refrain from bearing weight on their hind leg, often limping and holding it aloft to avoid ground contact. The affected leg might seem shorter compared to the others, while the hip joint could exhibit swelling and warmth upon touch.

Causes

The primary cause of a dislocated hip in dogs often stems from trauma, such as collisions with vehicles. However, the risk also elevates due to degenerative joint diseases like arthritis or osteoarthritis, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (avascular necrosis of the femoral head), or hip dysplasia (abnormal formation of the hip socket).

Diagnosis

Diagnosing hip luxation in dogs typically involves a veterinarian noting a history of trauma or injury that raises suspicion. X-rays are then taken to assess the alignment of the hips and confirm the luxation. Usually, the bone moves forward and upward (craniodorsal displacement), although it can also displace downward and backward (ventrocaudal displacement). Understanding the bone’s position aids the veterinarian in addressing the issue.

X-rays additionally reveal vital details about the hip’s condition, crucial for determining appropriate therapy. For instance, fractures in the pelvis or leg might impede hip luxation correction. In cases where ligaments tear during hip luxation, bone chips may detach, leading to painful bone-on-bone contact if the luxated hip is relocated without addressing the chip, necessitating surgical trimming.

X-rays also provide insights into conditions like hip dysplasia (where the hip socket is too shallow to support the ball of the hip) or Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (characterized by disrupted blood flow to the femur at its connection with the pelvis, resulting in bone cell death). These conditions require special consideration as manual joint replacement may not be successful, making surgical correction the likely course of action.

Treatment

If you suspect your dog has dislocated their hip, it’s crucial to promptly seek veterinary care. There are two primary methods for correcting a dog’s dislocated hip: closed reduction (non-surgical) and open reduction (surgical).

Closed Reduction:

Closed reduction involves manually repositioning the dog’s hip joint without surgery. It’s called closed because it doesn’t involve surgical opening of the joint. To maximize success, the veterinarian ensures there are no fractures and minimal hip dysplasia present before attempting the procedure.

Ideally, closed reduction should be done shortly after the dislocation, typically within one or two days to prevent muscle contraction, which complicates the procedure. The process requires general anesthesia as it’s painful and requires relaxed muscles. Once the hip is back in place, an Ehmer sling is applied to prevent leg use and maintain proper positioning.

The dog needs to wear the sling for 10-14 days with frequent check-ups and then be confined to a crate for a few more weeks. Although successful 50% of the time, closed reduction is preferred before surgery.

Open Reduction:

If closed reduction fails or isn’t advisable due to trauma or extensive damage, open reduction via surgery becomes necessary. The surgeon may repair a torn joint capsule or reconstruct the joint using implants like a toggle pin, depending on the severity.

Post-surgery, the dog may wear an Ehmer sling for about a week followed by crate rest and physical therapy for several weeks to months. Open reduction boasts an 85-90% success rate with a good return to normal activity.

In cases where open reduction isn’t feasible due to factors like arthritis or severe dysplasia, a femoral head osteotomy (FHO) may be performed. This involves removing the femoral head to alleviate pain and allow for the development of a false joint within soft tissues. Similar post-operative care is necessary, but it eliminates the risk of recurrent dislocation or complications associated with implants.

Living and Management

After the surgery, the recovery and management process for your dog’s hip luxation will be tailored to the nature of the injury, such as if the dog was involved in a car accident. However, the general recovery regimen typically involves the use of an Ehmer sling, crate rest, and subsequent physical therapy.

Recovery usually spans around six to eight weeks of restricted activity, with your veterinarian devising a personalized plan for your dog. Initially, anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to alleviate pain and swelling, while long-term joint health may be supported with joint supplements to combat arthritis.

Weight management plays a crucial role in the long-term recovery from hip luxation as obesity can worsen joint issues and pain. Short-term complications may include recurrent hip dislocation, implant-related issues like loosening, fracture, or nerve damage, as well as the risk of infections.

During the recovery period, it’s essential to exercise caution to prevent slips and falls. If your dog exhibits signs of discomfort, inability to walk, or pain during recovery, it’s imperative to promptly consult your veterinarian to ensure the hip hasn’t become displaced again.

Dislocated Hip in Dogs FAQs

Can a dog’s dislocated hip heal naturally?

Waiting for your dog’s dislocated hip to heal naturally is not recommended. Without correction, the body may attempt to stabilize the area with weak scar tissue, leading to limited range of motion and chronic pain due to bone rubbing against bone. Seeking immediate veterinary care is essential to realign the hip either through closed reduction (manual repositioning) or open reduction (surgery).

How can you tell if your dog’s hip is dislocated?

Inability to walk or bear weight on a leg, especially following trauma like being hit by a car, strongly indicates a dislocated hip in dogs. Other signs include severe pain, the affected leg appearing shorter, joint swelling, and decreased appetite or activity.

What is the recovery time for a dislocated hip in dogs?

Typically, complete recovery may span two to three months, with additional time required for physical therapy. The duration of recovery depends on the severity of the trauma and the chosen treatment method. Your veterinarian will design a tailored recovery plan.

Can a dog walk with a dislocated hip?

Most dogs will avoid walking on a leg with a dislocated hip and may instead carry the leg to alleviate discomfort.

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