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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)

What is Hip Dysplasia (HD)? 

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal development of the hip joint and is the most common cause of hip osteoarthritis in dogs. All dogs are born with normal hips but early in their development hip joint laxity (looseness) occurs and allows the femoral head (ball) to knock in and out the acetabulum (socket) as the dog moves and runs.

This causes damage to the soft cartilage and also the rim of the acetabulum resulting in early “wear and tear”, inflammation and ultimately osteoarthritis where the protective cartilage layer in the joint is rubbed away exposing bone. This can occur even in puppies a few months old.

In addition to the laxity, the socket is often not positioned properly being too “open” allowing the femoral head to easily subluxate (move in and out of the socket). 

Treatment options for Hip Dysplasia

There are several options for treatment of young dogs (usually under 10 months old) with hip dysplasia.

  • Conservative management
  • Corrective surgery by Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)
  • Total Hip Replacement (THR). See separate information sheet
  • Excision arthroplasty (removal of the diseased femoral head and neck). See separate information sheet

Conservative management

Some patients mildly affected by hip dysplasia will not require surgery and the lameness will often settle with conservative (non-surgical) management (see box below). In around 50% of affected cases, limb function will improve over time with stiffness and lameness problems becoming intermittent and infrequent as the dog matures (12-15 months old). Many of these dogs will do well in the short to medium term and lead fairly normal active lives. Osteoarthritis will, however, progress and could cause issues at some stage in the future.

Conservative management of hip dysplasia and early osteoarthritis (“WET” regime)

  • Exercise Modification of activity may be necessary, avoiding crazy periods of vigorous exercise such as ball/frisbie chasing. High impact twist/turn activities should be discouraged. Generally, no more than 20-30 minutes of leash exercise should be allowed daily with shorter periods off leash. Exercise may be increased once the patient is mature.
  • Treatment Anti-inflammatory/pain killing drugs may be prescribed and used continuously, at a low dose or intermittently at higher doses. Dietary supplements such glucosamine can be considered but there is currently little evidence to verify their efficacy 
  • Weight It is imperative that the patient is within the correct weight range for their breed and type. Adjustment of food intake may be required.

Triple pelvic osteotomy corrective surgery (TPO)

TPO aims to restore the normal position of the femoral head (ball) within the acetabulum (socket) without the constant movement/knocking which causes damage as outlined above. Since there is no technique that can “tighten” the hip (this will occur naturally as the dog matures) the only option is to tilt the cup over the head to allow “capture”

The procedure involves cutting the pelvis (osteotomy) at three locations to allow the cup segment to be rotated to cover the femoral head by a calculated amount (usually 20-30 degrees). A specially designed plate is then applied to the side of the pelvis secured with screws to stabilise the cut bone. The pelvis is allowed to heal in this new position. Cartilage damage is therefore prevented and development of osteotarthritis dramatically slowed. 

Occasionally, only one hip may a candidate for TPO with the HD in the other hip being managed successfully by conservative means. If both hips require TPO, then the procedures are can be staged 23 weeks apart. Salvage surgery (total hip replacement or excision arthroplasty) may be necessary on the hip that is not a candidate for

TPO due to progression of osteoarthritis TPO is a major surgical technique and not without potential complication, namely post-operative infection, problems with loosening of the plate and screws and possible intra-operative damage to the sciatic nerve. However, these issues are thankfully rare and careful candidate selection usually allows an excellent outcome in the majority of patients with a return to full, normal and pain-free exercise. 

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East Neuk Veterinary Clinic

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