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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.


  1. Matt says:

    So sorry for the delay on updates about Athena, but it’s been a busy time. Ok, when I was last here, Athena was having lameness issues in shoulders and elbows following vigorous play. I took her to the vet for x-rays and they showed mild problems with both joints. This kicked off a whole host of issues that had nearly leave my vet. I didn’t feel I was getting any kind of straight answers on what we need to do to address her condition. I felt that I was being pushed off on a second tier vet (my vet owns the practice). They would say, ‘Well, we could do this, there’s the possibility of this, we might do this med, or maybe injections.’ I was livid, to say the least. I just needed simple answers to simple questions, and I wasn’t getting them. Behind the scenes, my wife called the vet and told her she better call me and talk to me, because I was thinking of going to another vet. The vet did call, and we talked for about 20 minutes. I finally got the answers to my questions and we put in place a plan. DO NOT be afraid to question your vet. We created a plan for play and exercise and a regimen of walks. Out of the blue, I figured out that playing with Athena on cement or like surfaces was an absolute no-no. And thus, I only play ball with her on grass or dirt. This has almost completely eliminated her need for pain meds. I also need to keep her weight down so there isn’t too much stress on her joints. So, that’s it for now. Athena is happy and healthy and doing well. I hope this has been of some help to folks and hope all your GSD’s are doing well.

  2. JJ says:

    My baby is 6 years HD in both hips but she just had her right hip done. She was fine the first and second day and now the incision has swelled and bruised up. When i awoke this morning her leg that had the FHo preformed on it was twice its size. She did go in for laser therapy. Now she is at the vet again because she has a fever and they are trying to cool her off. Right now i am worried the surgery did not go as planned.

    • Mom says:

      Hi JJ,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s complications and we hope that all is well now. Please stop in and let us know how she’s doing now. Our thoughts are with you.

  3. […] x-rays are the only way to confirm a conclusive diagnosis. Any dog that presents with symptoms of hip dysplasia should be x-rayed […]

  4. Ginette says:

    I took my 8yr old boy in yesterday with a recurring limp thinking pulled muscle to be told hips need xray. I thought they were born with hip dysplasia not that it could develop I got him at 6mth old from previous owners who couldn’t handle him and he’s my kids whole world. He goes in for xray a week tomorrow he is having pain relief and normal exercise to see if that’s enough to keep him comfortable. I have cut down his food he’s a huge dog for the breed in every way and has a nice body condition not overweight to look at but the scales say 46.2kg so losing some certainly won’t be missed. Fingers crossed he’s not too bad we lost out young greyhound in December to a shattered leg beyond repair and the old greyhound has progressive kidney failure now he’s possibly on a count down as well its heart breaking.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Ginette,

      Dogs are not necessarily born with active hip dysplasia, they may carry the gene for it but it can definitely show up later in life. Don’t forget dogs are experts at hiding pain from humans so your dog may have been suffering with this for a long time but doing a great job of not letting you know. They do a lot of suffering in silence, it’s a survival instinct.

      Riley was five when he had his FHO surgeries. If he were 8 when it became known I’m pretty sure we’d have still done the surgeries because his was severe and we don’t consider an 8 year old dog as being old either. We don’t want our dogs “doped up” on pain meds all the time, that’s not a good quality of life. Most decisions on surgery depends on your dog’s overall health as to whether or not surgery is a good idea. If he’s in really good health with no other reason not to, it would encourage us to move forward with the surgeries. Age 8 is an “iffy” point but again a dog in otherwise good health with a good surgeon would probably do really well is my opinion.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your other dogs and I hope all goes well, do drop by and update us won’t you?

  5. Matt says:

    We are now just about thirteen months out since Athena had hip surgery. She continues to do well, for the most part. She runs, plays ball, and plays with other dogs. I don’t know if she injured herself, but recently she has shown signs of a shoulder problem. Thirty minutes after vigorous exercise, she is stiff and limps on her right front leg. She has never had her shoulders x-rayed, so that is probably in her future. Athena is on a daily Dasuquin with MSM tablet and pain medication is only given when required. She now weighs between 85-90 lbs., and is very majestic young lady. She can be one wacky GSD, of course, most GSD’s have a wacky side. We adopted 2 kittens from a shelter in January, and she has taken to them quite well. She occasionally has a spat with one of the cats, but this same cat will crawl in the kennel with Athena and lay down with her. The other cat simply ignores Athena, though she does love to play with her tail.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks so much for the update! You might want to have a chiropractor visit for her. If she’s not walking “just right” it could affect her back and cause the limp, I learned that with Nissa’s recent cancer surgery she was limping on her right front leg because she was walking with her rear end a little low due to the tumor. Keep up the great work and give Athena a hug from us!

