Pet owners with very large dogs with severe hip dysplasia and arthritis can also elect to pursue a total hip replacement (THR). This is considered a “salvage procedure” in mature dogs with severe arthritis that is not adequately responsive to medical therapy. One joint is operated on at a time.
To prepare for a total hip replacement surgery, it is recommended to bathe your dog the day before, completely dry your dog, and do not allow your dog to get dirty or go outside other than for elimination purposes. THR surgeries have a higher rate of infection, so every precaution needs to be taken.
The procedure generally requires a one or two night hospital stay. The procedure is done under general anesthesia, and the entire leg will be shaved. Your dog may receive an epidural for pain. The incision is made over the hip region, and the ball and socket are removed surgically. After the surgical sites are cleaned out, a plastic cup is cemented into the acetabulum (the socket) and a steel implant is cemented into the head of the femur (the ball).
Total Hip Replacement After Care
Pain management will be a critical part of your dog’s after care. Oral pain meds in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and Tramadol will likely be prescribed - give as instructed. Your dog will also be given antibiotics - give as prescribed until gone.
Most dogs will start to bear weight within a couple of days after surgery. For the first two weeks, examine the incision daily for signs of infection, including redness, heat, swelling, or discharge. The staples will be removed 2 weeks after surgery. For the first two months after surgery, the dog will need a non-slip surface on which to walk, and the dog will only be able to go outside on a leash for urination or defecation. After the first 2 months, the length of leash walks will be gradually increased back to normal.
You will need to restrict your dog’s activity for 2 months after surgery to allow for bone healing. No running, jumping, or off leash outside for 2 months. Dogs who have had a THR tend to lose muscle mass in their pelvic limbs. It’s important that we do everything we can to preserve and increase muscle mass, which is why physical therapy is recommended after surgery.
Dogs will be examined 4 months after surgery and x-rayed to ensure complete healing has taken place, the hip is stable, and the implants are in place.
90% of dogs that receive a THR become pain-free. 80% of dogs only need one hip replaced, though 50% of dog owners that elect to have a THR now choose to have both joints replaced, one after the other.5
Complications include luxation of the joint, implant infections, and nerve damage. Dogs with hip replacements need to be carefully monitored for any type of infections, as bacteria from other sites (mouth, bladder, skin) can migrate into a hip replacement. Dental infections, skin infections, and urinary infections need to be addressed by a veterinarian and treated immediately in dogs with hip replacement implants.