Gracie is a 1 1/2 year old, spayed female lab mix that presented to Dr. Buedel at The Animal Care Center of Plainfield with rear leg weakness and pain. After a physical exam and reviewing radiographs, it was determined that Gracie had Hip Dysplasia. Hip Dysplasia is the abnormal development of the coxofemoral joint (hip joint) in dogs leading to laxity and degenerative joint disease. Some contributing factors in the development of Hip Dysplasia include excessive growth, nutrition, and hereditary factors. Hip Dysplasia can be extremely painful for dogs. Some of the signs an owner may notice could be lameness in the rear legs, difficulty standing or walking up and down stairs, and an abnormal gait that is often described as "bunny hopping".
When it comes to treating Hip Dysplasia, a veterinarian needs to consider both medical and surgical options based on age and health of the patient and owner constraints. In Gracie's case, she is a very young, healthy, and active dog. Therefore, it was decided that the best treatment for her would be a Total Hip Replacement of her right hip. Hip Dyplasia most often affects both joints, but surgery is initially performed on the hip with the worse clinical signs. Studies show that approximately 75% of the time, only one hip will need a total hip replacement, even if both sides are effected because the dog compensates so well on the new hip.
In essence, a total hip replacement is when a veterinarian surgically removes and re-configures the diseased parts of the hip and replaces them with implants that allow the hip to move freely without pain. During surgery, an incision is made in the skin and the muscles are separated to expose the joint. Then an ostectomy, using a saw, is performed to remove the femoral head (ball of the joint). The acetabulum (cup of the joint) is reamed to make it deeper.
An artificial cup is then placed in the acetabulum. This can be done by using a cement mixture or with bone fixing implants. Bone fixing implants were used in Gracie's case. The medullary cavity of the femur is drilled and reamed to allow the placement of an artificial stem into the femur. Again, bone fixing implants were used. This piece also has an piece which takes the place of the femoral neck. A new head implant is impacted with a mallet onto the neck. The artificial head is placed back into the new cup and the new hip joint is complete.
Rehabilitation following surgery is very restricted at first. About eight weeks after surgery, recheck x-rays are taken to make sure the implants are still in the proper position and most patients can start some physical therapy. This can include simple leash walking or even professional physical therapy using an underwater treadmill. It is now eleven months after surgery and Gracie is very happy being a "bionic" dog. She can run and play without pain the way a lab should.