  6. Marilyn says:

    Hi, my 11 month old Timber Wolf/Alaskan Malmute/German Shepherd is having his first FHO surgery next Wednesday May 13th. He was diagnosed at 5 months with severe bilateral hip Dysplasia. The surgeon did not want to do the surgery until he was close to a year so that his skeletal growth was good. I’m so scared that this surgery might not work since he is a large dog, but reading all of these owners experiences with large dogs helps. We have been watching him bunny hop for so long now, I just hope it will change. I notice that the average cost for most was around 1,500.00 a hip. I’m looking at 3,200.00. We are only doing the right hip ( the worst one) for now and will see how he does going forward. Thanks to everyone for writing their experiences with their Fur-babies.. Koda and I send hugs and will update when I can.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Marilyn,

      That’s a pretty impressive breed mix! We hope the surgery went well and that your Koda will recover nicely. Please stop back and let us know how things go!

      Deb & the FurKids

  7. Amy says:

    I just learned that my 3 year old Old English sheepdog has severe hip dysplasia and needs bilateral FHO; He also has a bad left knee with a loose knee cap. I literally just got the call from the vet and found this website. I am picking him up in about an hour and the vet said she will discuss all the options at that time. I worry that my dog will not be a good candidate for the surgery, he is 95 lbs, and the vet said that even during sedation my dog did was resisting moving his right leg (the worse of the two) so I cannot bear to think of him in pain and not sure I can put him through it. Kind of freaking out.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Amy,

      I also was concerned because so many things I read said the FHO surgery was recommended for smaller dogs under 40 or so pounds. Riley was 82 pounds at that time, he’s about 70 pounds now. The surgeon (a specialist in this kind of surgery) assured me that they had great success with larger dogs, in fact some even went on to do Schutzhund after they recovered. Of course it depends on the dog and a lot on the surgeon. Of course you have the added issue with the knee which needs to be considered in the big picture.

      If you are unsure I would get a second opinion from a surgeon who specializes in FHO, hip replacement and hip dysplasia. Riley is doing very well and he was 5 at the time of his surgeries. Unless there were extenuating circumstances, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

      Best of luck, please keep us posted.

  8. Kate says:


    We just started fostering a 4.5 year old German Shepherd. She had been at the local shelter for a long time and was brought in by animal control in another state. She is the sweetest girl and we love her. We knew when we chose to foster her that she needed double hip replacement and they wouldn’t do the surgery until she was in foster. So we are getting closer to scheduling the surgery and I want to have as much information as possible before we get it on the calendar.

    She is very big, strong and pulls on the leash when she catches a scent. I am going to have my husband build a ramp down our back 4 stairs for her. I have been looking for information/videos showing me various techniques (towel method, etc.) to help her go potty after surgery. But am not finding much.

    My fear is I will not be able to ‘handle’ her well enough post-op and she may get hurt (or I could get hurt). I am assuming she will be in some pain and I hope it mellows her out enough that we can all stay safe. I guess what I need is resources and other dog owners stories of what I can really expect post op. I know it’s going to be a long process since both hips need to be done, so any advise would be so appreciated!

    Thank You!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kate,

      Thank you so much for fostering this sweet girl!

      I can’t speak for every dog because like people they’re all individual in their healing. In our case we pretty much let Riley do things as he could (let him set the pace) of course with the initial vet’s orders which we followed and I did have to do some coaxing to get him to walk at first but remember they don’t want to “be down” they want to get moving again it’s in their nature. She will likely be on some pretty heavy duty pain meds which will keep her laying pretty low for a week to 10 days.

