This is a story about Hip Dysplasia. It stars two hip surgeries for my dog, and a new back-bone for me.
This post is a link in Caring for Critters Round Robin, a series of pet blogger personal accounts on pet health issues. We hope these stories help people faced with the difficult pet health decisions.
The What and Why of Hip Dysplasia?
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint.
With hip dysplasia, the ball (head of femur) is loose in the socket (the acetabulum of the pelvis). The joint is unstable. Which causes a number of ripple-down effects, including irregular muscle development and abnormal wear and tear on the hips.
Hip dysplasia is hereditary, and environmental factors are thought to exasperate it. Excessive weight can stress already unstable joints. And, possibly, too much jumping, standing on hind legs, and running on hard surfaces during bone growth can make matters worse.
I’m convinced that Zack’s hip dysplasia problems were mostly hereditary. But I do feel guilty when I think I may have let him run too hard and jump too much in his first year.
Our Hip Dysplasia Saga
Zack was born June 2006.
Within a year he had signs of hip dysplasia. He was “bunny hopping” while running (keeping his hind legs together), favoring one side when sitting and laying, and reluctant to go down stairs. He otherwise appeared to be a perfectly normal, rambunctious puppy.
The Real Pain Begins
At age 2, Zack slipped hard while running top speed in a muddy dog park. He screamed! It was pure horror watching him try to escape the pain. (I now believe he dislocated his hip joint.) I eventually calmed him enough to stay still, then half carried him to my car.
We were on a road-trip at the time, so I high-tailed us back home. By the time I arrive home I was exhausted, physically mentally and emotionally. Zack was calm but moved very carefully, often avoiding use of his left leg.
Several visits to veterinarians ensued.
Vet #1 …
took an x-ray and announced the diagnosis of hip dysplasia. I asked for a plan of action. Pain killers were suggested. Later, I decided this moment confirmed my own lack of back-bone: I neglected to insist on more options, not leaving until I had some direction or some kind of follow-up resource.
Vet #2 …
gave dire predictions of excessive pain in not just one but both hips, as well as sure and imminent ACL tears. He suggested full hip replacements on both sides, and two knee surgeries to forestall the inevitable. My newly developing back-bone screamed “beware! excessive!”
Vet #3 …
claimed that if Zack were his dog he’d do a Total Hip Replacement (THP). And, as luck would have it, he had a traveling surgeon friend who came to our town (3 hours from the nearest city) on a regular basis to visit. Since we do not have local canine surgeons in our area, this seemed like a great idea. And I was feeling desperate by now.
I chose the hip replacement.
In hind-sight I would have searched for a reputable orthopedic surgeon prior to making any actual decisions.
In March of 2009 the traveling surgeon performed the THR (Total Hip Replacement) surgery using “new and exciting” methods. My back-bone itched at this claim. But, again, I was feeling desperate.
Another very itchy moment was when I was told, 2 minutes before the surgery started, that it was going to cost $1000 more than originally claimed (sorry), should they continue? I was in such an exhausted haze I said “yes”.
What else could I do at that point?! I needed my baby-dog to be pain free!
|What is THR (Total Hip Replacement)? The femoral head of a hip joint is cut off and replaced with a stainless steel stem and femoral head prosthesis. The stem is sort of screwed into the leg bone. Like drilling a big screw with a ball top into the top end of a fence post. This Animal Hospital website has some good images and more information on THR.|
I followed prescribed recovery procedures to the letter and Zack seemed to recover well over the first several months.
Zack was walking fine after the post-op recovery period, so I adopted a second dog, Zoe. She is a ray of sunshine and I’ll always be grateful for her.
Unfortunately, 6 months after his surgery, Zack started limping again.
By that time I was distrusting the vet that recommended the surgeon so I did not return to him. There were rumors around town discrediting the vet and suggesting drug use. But I had also lost confidence in the veterinarians I had already visited (probably not their fault: I should have asked more questions and demanded more answers). I was feeling a bit beaten.
