Hip Dysplasia Strikes Riley

photo of a German Shepherd's rear hips

This post is sad for me to write but I think it’s important to share our story so that hopefully, others can learn from it. We were hoping against all hope that our dogs would never suffer from hip dysplasia but we recently learned that our Riley is not among the shorter list of lucky dogs who are free from this disease. A couple of weeks ago Riley was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. His condition is bilateral which means it is affecting both hips and currently his left hip is worse than his right. (This is not a photo of our Riley – but it’s very close and probably resembles the way he’ll look as he gets older).

Hip dysplasia is an extremely painful, progressive and crippling disease which can affect any dog, but most often affects larger breeds. It’s not breed-specific, although some breeds are more prone to it than others and as many people know — German Shepherds are well known for having hip dysplasia. Although Riley’s a rescue and we’ll never know his heritage or genetic background, we are very confident in the many comments of people such as German Shepherd breeders, show people and others experienced with the breed that Riley is definitely of show quality German bred descent. Furthermore, we learned that it’s more often the American bred German Shepherds who suffer from hip dysplasia which gave us have high hopes that we’d never have to deal with this in him. On the other hand, we also knew this was not a guarantee that he’d never suffer from it. Hip dysplasia is all over the German Shepherd breed and unfortunately, our Riley has not been spared.

The First Signs

When I started noticing that something didn’t seem “quite right” I never seriously entertained the thought it might be hip dysplasia, but it was hidden in the back of my mind. I would be a very irresponsible German Shepherd Mom to just flat out believe neither of our dogs would ever be afflicted by it.

I thought I started noticing that he seemed to occasionally be a little slow and have a little bit of difficulty getting up from a laying position. Because these incidents were rare and always seemed to happen after an active romping and stomping adventure in the field I just figured he was just a little stiff and sore. Heck, I would be too if I didn’t get a lot of regular physical activity and was suddenly cut loose in a field to run like the wind and wrestle with my sister. Being a bit on the paranoid side, I told myself several times that I was just imagining things. When I mentioned it to my husband he told me he never saw what I saw — so in my mind it was then just my paranoia. Looking back, this may have been nothing more than “truth avoidance” on my part for which I feel tremendously guilty for not taking it more seriously the very first time I thought something was off with him.

Most experienced dog owners know that dogs are experts at hiding pain or illness. About three weeks ago he started a couple of new behaviors that I could not ignore. He stopped wanting to come up the stairs at bed-time. If you know anything about the German Shepherd breed, they do not want to be away from their family. In this same time frame, we visited our field for a much needed and usually very welcome romping and stomping session.  Riley would have absolutely nothing to do whatsoever playing with Nissa. He ducked single one of her many play invites and he wouldn’t run — only walk next to me and wouldn’t even venture a few feet away. I knew at that point it was time to go see the vet and when we got home, the first thing I did was to make an appointment.

The X-Rays

Having learned that my vet would sedate him for the x-rays I balked and went looking for an alternative. I thought it was ridiculous to sedate a dog simply to x-ray him and I was bound and determined to not have him sedated. However, before the vet visit happened he got a little worse and so when we went our vet told us we could try it without sedation. BIG MISTAKE! Riley is 5 years old and in all that time I have never heard him scream in pain like he did when our vet tried to do the most important x-ray that would best show any problem. Nissa had been put in a room next to us in a pen and Riley’s screams scared her so much that she pee’d in the pen and I was nearly in tears. I called an immediate halt to the x-ray session but he was in quite a bit of pain the remainder of the day. It was now all to obvious why the vet wanted to sedate him in the first place. It’s so they can manipulate the legs and hips to get the best x-rays without causing pain. If I’d have been thinking straight I’d have asked why they would sedate him instead of just balking at the idea. So, that’s another guilt trip on me.

The x-rays our vet was able to get did show what we needed to know, but she did tell me to get a consult with the specialist. She gave us some pain meds and a glucosomine supplement and we went home. A few days later we followed up with the specialist who was able to take new x-rays with no sedation and no pain for Riley. He concurred with our vet”s diagnosis — severe hip dysplasia worse on the left side than the right.

Options for Hip Dysplasia

The specialist told us we had three options:

1) Put him on pain meds and supplements and see how it goes. This would entail giving him pain meds for the rest of his life which can cause liver failure. It certainly would not cure him and the disease would only continue to progress eventually crippling him and causing us to have to euthanize him at a much younger age than would be his normal time for him to leave us forever. In our opinion this was not an option.

2) Get him a total hip replacement at the UW vet teaching clinic to the tune of $5,000 to $5,300 per hip! Do the math = $10,000 to $11,000! Why didn’t I get pet insurance?

