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Dislocated Hip in a Dog

A dislocated hip is painful.

A dog's hip joint is a ball-and-socket. The end of the femur (the large thigh bone) forms a ball that seats inside the socket of the pelvis bone. It's held there by muscles of the upper thigh, the rim of the socket part of the joint, a fibrous capsule around the whole joint, and a thick ligament.

When the ball comes out of the socket, it is a hip dislocation. It is also called hip luxation.

Causes of Dislocated Hip in Dogs

A dislocated hip happens when the ligament and capsule holding it in place are torn. That allows the ball to slip out of the socket, usually in an upward and forward manner.

The most common cause of hip luxation in dogs is severe trauma, usually being hit by a car. Severe joint degeneration from another condition or hip dysplasia both increase the risks of hip dislocation.

Signs of a Dislocated Hip in a Dog

When a dog is suffering from a dislocated hip, she will not walk on that rear leg (though, if enough time goes by, the area may stabilize enough to bear some weight). The leg will look like it is a different length from the other one (usually shorter) and turned at an odd angle (usually rotated away from the body). The condition is painful, so the dog may be reluctant to move, cry, or exhibit a decreased appetite.

Diagnosis of Hip Luxation in Dogs

When a dog presents with the signs of a dislocated hip, a veterinarian will do a thorough exam. He or she may be able to get an idea that the hip is out of place then, but an x-ray will show for sure.

It's important to remember that if the dog received trauma resulting in the hip dislocation, there are likely to be other internal problems as well. The doctor may do blood work or other diagnostics to get an overall picture of the dog's health, and other conditions may take precedence for treatment.

Treatment of a Dislocated Hip in a Dog

There are two ways to treat hip dislocation: Surgically and Non-Surgically.

Non-surgical treatment of a hip dislocation involves manipulating the ball back into the socket externally through manipulation. It is only possible if the injury is relatively new (usually less than three days or so). That's because, after that, the muscles in the area have usually contracted around the injury, making it difficult to move the joint back into place. Also, if there are abnormalities of the hips, such as hip dysplasia, non-surgical treatment isn't likely to work. Non-surgical treatment requires full general anesthesia of the dog and x-rays after the manipulation to confirm the hip is back in place. Then, an Ehmer sling is placed on the dog that keeps the leg up and the hip in place so the capsule can heal.

Surgical treatment of hip dislocation may involve one of many different techniques. The surgeon opens the joint and replaces the head of the femur into the socket of the pelvis. Then, screws or a pin may be placed to hold it there. If there wasn't much damage to the capsule, the surgeon might sew it closed. Sometimes, a femoral head osteotomy is the best choice. That involves removing the round head of the femur and allowing the area to scar in and create a false joint. That surgery is usually best for small dogs.

After surgery, the veterinarian may prescribe pain medications and ask you to keep the dog inactive for a period. You will need to keep your dog from licking or chewing at the incision.

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