Femoral Head Osteotomy in Dogs (FHO)

Dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia, arthritis or have damaged the head of the femur due to a trauma may require a FHO when no other alternatives help to relive the condition.
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) is the surgical procedure in which the femoral head and the neck are removed from the femur bone at the hip joint. The neck and head are not replaced and over time a layer of scar tissue develops at the point where the neck was removed. This scar tissue forms a “false joint” which prevents bone-to-bone rubbing, discomfort and pain.

If the dog suffers from pain in both hip sockets then a second Femoral Head Osetctomy will be performed after the first FHO has healed enough.

FHO’s are very successful in smaller breeds of dogs as their lighter bodies put less pressure on their hip joints. Part of the healing process is to help develop the dogs’ muscles around the femur and hip in order to help support the new joint. Overweight dogs may need to lose a few pounds to help take pressure off the hip.

For the first few days after the surgery you should rest the dog as much as possible to allow for the joint to heal. Rest is import but some walking exercise is also vital for the proper development of the scar tissue on the femur.  

For the first week you can help your dog by massaging the muscles around the thigh and allowing him to do short 2 to 3 minute walks outside to do his toilet activities.

From weeks 2 to 4 the dog needs to exercise a bit more by going for slightly longer walks of say 10 to 20 minutes at a time and for at least 2 - 3 times a day. Avoid running as this may cause injury to the healing joint.

From weeks 5 to 6 the dog should be walking quite comfortably and be able to walk up hill and up short flights of stairs under careful supervision. Always walk your dog slowly to make it as comfortable as possible as pushing him to hard may cause regression of the healing joint.
Swimming should also be possible at this stage as it helps a lot in the muscle building but first check with your local vet before your dog takes the water.

After 6 weeks the “false joint” is well developed and the dog has sufficient muscle support and he should be able to carry on with life in a normal manner such as running and playing.

As with any creature, man or dog there will always be pain after such surgery so get a good pain killer from your vet to help your loved pet cope especially for the first week or so.

An very important note: If your dog shows no progression after the first week and still has a lot of discomfort then rather be safe and take him back to the vet for a check-up. You can also help speed up the recovery if you send him to a rehabilitation centre directly after the FHO surgery.

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All content in this blog is based purely on research done with the aim of giving helpful advice and information to the owners of dogs.

I am not a qualified vet or dog trainer so please use this site as a reference and not as a professional opinion.