3) The third option (which actually turns out to be the middle option) is called FHO surgery which is the short version of femoral head arthroplasty, ostectomy or femoral head excision. This surgery involves removing the round “head” of the femer bone that fits into the surrounding cartilage and then allowing (and helping) the scar tissue to form a new connection from the femur to the pelvis.

The vet showed me a plastic model of the hip and pelvis area and how a normal ball-joint is round like a ball and fits smoothly into the socket. Then he showed me how a ball-joint affected by hip dysplasia is all bumpy and prickly looking (really large prickles!). It also showed me how an affected hip does not fit into the socket and explained how every move Riley makes is bone on bone and epainful for him because there is nothing there to cushion it and it doesn’t fit into the socket. It hurts my heart to hear his occasional moans and whimpers when he moves wrong and the pain stabs at him.

Our Decision

Would we like to get him brand new hips? Of course! That would be our very first choice. But we are not rich people and we must think of Nissa as well. Where would we come up with the money for one dog’s total hip replacement surgery let alone two should she ever become afflicted with this? The FHO surgery is less than half the cost of the total hip replacement. We settled on the FHO surgery for Riley and will be having Nissa’s hips x-rayed when I take Riley in for his left hip surgery tomorrow so that we know where she’s at. Hopefully, she will not have this disease and she’s currently not showing any indications at all of pain or discomfort. Our Nissa loves to run and when I take her to the field this girl just goes nuts running with no visible pain afterward.

We’re not totally happy with what we are facing and we are worried. The FHO surgery is known to have better results for smaller dogs weighing less than 40 or 45 pounds. However, the specialist that will be doing the surgery has a lot of experience and has told us that they frequently do this surgery on large dogs. In fact, they’ve done it on dogs that weigh up to 120 lbs and that they do a large number of German Shepherds.

He’s also told us that he’s had German Shepherds he’s performed this surgery on to go on to do well at things like Schuhtzhund and other dogs perfectly able to hunt and participate well in other active sports. This particular clinic does FHO surgery on dogs that come in from all over the country because of their expertise. This doesn’t take away all our worry, but it does give us hope that after Riley fully recovers he’ll be very close to normal and not walk with too much of a limp. He has a very striking proud walk and there is the possibility that his body lines and his walk will be somewhat affected. It’s my understanding that sometimes this surgery shortens the back legs slightly and so he may not have that straight German heritage back-end that he’s got now. We’ll still love him to pieces but we’ll miss this about him if it happens. The object is to relieve his pain and give him as normal a life as we possibly can.

I’ll have my work cut out for me during his recovery because he’ll need some serious physical therapy which I’m hoping the vet will teach me to do for him so that I don’t have to take him to a physical therapist. He’ll have to be kept quiet for several weeks — have you ever tried to get a self-appointed guard dog to remain quiet? Then there’s the fact that the vet’s told me that although he’s not overweight by any means, it will be easier on his hips if he loses about 10 pounds. Keeping a dog lean is very important for this kind of thing. I’m not looking forward to people telling me to go home and feed my dog because he will look too thin at 10 pounds lighter and I really do hate to see ribs on a dog even if they’re not underweight.  I really love looking at Riley’s physique – he’s very handsome and has a very attractive figure the way he is. But, because it will be better for him, we’ve already started to cut down on his meal portions slightly. I really hope that someone doesn’t turn me in for animal cruelty once he loses some weight!

Precautions for the Future

I so wish that we’d just had both dog’s hips x-rayed when they were puppies so that we could have taken steps at that point in the right direction. We will do this for any and every dog we may ever have again. We’re going to make it a part of their early check-ups and if the vet says they need to be checked annually or whatever, we will.  To my knowledge this condition is genetic and there is no cure but we certainly would have taken whatever steps the vet suggests for caring for them appropriately should hip dysplasia be found in their early years. As I understand it, we would not have been able to prevent the disease but maybe we would have been able to keep it from getting severe enough to require surgery.

Has Your Dog had FHO Surgery?

If your dog or a dog you know personally has had FHO surgery, we’d really love for you to share your experience with it. Good or bad we want to know how it went, whether it helped your dog or not, and how is your dog now? Would you do it again or not? If you have any good links to websites on FHO surgery, please post them for us.

24 responses on “Hip Dysplasia Strikes Riley

  1. John Goddard says:

    Hi, My 6 year old GS, bitch has just had FHO sugery on her left hip, her right being ok, its 5 weeks now, and its hard to get her to use it, sometimes she does, but then she will hop, I am very concerened for her future, the vet was hoping that she would use it a bit more frequent by now, I massage her leg and muscel , I dont regret having it done has she was in pain, but its early days yet, good luck, let me no how you get on

    • Mom says:

      Hi John,

      It’s my suggestion that you take her to some hydrotherapy sessions. He went to eight sessions the first time and ten I believe it was for the second hip. They worked wonders for Riley! He too, was hopping and not using the leg like the doc hoped and after the very first hydro session he started using it more. You can read my post on Riley’s hydro here:

      Hydrotherapy and the Bone Crusher

      I also suggest a visit/consult with a doggie chiropractor. Her back could be out of whack from all she’s been through and putting so much weight on her front shoulders & legs. Good luck and please come back and tell us how it goes!