Thankfully, I took a chance and called Cindy Horsfall, a pioneer of warm water therapy for dogs with a facility in my region.
After a couple of sessions, she confirmed that she could not help with Zack’s pain because it appeared to be an orthopedic problem. She discussed dog care at length, providing me with much needed hope and a lot of resources. I started feeling empowered as Zack’s advocate. My own back-bone was finally developing.
Cindy recommended an orthopedic surgeon in Seattle.
After making the appointment I realized I wanted to bring Zack to the a renown and highly regarded orthopedic surgeon who worked out of Oregon, Dr. Olmstead. As I read and talked to people who knew about him, I felt deeply that Dr. Olmstead was the one for us. But I needed a referral to see him, so I kept my appointment with the orthopedist in Seattle.
The Seattle orthopedist said that Zack’s prothesis had failed, it was loose in his bone!
He agreed to give me the referral I wanted, to see Dr. Olmstead.
February 2010, 11 months after his first surgery, Zack and I drove the 340 miles to Springfield, Oregon. Dr. Olmstead reviewed Zack’s x-rays, answered my many questions, and provided several options. His staff was wonderful and caring and Zack was comfortable. I chose the Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) surgery and it was performed the next day. I stayed in town several days afterwards so Zack could recover undisturbed in the hotel room with me.
|What is Femoral Head Ostectomy? The head and neck of the femur is simply removed (along with our very expensive prosthesis from surgery #1.) Scar tissue creates a false joint at the hip. This surgery website provides clear images and a good explanation of the surgery.|
I was a wreck by the time we got home, but Zack started recovering immediately with remarkable speed!
Zack was allowed to start running and jumping relatively soon after surgery. It seemed counter-intuitive so I called Dr. Olmstead’s office and they confirmed it was not only ok but desirable for him to move.
Happily Every After
Years later, Zack continues to run and jump like there’s no missing hip joint. It certainly makes it easier for me on road trips when he can bounce in and out of the car with no need of assistance.
I am so very happy and pleased with the outcome of the second surgery.
I since found great veterinarians for my dogs, and am super satisfied with their services and sharing of information. And Zack never did have the predicted (knock on wood) ACL tears.
If I knew what I know now, I would have:
- Sought a reputable orthopedic surgeon from the very start.
- Gotten a second opinion.
- Asked questions until I was satisfied.
- Signed on with a warm water pet therapist from the very start to help with physical therapy and possible post-op recovery.
I am not a veterinarian nor do I play one on the internet. This story simply reflects my personal experiences in regards to my dog’s issues with hip dysplasia. If you are concerned about hip dysplasia or your dog shows any symptoms of hip dysplasia, consult your veterinarian.
For a good, short primer on hip dysplasia: http://guthriepet.net/AskDrAnna/hip-dysplasia-treatment-options/
For a longer explanation of hip dysplasia and options not discussed in this article: http://www.patrickmahaney.com/guest-blog/physical-therapy-tip-of-the-month-hip-dysplasia-whats-a-dawg-mama-to-do/
Cindy Horsfall, the canine warm water therapist: http://www.lapawspa.com/index.html
Dr. Olmstead, Zack’s wonderful surgeon: http://www.ovra.com/home/ovr/page_41/marvin_l._olmstead_dvm_ms_dacvs.html
The Caring for Critters Round Robin
The next Caring for Critters Round Robin link (October 2, 2014) is Lisa at Heartprints Pets, writing about “Benefits of Essential Oils and Canine Massage after Trauma”. In the previous link, Lauranne talks about “Cairn with Colitis” at 25 Castles on 25 Clouds.
Click on the Caring for Critters logo below to see all the posts published so far. It is updated daily to include each new posts.
Thank you Jodi at Heart Like a Dog for creating and managing this Round Robin and allowing Let’s Go Dog to participate!