      Riley wouldn’t eat much at all for about 2 weeks, I tried many things. Soups *without onions* or onion flavoring seemed to work better than his regular diet. Boiled chicken and rice is one thing that usually works with dogs, pretty yummy stuff for them. Since they’re not real active at first they aren’t burning calories anyway. I was panicked since this was my first serious dog surgery but if I had to do it over again I do believe I’d be much more calm about the food thing.

      As soon as your vet ok’s it I would head for hydrotherapy. Riley wasn’t using his leg but one session of hydro cured that. He walked out of the session he almost had to be carried into. The walking them is difficult at first they are in such pain but you don’t go but a few steps at a time at first. I would ask you vet about anything to help her walk such as the towel you mentioned. Our vet wanted NOTHING to come in contact with his hips … the towel would put pressure on a very sensitive area and that’s something our vet was absolutely against. Riley managed to go to the bathroom on his own. He was a little wobbly but he could do it. They actually have more stamina than you might think.

      Best of luck and please let us know how it goes!

  9. Nika says:

    My pomeranian was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at 9 months. He got hip dysplasia on the left leg ,the vet gave me Meloxicam liquid to give it to my dog and see if theres some improvement, but there wasnt. So my vet said that we need to have surgery. We have done surgery FHO after one month and the vet told me that my dog should start using the leg after one month, but its been 3 months now after the surgery, but there is just a bit of improvement – I was doing exercises with his leg 2 times a day and now my dog puts the the leg on the floor when he stands, but when he walks he does maybe about 20-30 foot steps a day but hes not using it properly he still lifts the leg up and hes not having any muscles in it still.Today I have visited my vets and we have done x ray to see why my dog still is not using the leg properly and the vet said that everything seems fine that the movement of his leg is normal and smooth when hes asleep under anesthesia ,but when his awake it seems that the bone is kind of dry and rubbery because its tought for my dog to walk on the leg properly. So the vet said that it might be the cause of infection in the bone so they gave me Tramadol antibiotics and Amox/Clav. And they said if theres no improvement in one week they going to consider of amputation of the leg. Of course its awful for your dog to get amputated the leg thats why I need your help because they still not sure if he got the infection and they didnt offer no hip replacements or anything like that. 3 months ago after surgery we came to take stitches out and the vet said that we need to do hydrotyherapy so we can get the muscles back on the leg, but today I had different vet that said that my dog cant have hydrotherapy as he doesnt have any muscles because he wont be able to swim. Im really feeling scared for my dog because of this situation because it seems that even vets are not sure whats wrong with my dog leg because one vet says different to what the other vet says. So what because of my dog having infection or not having it ,or not having muscles should have the leg amputatated , this is just stupid. Please I need your help and opinons.

    • Mom says:

      Hello Nika,

      I’m sorry to hear about your dogs hip issues. It sounds like your vets don’t know what hydrotherapy really is. Dogs don’t swim, they walk on a treadmill kind of contraption supported by water which is normally *very* good for them. Think of yourself walking on a treadmill in water or swimming, the water supports you, right?

      I’m not a vet, I can’t tell you to do this and I won’t. I’m just correcting what sounds like a misunderstanding your vets have of hydrotherapy. I would immediately consult with a hydrotherapist and ask him/her to consult with your vets so he/she gets the whole story and between them maybe they can work out a therapy treatment.

      If it comes to amputation, dogs generally do *very* well on just three legs but I would think it would be important to help her remaining legs with some hydrotherapy at least while she’s recuperating from the amputation.

      Good luck and please let us know how it goes!

  10. Rachel says:

    My German Shepherd, Monty) also has dysplasia in both hips. The vet said they could try the FHO but would rather wait until he is 10 MONTHS old and do a full hip replacement on the right and then 3 months later on the left. My cost is $7500 for each side (everything in California costs more).
    I thank my lucky stars that I bought insurance when I brought him home. He was only 7 months when I found out about his hips. Right now, he has trouble getting up and falls of balance a lot.
    I wonder how many of his siblings are having the same problem and if families are make hard discisions about their dogs.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Rachel,

      Poor little dude, I really feel for him he’s in a lot of pain. Definitely pet insurance has been a good thing for us, I’m happy you have it for your pup. You’re lucky to not have a long waiting period for this kind of thing. Ours is a year.