  2. Mary Meegan says:

    My 7 yr. old, 105 lbs GS just had his second FHO surgery. The first was in Sept 2012 and the second was last week. He is doing great! After his first surgery, he was like a puppy again. It will take about 5 months for a full recovery on the second hip. I would recommend the surgery but pick your vet carefully.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Mary, thanks for sharing your thoughts and we’re so glad your FurKid is doing so well! I couldn’t agree more on selecting a good vet! Do your research, check with dog forums especially for your specific breed (if you don’t have a mutt-dog) wherever you can check on a vet, do it. I would never recommend having a general practice vet handle this kind of surgery. It’s definitely a specialty area. Although our hip vet’s “bedside manner” isn’t the greatest, but he fixed up our Riley so great!

      You have a good sized boy there, ours run 75 and 80lbs or so. I’m definitely not saying he’s overweight, may just be a big Shep. Even though Riley was not overweight the vet wanted him to “go lean” which wasn’t hard to do because after surgery Riley wasn’t interested in eating much so he dropped 10-11 pounds on his own and I was really getting worried. He put a few back on after he was feeling better so he’s now down about 6 pounds from his pre-surgery weight and our regular vet is very pleased. It’s just better for their hips if they’re lean. So, if you need to help your guy do that, please do so.

      Take care and drop back in and let us know how it’s going!

    • Sherri says:

      Can you tell me where you had it done, and approx cost for each surgery? Thanks!

      • Mom says:

        Hi Sherri,

        I sure can, both Riley’s hip surgeries were performed by Dr. Sondel at Spring Harbor Animal Hospital on University Ave in Madison, WI. I don’t see Dr. Sondel’s photo and bio on their Doctor’s page so he may or may not be there anymore. I have heard rave reviews about Dr. Link but he was all booked at the time so we have never met him personally. The cost was approximately $1,300.00 per hip FHO when we had Riley’s done. The U.W. Veterinary Teaching Hospital was considerably higher. Riley received hydrotherapy treatment for both hips afterwards at Aqua Paws at the Canine Campus in Delafield, WI. The hydrotherapy really helped him recover nicely. I can stress enough to follow up with hydrotherapy treatments after this kind of surgery.

  3. JoAnna says:

    stumbled on your site when I was “googleing” hip dysplasia for dogs. My 3 year old female shepherd was just diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. Your post was very helpful to me as I also had a lot of guilt. I noticed very small symtoms in my girl such as very filed toenails in the back, less motivation to work and train ( just thought it was the heat) and on leashed walks she lagged behind me as I walked our recue pit we got about 6 months ago. The walking thing, for a while I actually thought that she was taking a back seat to allow me train our newer addition as thats the kind of smart, kind girl she is. But last week at her annual I brought it up to the vet and she did some pulling and stretching and noticed some reactions and suggested xrays. Im totally devastated as she just got her AKC CGC certificate and is getting tested soon to become a therapy dog. I struggle with what to do now and have been a total mess since i got the news. Do I continue on with our goals to help others as a therapy team or would it be too much? Do I start with pain meds and acupuncture for now until she has more obvious symptoms or go straight to surgery? Such a hard thing to do. I dont have real human kids so my dogs are my children. How is your dog since the surgery?

    • Mom says:

      Hi JoAnna,

      I’m so sorry your girl has hip dysplasia, she’s in so much pain as you know and the hearts of dog lovers break when our FurKids suffer. Our thoughts are with you.

      Please remember that I cannot tell you what to do with your dog so this is just my input and opinions, ok? Since it sounds like you are planning to do the surgery, I would not wait. There is absolutely no doubt her hips and her pain will only get worse no matter what you do for her comfort. She’s already been diagnosed with a severe case so my thought is why spend the time and money on just trying to just help keep her comfortable while you watch the disease progress and you know you have an inevitable surgery pending? Pain will age your dog faster. The younger the dog, the easier the surgery will be on her, the less risk during surgery, the faster the recovery and the longer she’ll live pain-free.

