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FHO Surgery for Pets - A Pet Parent's Guide

Femoral head ostectomy - FHO for short - is a surgery used to treat hip problems in cats and dogs. This highly effective surgery works to alleviate hip pain and increase mobility. Below, our Englewood vets discuss how this procedure works and what conditions may benefit from FHO surgery.

What is FHO surgery for Dogs & Cats?

Femoral head ostectomy (FHO), is a surgery done in dogs or cats that are experiencing hip problems that limit their mobility. 

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 a period of time a “false joint” will begin to form and scar tissue will act as a cushion between the femur and the acetabulum.

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

It is important to note that not all dogs are candidates for FHO surgery. This surgery is typically recommended for dogs under 50 lbs as the false joint created during surgery may have difficulty bearing the weight of a larger dog. 

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 function, the ball and socket work together allowing easy and pain-free movement. Sometimes due to injury or disease, the ball and socket grind together, causing inflammation, pain, and mobility issues that can severely affect your pet's quality of life. 

If you have a cat or small dog, FHO orthopedic surgery may be able to ease your pet's pain and restore your pet's normal pain-free mobility.

Dog & Cat Hip Problems That May Benefit from FHO Surgery

There are numerous hip conditions in dogs and cats that can benefit from FHO surgery, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Severe arthritis
  • Joint dislocation (luxation)
  • Hip fractures
  • Legg-Perthes disease
  • Weak muscles in hind legs

Signs That Your Pet May Have Hip Issues

Your pet may be suffering from a painful hip condition if they show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • “Bunny hopping”
  • Limping when walking
  • Stiffness in joints
  • Decreased tolerance or motivation to exercise or play

FHO Surgery- Cost

FHO surgery is a relatively inexpensive procedure that can often help to restore pain-free mobility to cats and smaller dogs. The cost of your pet's surgery will depend upon a wide variety of factors including the size of your pet, the severity of their condition, your pet's overall health, and even where you live geographically. All this means that the only way to find out how much your pet's FHO surgery will cost is to request an estimate from your vet.

Most animal hospitals are more than happy to provide clients with a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with surgeries such as FHO. Your veterinary team will also be able to answer all of your questions about the estimate and the procedure.

FHO Surgery Dog & Cat - Recovery

Every pet is different. Following surgery, your furry companion may need to stay in the veterinary hospital for several hours or several days for post-surgical care. The duration of your pet's stay will depend upon your pet's overall health and a number of 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.

During this phase, it is important that your pet's movement is extremely limited. 

Phase 2

Approximately one week after surgery, the second phase of recovery will begin. This phase involves gradually increasing your pet's 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.

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

After about a month, if your dog has recovered adequately, your animal companion should be ready to resume regular physical activity. That said, high-impact activity should still be avoided at this time.

A mobility aid or pet lift harness may be useful throughout the Phase 2 healing process. Pets who were relatively active prior to surgery tend to recover more quickly thanks to the increased strength of muscle mass around the hip joint.

Caring For Your Dog or Cat After FHO Surgery

Care requirements will vary depending on your pet’s individual circumstances and needs. If your pet does not fully recover within the typical six-week recovery period, formal physical rehabilitation therapy may be recommended. If your pet 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.

Could your pet's hip pain be alleviated by FHO surgery? Contact our Englewood veterinary team today to find out more about surgery performed by our specialist vets.

New Patients Welcome

VRCC Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital in Englewood is always accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to Denver Metro area pets.

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