      I would imagine his siblings may very well be suffering or will suffer from it since it’s genetic. Unfortunately, not all people are like you or us and will get their pups the surgery. They’ll either let the dogs suffer or put them down.

      I would suggest that you notify the breeder of this, they should *not* be breeding that pair since it’s producing pups with hip dysplasia.

      Thanks for sharing your story and best of luck with the surgeries.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I am facing the exact same issue you had to face with your Riley. My gs- Lady is only 4 years young and has severe hip dysplasia in both hips but much worse in the right. I worry about her every single day. I here so many different stories about the FHO surgery so I am unsure due to her size. I read here that many dogs larger then my Lady. I’m gonna read the rest of the posts for some more helpful advice. All I know is I need to make a decision soon because she is far to young to let her mope around. This cold damp weather is no help either :( thank you for sharing your story.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Riley being a larger dog was a concern for me as well because at that time it was mentioned often in my research that the FHO surgery was mostly successful for smaller dogs, I believe it was something like 40 pounds or less. I brought this to the attention of the surgeon and he assured me they had much success with bigger dogs and for some reason I had confidence in him and in his response to this. Riley was past the stage where pain meds were not going to help him be comfortable and living his life laying on a pillow in in constant pain was not a life for him. I felt that I had two choices, I could put him down (OMG NO!) or give him a chance at having a decent life for hopefully more than a few more years. When he told me he had FHO dogs that recovered enough to do Schutzhund that was pretty amazing! I didn’t have those plans for Riley but it was encouraging to know that even larger dogs have the potential to recover successfully.

      I decided that I had enough confidence in the surgeon (who specializes in FHO surgery) and that if I didn’t give Riley this chance I would have to put him down. At least there was a 50/50 chance or better that the surgery would be helpful for him. If it wasn’t I could always put him down afterwards but I couldn’t bring him back to give him that chance if I had him euthanized before giving it a shot. That was my determining factor in my decision. I have a feeling that even in the past 3-4 years since Riley had his surgery that techniques and other things have improved … medicine seems to continually move forward. The percentage of success in a larger dog is probably better now than it was then.

      We wish you the very best and hope that you’ll stop back and let us know your decision and how things are going for Lady!

  12. Jackie Bond says:

    My German Shepherd is 4 years old, he has allergies so he has to be fed special food and was diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia at 6 months of age, he was doing really well without pain meds( but we did put him on Glucosamine) until the beginning of this year when he lost a lot of weight due to Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (this is when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough enzymes to break down the food, he has to have pigs pancreas powder on every meal otherwise he would literally starve to death). He lost all the muscle tone in his back legs and went on pain meds together with anti inflammatories and hydrotherapy and was doing very well until he moved awkwardly and then we had major problems. He also has Anal Furunculosis (Large open ulcers on the Anus) which thankfully is under control now but has flare ups a couple of times a month even with medication. He is now going to have one of his hips replaced the right one being the worst and we have had 2 opinions of what will be best for him. We are insured but have used up most of the insurance now so I would think it will cost in the region of £3000. The vets hope that just having the one hip done may make life better for him, but both hips are in such a state I fear he will need to have the other one done also. Keeping him quiet will be a nightmare because he is hyper due to not being able to release all the energy he has. Believe it or not he copes very well with all his problems and is a happy boy.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jackie,

      Thank you for sharing your boy’s story. We’re so very sorry he suffers from so many and such painful illnesses. We hope his hip surgery goes well and gives him some much needed relief. Please give him a hug from us and keep us posted on his progress.

      • Jackie Bond says:

        Just been to see another ortho vet he suggests not doing the surgery yet as he is concerned a) because of the AF and b) because he has had multiple infections. His concern being that if Ty has surgery he is susceptible to infection and so may cause implant to become loose. He has suggested trying to ‘cure’ the AF if possible with surgery to remove all the diseased tissue then possibly remove his anal glands and tail.. Not sure about that one. All the research I have done suggests that there is no cure for AF and removing the tail does not help if it is genetic. Anyhow he says that if Ty was crippled and couldn’t walk then we would have to take a chance but as he wants to walk and run even though his hips are bad it may be better to wait, and he has upped his meds. So for now it is a wait and see game. Anyhow thank you for your message of support.