      It comes up here in conversation several times a year how happy we are that we got Riley’s hips “fixed” with the FHO surgery. We wish we would have known sooner so that we could have done it when he was younger. Although he’ll never be 100% as far as what he can do physically he is hip pain free and that’s the goal! He can run and play in the field with Nissa and to see that even after the time that’s passed since his surgeries I still get tears of joy in my eyes. He can’t keep up with her but he never could — she’s got longer legs, LOL!

      It depends on the dog how much they can do afterwards and I’m talking about the real strenuous activities like Schutzhund, fly ball and agility type things. Our surgeon told us he does have dogs that have gone back into Schutzhund after recovery but he did say that although it happens, it’s an exceptional dog that can be this active after. If they were in these types of activities before surgery they have more of a chance of returning to a physically active life after. You have a therapy dog and that’s a quiet gentle activity. Why not give her the gift of doing her job pain free? The medications and all of that are temporary relief that you have to continuously administer or take her in for. With the FHO, you have it done, you get her recovered and you’re done other than giving her glucosamine tabs the rest of her life. You also have to remember that *any* dog is capable of biting and that when a human inflicts pain on a dog the chance for a bite is there — they can even bite their owner. One of the patients you visit could *unintentionally* cause her pain to which she *could* react with a bite and then her days as a therapy dog are over.

      Anyone watching us walk down the street cannot tell that Riley had hip surgery. He doesn’t limp, he has a normal walk. Occasionally, he does have a quick slight off-balance moment kind of like “jello-hip” but he handles it just fine, straightens out and keeps going. This has never happened while out walking and doesn’t seem to bother him one bit. I don’t see any sign of pain when it happens. There’s no ball in the hip after surgery so it makes sense this would happen now and then. It’s not like he falls down or anything, his back end just does a quick but gentle sway and it’s over. He can go up and down the stairs and chase his ball. The one activity we won’t let him participate in any more is the lure course because that requires some really high speed fast turns and there’s no way we’re taking a chance on that. If we were into agility before surgery I tend to think he could participate in at least *some* of those activities with some limitations or modifications but I would definitely check with our surgeon first. I wouldn’t look for him to do competition agility, just do for fun although I’d bet there are some dogs that could actually compete after FHO surgery. I also don’t allow him to get into any deep snow.

      If you go forward with the surgery, please also follow up with hydrotherapy which will help her recover general mobility more quickly. Be patient and willing to do what it takes to get her up and walking again after surgery. Full recovery takes about a year per hip. We started going back to the field after a few months of him walking again. At first he couldn’t get too far but we took it easy and I just let him do things at his own pace. When he laid down and his eyes said “I can’t Mom” we went home, there’s no way I alone could carry him out of the field if we over-did it. It was probably 3 to 4 months or so after returning to the field once a week or so and him being able to walk a little farther into the field each time that he began chasing Nissa! I broke down and cried tears of joy. It was such a beautiful amazing sight to see him running! I called my husband right then and there from the field and told him and he got all teary, too!

      So, this is our experience with FHO surgery. There isn’t a doubt in our minds it was the right thing to do for Riley and we’re very happy we were able to give him a pain free life. Our only regret was not knowing he had hip dysplasia before he turned 5 so we could do this for him when he was younger. I was a mess as well when Riley was diagnosed but taking immediate action got me over that. From now on any dog we adopt who’s breed is prone to this disease WILL BE x-rayed as soon as possible after adoption so that we know immediately if hip dysplasia is an issue. If it is, surgery will be scheduled right away.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with your dog and please let us know how it goes!

  4. Carrie says:

    I came across your site looking for information on FHO surgeries. My Canaan is a 5yr old white male GSD. They at first thought he blew his ACL but my vet is wonderful..very thorough and after a full set of X-rays came back to tell me the R hip had severe dysplasia. He was also a rescue I gave a forever home when he was not quite 1yr. We talked options and tomorrow he is scheduled for the FHO surgery. I am nervous but seeing him in pain and limping, basically on 3 legs is killing me. I trust my vet and he has done numerous FHO surgeries, it is just my nerves I guess. Your site and Riley’s story has helped. I know the hard part is about to begin but he will be pain free and he is very young so how can I not? Thank you for putting the info out here. I was lucky that the other GSD’s in my life never had hip issues. Thank you again for sharing your story. I only hope his L hip will not deteriorate as well. the X-ray did not show signs at this time.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Carrie,

      I’m very happy I was able to say something to read that’s helpful to you. It’s scary so don’t feel about about being nervous, I think that’s normal. If you weren’t I would think you didn’t love your dog. I won’t kid you, the first six weeks or so will probably be very hard on you and Canaan but just remember that’s temporary. Follow the doc’s physical therapy instructions and if you can get him into hydrotherapy that should help a LOT. The hydro was probably the very best thing for our Riley during his healing process. I hope your Canaan’s other hip will be ok forever. Good luck and let us know how it goes, ‘k?

