Hip Luxations in Pets
As spring and summer approach, people and pets want to get outside. With warmer temperatures, vets definitely see more animals involved in vehicular or other traumatic accidents. Some of these accidents lead to injuries like hip luxation, also known as a dislocated hip. Read on to learn more about hip luxation in dogs and cats, what you can do before you arrive at the veterinary clinic, and how to care for your pet after treatment.
What is a hip luxation?
You may hear your vet use the term hip or coxofemoral luxation. What does that mean? Let's break it down. Coxofemoral is the medical term for hip joint, and luxation simply means dislocation. To further simplify it, a hip luxation or dislocation occurs when the head of the femur (the ball of the thigh bone in the hind leg) is displaced from the hip socket. This happens in the hind leg.
What could cause a pet's hip to be dislocated?
The majority of hip luxations are caused by trauma, such a motor vehicle accidents (being hit by a car) or a fall. Animals that have hip dysplasia or degenerative joint disease are at an increased risk.
Signs Your Pet Has Suffered a Dislocated Hip
Even if trauma is not witnessed, a hip luxation is possible. Signs that your pet may have suffered this condition include:
2. Severe lameness (limping) - not willing to place the paw on the ground or bear any weight on the hind leg
3. Licking at the hip area
4. Attempting to bite if the affected area is touched or when picked up
What should you do at home?
If your pet sustains a trauma or is limping significantly, he or she should be evaluated by a vet immediately. A hip luxation should NEVER be treated at home.
How does the vet diagnose a dislocated hip?
Since hip luxation is most often due to trauma, your vet will want to perform a full physical exam to ensure that no other concerning injuries are present. Once he or she is certain that your pet is stable, radiographs (x-rays) of the hind legs will be taken. Radiographs are important to confirm that a hip luxation is present as well as to determine the appropriate treatment plan.
How are dislocated hips treated in dogs and cats?
Depending on the severity of the injury, several treatment options exist:
1. Closed Reduction (Reduction is a term that means putting the femur/thigh bone back into the hip socket)
Closed reduction is a non-surgical procedure in which the hip is replaced back into the socket. This procedure is performed under anesthesia as it is uncomfortable for the pet. If a closed reduction is used, a sling or hobbles may be placed. Special care should be taken to monitor the sling. If the sling slips, becomes wet, has an odor or your pet chews at it, contact your vet immediately.
2. Open Reduction
Open reduction is a surgical procedure that replaces the hip back into the socket. Implants are typically required to support the hip while it is healing.
3. Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
This surgical procedure is an option when closed or open reduction is not possible due to the severity of damage to the hip joint. The FHO removes the head and neck of the femur (thigh bone) which leads to the creation of a false joint.
4. Total Hip Replacement
Synthetic ball and socket implants are placed to create a hip joint. This is similar to the procedure that humans undergo when they have a hip replacement.
At-Home/Aftercare for Your Pet with a Hip Luxation
Most importantly, follow the recommendations of your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon. Exercise restriction is hugely important, especially early in the recovery process. Additionally, veterinary physical rehabilitation can dramatically improve your pet's comfort, muscle building, and return to the functions of daily life. Rehabilitation practitioners can provide outpatient care as well as prescribe an at-home therapeutic exercise program allowing you to play a major role in your pet's recovery.
Since trauma is the leading cause of hip luxation, the best way to prevent a hip luxation is to pay close attention to your pet when outdoors. Do not allow him or her to be outside unsupervised or off-leash on walks.
Accidents happen! Do your best to prevent your pet from getting into trouble, but know that your vet will be able to guide you to make the best choices for your pet’s treatment.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your pet's hip luxations or another condition?
Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.