        • Mom says:

          Hi Jackie,

          This is so sad, poor Ty. I don’t know about AF’s myself other than it’s a very painful condition as I recall. Multiple infections would definitely be a matter of concern and I can see why the vet is being cautious. We use Dasuquin with MSM for all our dogs, supposed to be better than just plain glucosomine. Our girls don’t need it, they have no sign of hip dysplasia and Nissa’s been x-rayed for it and vet says she’ll never get it. Although just like people, as they age many dogs get arthritis and so we keep them on it.

          Please keep us posted on how Ty’s doing.

  13. Dave says:

    I know this is old but I understand your pain, this past March my shepherd(11) had hip dysplasia and we had no option but to put him down we would have done anything to make him better but it was just too expensive plus it doesn’t always work. Seeing him suffer by not being able to make it up 2 stairs was so awful. Every night he would lay in my bedroom and on the night before he was put down I heard him struggle into my room and lay down. It’s so sad to hear about people losing a pet.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Dave,

      I’m sorry to hear about your dog, it’s very sad when we take the road that you did. At age 11 we would not put our dogs through surgery either, we’d make them as comfortable as possible and when their quality of life began to suffer we would euthanize. A life of suffering is not a life for anyone, even a dog.

      You might want to look into pet insurance for any future dogs you bring into your home. We’ve saved thousands of dollars on surgeries and other medical expenses.

      Our best to you.


  14. Connie says:

    I have a beautiful 8 year old female German Shepherd who has just been diagnosed with moderate to severe bilateral hip dysplasia. The vet suggested that she have the Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO) surgery. My dog is 95 lbs. down from a whopping 110 lbs. when I adopted her a year ago.

    She has such a sweet disposition and is very obedient and she is my buddy and companion and is healthy in every other way. My concern is her age and her weight – I am still working on the weight, but since I cannot walk her due to the pain, this will be a longer process. I would like to see her at 80-85 lbs. The vet stated the FHO would run approximately $700 – $800 per hip. Given her age, I was looking at Walkin’ Wheels wheelchairs and managing her pain as the first option since everywhere I read the FHO surgery is recommended for those dogs 45 – 50lbs and below. What is your opinion regarding her age for the FHO option?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Connie,

      First, thank you for adopting this precious girl. I am so happy to have met someone who adopted an older dog and now wants to do what’s best for her! Thank you thank you!

      A diagnosis of hip dysplasia in a large 8 year old dog (especially moderate to severe) takes some thought as to what’s best for the dog at this age and weight. I do not consider an 8 year old dog to be old but the rest of the world would argue me on that point I’m sure. It sounds like she was probably overweight when you adopted her so again, thank you for working to get her to a healthy weight!

      I’d not rule out the surgery since she’s in good health otherwise. I was just as scared about the “recommended weight” as you are. I learned to stop being worried about that through my research and with the fact that otherwise I had a healthy boy! What I would do, is check with your vet about getting her into some water activities. Some pre-surgical sessions of hydrotherapy may do her a world of good but after talking with the vet I’d also talk with the hydro-therapist to get his/her input on it. I’m pretty certain that not only will this help her be able to move with much less pain (get a little exercise!) but it should help a little with weight loss. Hydrotherapy after surgery is a must in our opinion and really helped Riley tremendously.

      You could start her on Dasuquin with MSM, it’s wonderful for things like hip dysplasia. I get ours on Amazon and our dogs prefer the chewable tabs vs the soft chews. It was 1 tab morn and 1 at night for 6 weeks so they build up a level in their bodies then it dropped to one per day.

      Riley weighed 80 pounds when he had his first FHO and by a few weeks after the second surgery he was down to 65 pounds which is really under-weight for him and scary as heck for me! This happened because when he’s had surgery he won’t eat for a few weeks afterwards, so he lost the weight due to his own refusal to eat normally. This doesn’t mean this will happen with your girl, it’s just what happened here. I worked really hard to get him to eat so he wasn’t just not eating period. One thing he’d eat a little of is the Campbell’s Chunky Classic chicken noodle soup, it’s about the only Campbell’s soup that doesn’t contain any onion which is toxic to dogs. Mac’n’cheese was another food that he’d eat a bit of occasionally. What worked best was boneless skinless boiled chicken breast chunks mixed with cooked rice so they get protein and carbs and is good to give pretty much any recovering dog provided they’re not allergic to either. Eventually I got him back up to 73’ish –> 75 lbs.