      Deb

  5. Carrie says:

    Thank you Deb ! Canaan came through surgery well. The Doc said he was very healthy and had good muscle mass which made things good but the surgery a tad harder because you have to move all the muscle to get at the joint…but you know all this. :) He is a very Athletic dog. He said the joint was a little worse when he opened him up than he expected and what he saw on the Xray. He cleaned everything out, performed the FHO. He said everything you did…. He has done many of these (including his own Shepherd and Old English Sheep ) and I do trust him. It is just the nerves I guess :) The worst part was that there was an Emergency and Canaan didnt go to surgery until later so it was 7PM last night when I finally heard how he was and talked to Doc B. I will pick him up this afternoon. I have someone here that does Hydrotherapy and I will do that as soon as I can. I talked to the Doc about it. Whatever it takes ! He is my baby. Thank you for the support. I know the next 6-8 weeks will be tough but hey…we do what we have to do ! I am grateful I have a job where I can work from home if needed. Thank you for being here ! Canaan and Carrie !

    • Mom says:

      Hi Carrie,

      That’s wonderful news! How’s he doing now? Did you start the hydro yet? Would love it if you’d keep us posted. Go Canaan!

      Deb

  6. Carrie says:

    Hi Deb,
    We got sutures out last Friday. So today is the end of week 3 post surgery, He is toe touching the leg, tries to use a little. I am working it. I took the ramps away and he is going up and down the 5 stairs by himself. I am really not sure at this point what he should be doing. He seems to want to still pull it up and just be 3 legged. Yesterday he actually jumped on the bed..which scared me. He is trying to play more and act more like himself. I am just not sure how it should really progress for me to see him using the leg. I have an appointment to speak with them about the hydro next week. Any advice on where yours was 3 weeks post? I am reading tons..I am worried he will just keep compensating.
    ~ Carrie and Canaan :~)

    • Mom says:

      Wow, Canaan’s progress is amazing! It was much longer than that before our Riley could do stairs. I think it’s normal to do the tripod thing for awhile but the hydrotherapy will help that. At least it did for Riley. After his first hydro session he immediately began using the leg more and each session helped him do more. Right, no fast movements, no running and no jumping at this point. When I had my Ford Explorer Riley was never again able to jump up in to the cargo area, it was just too high of a vehicle and so I had to lift him which my back was not appreciative of. We traded that in for a lower to the ground SUV and he can handle that just fine but it’s also been a couple years now since his surgeries. I think dogs do well doing things in their own time but with tough surgeries like this one, sometimes we have to keep a lid on them because they can get ahead of themselves.

      Thanks for coming back and keeping us posted, we’re waiting to hear the next chapter!

  7. Carrie says:

    Doc wants him back in 6 weeks..they said he was doing really well..incision was great. That I should increase activity just not let him sprint across the yard or jump…

  8. Matt says:

    My 11 month old GSD is having FHO surgery April 14,2014. We lost our previous GSD to a brain tumor last year, and after notifying the breeder I had gotten her from, decided to get a pup from a current litter. First question I asked, of course, was “Do the parents have good hips and shoulders. She told me yes, that they were ok. When I went to pick her up from the breeder, I noticed what to me was a strange way for a dog to be standing (she was 12 weeks old at the time, and she was she was a little hunched over). I asked, “What is wrong with her hips?” The breeder told me that that was just a normal for puppies. I do trust this breeder, and she does have a good program and takes pride in providing healthy dogs. As she grew, anytime you placed your hand on her back near the hips, you could feel them pop. At 7 months, she started showing signs of being in pain after vigorous play. I took her to the vet for x-rays, but they were not conclusive. Vet said to bring her back at 10 months for a re-check. When I took her back for the re-check, you could still feel the right hip pop. Of course, I got the worst possible news I could get. My Athena had severe hip dysplasia. The orthopedic surgeon that looked at the x-rays, said that Athena is either one very brave dog, or she has a lot of heart. He said she should be in severe pain all the time, but she doesn’t show signs of pain unless she runs or wrestles with other dogs. What were my options? $3,000-$4,500 per hip for replacements, or FHO surgery at about $1,500 per hip plus re-hab (I will have to take her to another vet’s office for under water treadmill). I notified my breeder, of course, and she was saddened to hear of the diagnosis. She told me she owed me a pup. I don’t have room for 2 big dogs, and told her so. Remember, in the U.S. there is a 1-in-5 chance of any GSD having this affliction, even in the best breeding programs. So, next Monday, Athena will be going in for her surgery. I do not look forward to this at all, but am committed to doing the best by her that I can.
    A couple of questions I have, is after his recovery, did Riley run with the other dogs? Was he able to wrestle and play with them? Thanks.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Matt,

      Yours is a very sad story, first a brain tumor then hip dysplasia. Unfortunately, German Shepherds are prone to both pretty much any cancer and hip (and other) dysplasia and it’s sad that you had one or the other issue in both dogs.

