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Dog Hip Surgery: What You Need to know about Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

Posted September 10, 2015 in Dog Surgery A-Z

Zee Mahmood, a veterinary technician in Reading, PA, contributed to this article.

The hip consists of a ball-and-socket joint. The ball (a.k.a. femoral head) is the top part of the femur or thigh bone. The narrow portion just below the ball is called the neck. The socket (or acetabulum) is the concave portion on each side of the pelvis.

A normal hip joint is held in place by muscles, a deep socket and strong ligaments. Several conditions of the hip can be corrected by a surgical procedure called a Femoral Head Ostectomy, or FHO.

Puppy laying on couchWhich conditions of the hip can be corrected by an FHO?
Hip Dysplasia--Hip dysplasia is caused by abnormal growth of the hip during puppyhood. Poor genetics is often the main reason. The abnormal growth results in looseness of the joint and arthritis develops, causing hip pain. This is can happen in dogs of any age, depending on how much they can cope with the signs. Signs can include:

Dislocation--Dislocation (or luxation) of a joint occurs after trauma. In the hip, the ball comes out of the socket. When the hip cannot or should not be placed back in its normal position, an FHO can be performed.

Fractures--Hip fractures can be severe enough that they cannot be repaired correctly. The FHO may then be the surgery of choice.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease--Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease causes the femoral head (the ball of the hip joint) to spontaneously disintegrate. The condition occurs when the blood supply to the head of the femur is inappropriate, causing the bone to soften. The weakened bone will fracture, ultimately collapsing the joint and resulting in a painful condition.

What are the signs of hip pain?
Signs that your dog may have hip pain are similar to those mentioned above. Decreased tolerance to exercise, stiffness, limping, or bunny hopping are some of the most obvious signs. Your dog should be seen by your veterinarian or a surgeon if you notice any of these signs.
An alternative treatment to some of the conditions above may be a total hip replacement. Although much costlier and more invasive, this option should be discussed with your veterinarian or surgeon, especially in large and giant breed dogs.

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at