      I don’t know enough about carts to make any good solid comments but it does seem to me that a cart might only serve to stiffen those joints and make it harder for her to get around when she’s not in it because of non-use. But again, I’m not a cart expert, I’m sure if there comes a time it becomes something we need I’ll learn a whole lot more about them.

      If you proceed with the surgery, I would definitely have a vet who specializes in it do the surgery. Our Dr. Sondel specializes in it and he was great and did a super job! I just don’t think this is something I’d be comfortable with a GP vet doing if that’s the kind of vet you’ve consulted with on this. A second opinion on the severity and recommended treatment is also something I did and would definitely do again. I felt better after discussing things with the specialist!

      If Riley were just being diagnosed now at just over 8 years old, in his healthy state I do believe we’d go for the FHO surgery. I’m of the feeling he’s got a good 5 years left in him to be with us before he leaves this world. His were done when he was 5-6 years old about 4 months apart each hip. I would not expect an 8 year old dog to recover as quickly as a 5 year old or lesser aged dog, so keep that in mind so you don’t get worried and depressed about recovery time. Her current state of health other than her hips is a significant factor in how to go forward from here and that’s a talk you need to have with your vet. I suggest you also read Matt’s posts on this page about his dog Athena who really came through FHO surgery like a champ! Her recovery was amazing!

      I hope you’ll keep us informed how she’s doing and what you decide to do. Good luck, I know you’ll do what’s best for your girl

  15. Alta says:

    Bagira got diagnosed at 6 months of age. I thought I was going to throw up on the vet’s shoes when he told me. I could not afford the hip replacement surgey. Bagira comes from a reputable breeder that was just as upset about the diagnosis as I was. I opted for the FHO surgery. She did very well. I felt so sorry for her in the beginning as she could not use the leg but she did not seem to mind. I tried getting her to swim but she hated it. The best physio Bagira got was from Xandi her half sister that babied her initially but then got her to walk more and more. I had a hard time stopping her from running on it. She recovered remarkably fast and did not let it slow her down. She had the second surgery at 18 months and did even better the second time around. She likes swimming as Xandi took to swimming and she wants to do everything Xandi does. She gets a nutritional supplementation every day and pain meds every now and then. Seems to need more in winter. She runs and plays as if she never had surgeries. She tires easily but otherwise I cannot detect difficulties. We walk 2 km now without problems. I hope to have her still for a very, very long time!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Alta,

      What a heartwarming story! You have given hope to others who’s dogs are suffering from hip dysplasia and that is so important. Thank you so much for sharing your success story with Riley’s Place and our readers. I’m so glad your Bagira has her sister Xandi to help her through this, what a great dog! Wow, she even learned to like swimming, how cool is that!

      It doesn’t surprise me she needs more pain meds in winter, cold can make for additional pain in the joints.


  16. Matt says:

    My apologies. The facebook page to which I uploaded the video, is called German Shepherd Nation.

  17. Matt says:

    Update on Athena. We are now just about 90 days out from her FHO surgery and she is not quite 15 months old. She seems to be walking pain free and she is off the pain meds for the most part. Athena is back playing ball and she can go up and down steps. I haven’t let her run with other dogs yet, but I suspect that is not too far off. Though at times she doesn’t seem to have control of the leg (gets caught in the grass when she makes a quick turn), the leg doesn’t seem to bother her or slow her down. I would not call her recovery typical, as she did none of the things we were told to expect. This could be due to her age or other factors. If any of you are on facebook, I uploaded a video tonight of her playing ball.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Matt,

      Every time you share Athena’s updates with us I smile :) She’s doing amazingly well! For everyone’s benefit, not all dogs will recover at Athena’s speed so do not expect a miracle recovery which Athena’s kind of is in my mind. I think the biggest reason is that she’s a youngster. Riley was 5 years old at the time of his first hip surgery and he recovered well, but not at the speed Athena has and I believe at least one of the big differences is how old a dog is when the surgery is performed. It’s not the be-all and end-all but the younger you find this in your dog and move forward with FHO or total hip replacement the faster I think in most cases a dog will recover. Obviously, like human ailments it’s an individual dog thing, I’m just talking in generalities here.