      I’d like to help you put your mind at ease a little. Yes, Riley was able to run and play with Nissa after about a year, but remember he had both hips done approximately 5-6 months apart so he had the double whammy and his recovery was longer because of this. You also have to remember that he was 5 years old when he had his first hip done so he wasn’t a young pup like yours. It was *very* hard to see him in pain during his recovery but I kept reminding myself that once he felt better he would *be* better which helped me get through his recovery. Riley was never the most active dog out there and we think he was in pain from his HD since he was born or early pup-hood so that probably contributed to his not being real rambunctious. His move from surgery to playing again and being able to go upstairs was slow and gradual. We let him do it at his own pace. The first time he tried to run in the field with Nissa it was just a few steps but I cried I was sooooo happy to see him getting better! Each time we’d go he’d play a little more, so don’t expect a night and day transformation, ok?

      I followed every step the vet told me to do, didn’t skip a one including a visit to the doggy chiropractor once he was getting around well again. He got lucky and his back was not affected except very slightly. Two visits were all that were needed. I won’t kid you, recovery is hard on both you and the dog. Riley didn’t handle the pain killers well, he dropped 10 pounds because of the pain he wouldn’t eat. Go to your local drug store and put your Athena on probiotics, we use Florajen3 which is the formula for tackling tummy problems and nausea. No prescription needed but it must be refrigerated so it’s in the pharmacy, not the general store. After a couple of weeks I switched him over to homeopathic pain remedies because his tummy just didn’t handle the heavy duty pain meds well which I think is a big reason he lost so much weight. He eventually put 5 pounds back on and because of his hips and the recommendation to keep him on the lean side we keep him at 73-75 pounds.

      Check around, I found an excellent dog boarding place who also does other doggy things, that charged considerably less than it would have cost me at a vet’s office and it was closer to us as well. You may also find a ramp helpful for her recovery period. Riley’s hydrotherapist let me borrow a ramp from them. Riley wouldn’t use the ramp, but other dogs are more open to it especially if you train them properly to use it. If it jiggles even a little bit most dogs won’t take to it so make sure it’s a sturdy ramp and a good intro to it for Athena.

      I would have Athena’s other hip x-rayed if you haven’t already just to make sure that one is normal and if it’s not you can plan for FHO on the other one a bit later.

      All 3 of our dogs get Dasuquin with MSM daily. It’s six weeks at double the dose to get their levels where they need to be and then it drops to once a day. I urge you to do this for your dog as well, but of course check with your vet first before putting her on this if you haven’t done so already.

      We had Nissa x-rayed the same day I took Riley to the specialist because we wanted to see if she was potentially going to get HD as well. Her hips are fine, she will never get HD according to the vet, although as she ages she will likely get arthritis which is common in many older dogs. The Dasuquin MSM is good for this as well and may help her get older before arthritis sets in. I don’t think it will prevent it if it’s going to happen, but may put it off a year or two anyway or perhaps lessen her pain. We’ve not had Gracie tested yet. She doesn’t seem to have any issues and so because there is a one year waiting period for our pet insurance to cover HD we’re waiting to x-ray her until she’s covered just in case. If she were showing any signs we would not wait.

      You found the same as I did that full hip replacement is quite not something the average person can afford, but the FHO surgery allowed Riley to live pain free and that was our goal. To watch him walk you’d never know that he’s had his hips done. He’s going to be 8 years old this summer and although we feel cold weather may bother his hips somewhat he does very well. I can only urge you to think about what your pup will be like when she’s no longer in pain and the FHO surgery is a good thing you’re doing for her. Thank you for caring for her so well!

      Some Thoughts for the Future

      Remember that I didn’t know all this either until Riley was diagnosed but I’m passing it along to try to help you and others on down the road.

      I’m not a vet but to tell someone to wait 10 months for a recheck on something like this seems excessive especially since the pup was in obvious pain by that time. I’m certainly not trying to second guess your vet, I’m just sharing my thoughts. He probably had a reason for the wait. Should you ever come across this again, you might want to go for a second opinion right away instead of waiting. Soon as our regular vet found Riley’s hip problem I was at the specialist within a few days.

      From what you’ve told me, I have doubts about the breeder. Seeing the pup for the first time, you saw something immediately that you felt was abnormal, a reputable breeder would have seen this before you did so my thought is that she perhaps wasn’t being up-front with you. You didn’t say if they showed you the paperwork of her parents having had their hips x-rayed and being ok. From what I understand she just told you they were ok, but presented no proof. Good breeders have proof.

      I can’t say that I would not have taken the pup, anyway because I probably would have and then taken her straight to a vet. We would prefer to take in a dog that needs medical treatment and get the dog the treatment than to leave a dog somewhere it may not get what it needs and it sounds like this breeder was ignoring or hiding the fact that this dog was not normal. There are breeders out there that will just put a pup down if it’s not healthy rather than spend the money themselves or see to it that whoever purchases the dog will make sure it gets the care it needs *and* follow up on the care. You may have saved Athena’s life. This breeder should not be breeding the parents of your pup so as not to continue the hip dysplasia continue on down the line. Reputable breeders will not continue breeding pairs that produce offspring with known problems.

      I pretty much always have a problem with breeders “owing people a pup” for medical (and some other) reasons. I think most of them know that a large number of people aren’t going to give back a dog that they’ve fallen in love with simply because it’s not 100% healthy which gets the breeder off both the financial hook and the one in which they forfeit a pup therefore, right back to the financial hook. I know it’s common to do this in the breeder world but to me that’s taking advantage of people. In my opinion, they should refund your money and let you keep the dog because you are the one going to have to deal with the dog’s medical expenses. There are definitely exceptions to this. I know a guy who purchased a pup about three years ago and shortly before the dog turned one year old it dropped dead on their living room floor after a play session with their children (yes, literally just dropped dead). They had a necropsy done and found a heart condition that no one knew about. Ok, so in a case like this yes … the breeder owes these folks a pup and hopefully if it were found to be even potentially genetic, they aren’t breeding the same parents or at least not the the dog that contributed to the heart condition.

      I hope this has helped you and we would love for you to report back on how Athena does! It’s wonderful that you are giving her the chance to live a pain-free life! Come visit us again and keep us posted, ok?

  9. Matt says:

    Thanks for the reply. I guess I wasn’t clear. The first x-rays I had done at 7 months of age. The recheck was just 3 months later, at just over 10 months of age. Right hip shows arthritis, but left hip doesn’t at this time (may not have to have the left one done, but we’ll have to wait and see). Breeder did have paper work on parents hips that showed they were okay. Once I contacted her, she stated that she would be contacting other owners to let them know. She did ask what surgery would cost, so maybe she plans to reimburse me some of the cost and just hasn’t said so. I’m not big on demanding things from folks unless absolutely necessary. She did ask if I was interested in turning Athena back, but I told her no, not after spending time to train her, and she is such a character. Her personality is 180 degrees from what our last gsd was. Bella, the one that had the brain tumor, was very protective when on leash and didn’t like people approaching us when we walked her. Athena thinks she is the neighborhood dog, and has to say ‘Hi’ to everyone she sees. She is also a big chicken (she runs from little dogs when they bark at her). So, I hope I have made things a little clearer.
    I currently have her on a Nutrivet hip supplement, but may well switch. She only weighs 72 pounds now, and looks lean (you can just make out her ribs). She has never been a big eater. Thanks for the advice and I’ll be sure to let you know how she makes out.

  10. Mom says:

    Hi Matt,

    Ahhh, ok, apparently you weren’t clear or I didn’t understand. My apologies and thanks for clarifying things. I’m glad to hear your breeder is much more reputable than my first impression. That’s great news! It would be nice if she helped you pay for things, too. I give her a lot of credit for following up with the other owners she’s dealt with.

    Sounds like Athena is a wonderful dog. I can certainly relate to the different personalities. Riley is like your Bella when it comes to people approaching us. We just follow our meet & greet rules and all is fine then. Anyone interested can read the meet & greet rules here: How to Meet a Dog

    I should add that Riley being a male lifts his leg to pee of course, and when he does he’s a bit wobbly since the hip surgery. Kind of like a human standing on one leg. It doesn’t seem to be painful, just a bit more of a balancing act for a male. Also, occasionally we see a bit of a sway in his walk but absolutely nothing that makes me think it’s painful. I forgot to mention that and wanted to let you know.

    Looking forward to your updates!

  11. Kathleen says:

    I just returned from the vet. Glad I found your site. My beautiful 5 month old german shepherd was thought to have pano. She was limping in the left hind. We did xrays today. Severe hip dysplasia on both sides. The left hip is completely out of the socket, and though they tried, it can’t be put back in. I am to see a surgeon tomorrow. I know nothing about this. My vet says FHO now and possible total hip later. I am really scared. I called to make an appointment with the surgeon. He is taking her tomorrow. Says May need to do the surgery tomorrow. I am in shock. Since she is 5 months old, does anyone know why they have to do both? Why won’t FHO fix it? Should have asked my vet today, but when there I wasn’t thinking clearly.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kathleen,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your pup, so young and already such a severe case of HD. That’s very sad.

      Some dogs have HD on one side or the other, other dogs have what’s called bi-lateral hip dysplasia which means both hips are affected. It may go by other names but bi-lateral is the phrase I’m familiar with. It’s my understanding that once FHO is done they can no longer do full hip replacement but do not just go by what I know. Things may have changed in the few years since Riley had his surgeries. Our Riley has bi-lateral so had to have both hips done but one at a time with a minimum of 6 or so months in between. Your dog’s case may be too severe to do FHO, I am not the vet so I can’t answer that question but I would ask the surgeon for sure.

      I am surprised they would do both hips at one time but again the surgeon *should* know best. Being your dog is just 5mos old might have a lot to do with that. Riley was five *years* old when he had his and I tend to think what they can and cannot do would have some bearing on the age of the dog.

      If you feel you have a competent surgeon try not to worry, your dog should be ok in a few months. If you have any doubts about your surgeon’s capabilities, my suggestion is to get a second opinion. But do it quickly, it sounds like your dog is in absolute horrific pain.

      Please keep us posted and please give some hugs to your sweetie for us!

      *** PS: I tried to email you twice after I posted my response, both times your email address bounced with a user unknown kind of response. ***

  12. Matt says:

    Wednesday the 16th-Brought Athena home yesterday. When we got to the vets office, the vet told us to come back by the kennel area (everything is inside in her office. There was Athena standing next to her. For the next few minutes, Athena was very vocal (I can just imagine what she was telling us). Vet told me to walk her faster than usual, to get her to not use the right leg. So far, she’s not cooperating at all (and she doesn’t like the sling assistance, either). She insists on using the leg, though she isn’t placing a lot of weight on it. She doesn’t always remember which side to lay on. If she lays on the right leg, she has trouble getting up and it causes her pain. She ate Tuesday night, but has yet to eat this morning, and she can’t have pills until she eats. Barring any complications, she goes in in 2 weeks to get the stitches out.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks so much for the update. It’s good to hear Athena’s out of surgery and doing well. She will probably figure out that laying on the other side won’t be so painful. I would get her some probiotics, the medications can be very upsetting for the tummy and she may not eat well for awhile. The probiotics should help that but make sure you get the right kind, there are probies specifically for nausea.

      Try not to worry, which was easier said than done for me. I literally panicked when Riley stopped eating for about 10 days except for an occasional bit of soup or mac & cheese. If you go that route make sure anything you give him is safe food. Both Campbells and Progressive I believe have onion free chicken noodle soup (the bigger cans) so read the labels. There are a few other varieties each makes that are onion free. Boiled chicken is something they’re more likely to eat, mashed potatoes as well.

      I’ve not heard of the fast walking but maybe that will work. We were told to make Riley walk at his own pace but we *had* to make him walk. It was very hard at first because he’d lay down and not want to get up and even harder after the second hip surgery because the first hip of course will never be as strong as if it had a ball joint in it.

      We lucked out that Riley didn’t need the dunce collar most of the time, he was real good about *not* licking his stitches so when we were home to supervise, he didn’t have to wear it. I put it on when we were not here to keep an eye on him. When he had his second surgery my darling granddaughter came for a week to stay with him when I had to work. Reason being, he got his one leg wrapped around the other when trying to move around on his pillow and had I not been here to see this, he likely would have lost a leg or even died because he’d have stopped the circulation in the tangled legs.

      We also wanted him off the heavy duty drugs ASAP because he’s always had a touchy tummy and those drugs were horrendous on him. We switched to homeopathic remedies after the first couple weeks which helped.

      Looking forward to the next installment! Give Athena hugs for us!

      *** Boiled chicken = bags of boneless breasts NOT bone-in chicken! It’s about $6 a bag here at Aldi’s. Can mix it with boiled rice, chicken broth and dog safe veggies! ***

  13. Kathleen says:

    Difficult day. Saw the surgeon, a pioneer in canine orthopedic surgery. Said it was not possible for her hips to be any worse. So my Heike, had a femoral head osteotomy (FHO) today. They did the left, as it was out of the socket completely. Surgeon just called to say she did well. We will pick her up tomorrow at two. I am running around cleaning, preparing, as I have heard this recovery is tough. To make matters worse, he said her other leg will not hold out for much longer. It too, seems to be ready to ” pop out”.
    Mom, you are correct, they cannot perform a total hip replacement after FHO. My question is this. The surgeon wants to do another FHO. I am worried. I fear if she has bilateral FHO, and something goes wrong, a total replacment is impossible. The surgeon feels this is my only option. As he feels she will still not be mature enough for hip replacment before the remaining leg fails. Help!

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