      Matt, we are grateful for your updates, thank you for being so dedicated in helping others find hope for their own dogs here. Please give Athena a big hug and a healthy treat from us!


  18. Kat says:

    My Killian a boxer puppy, was 7 months when he was diagnosed with HD. He has it in both hips, but it was way more severe in his right hip. The left only shows slight characteristics of HD but the right was dislocated. We just had surgery done, FHO on his right hip, Killian is on day 3 after his surgery. My concern is how do I get him to not lay on his right side. Sometimes he gets restless and then wants to lay on his recovering hip. Or is this even an issue. Will he be ok laying on that hip?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kat,

      I’m not a vet but I tend to think that if laying on his right side was too painful for him that he would not do it. I would check with his surgeon, though. You may be able to prop some pillows up on so that he can’t roll but I don’t know if he’d just find another way to lay on it. Good luck and hope he gets better soon and that the 2nd surgery goes well. I wish we would have caught Riley’s HD sooner like you did.


  19. Mark says:

    Matt, Thank you so much for the updates. I have a 13 month old female GSD who was just diagnosed with moderate to severe hip dysplasia. So far, she is getting around fine and we are only to use supplements according to our vet (dasuquin and omega 3). No pain medication. But I do believe we’ll have to think about surgery (either FHO or THR) at some point. It depresses me to think about this, but I also find hope in hearing success stories from people like you. I, like you lost a female to a brain tumor last year. It was very unexpected. We immediately got a pup to be around our lonely male GSD….and now….hip dysplasia. I have the exact same story with the exact same timing.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Mark,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your girl, that is sooooo sad! GSD’s are prone to so many painful and life-threatening things it’s really scary. We wish you the best for your boy with hip dysplasia. You might want to consider taking him to an FHO doc to get their opinion. The sooner you do the surgery the better is my understanding. Quicker recovery and longer normal life without pain. We wish we would have known about Riley’s sooner because he would have had the surgery long before he did. Matt’s story and ours I consider to be success stories for FHO surgery!

      Best of luck to you!

  20. Matt says:

    Athena will have her last therapy session on Thursday, the 22nd. While doing therapy, she talks to the therapist a lot (have the video to prove it), and she is very vocal when I pick her up. I have posted the video on the German Shepherd Nation Facebook page. She is doing short flights of stairs, but has yet to do the long flight to our second floor. Athena is doing 4 block walks a minimum of 3 times a day and 6 blocks once a day. Vet said she is at least 10 days ahead of schedule and can go off leash in the back yard in about 10 days. We could also start some controlled ball playing, but am going to hold off for a while yet. She likes to pounce on the ball. Athena has gained some weight back, but still only eats about 75% of her food on any given day. She is back to 68 pounds. That’s about it for now.

  21. Deb says:

    Your Athena is one cool cookie! You both are very luck her recovery is going so well! Hugz to you both!

    All of us at Riley’s Place :)

  22. Matt says:

    Athena got her stitches out and started hydrotherapy today.My vet is very impressed with her recovery so far. I had to take her to another clinic for therapy. She did 8 minutes today. She will continue to go twice a week, and then increase to 3 times a week. Athena is very tired after her therapy session.

  23. Matt says:

    Thursday the 17th, I started flexion/extension exercises, with ice for 5-10 minutes before and after exercises. Athena did not even flinch. She is either one tough girl, or she is having very little pain. I massaged her back and neck while icing, and she loved it. The young lady refuses to tripod (only use 3 legs). She continues to place a little weight on her right leg. I am also doing slow walks of 1-3 blocks. I have to tell her to stay if I have to open the gate to the backyard (sometimes it swings shut while we are gone). I didn’t the first time, and she followed me up the 3 steps. I am at the point now, where I have to actively restrict her from doing things. I had to move the leash to the living room, so she wouldn’t come running when I picked it up. As for her eating, we have started to mix a little canned food with her dry food (she is on Wellness brand). This helps. By the way, if her stools get too loose, I usually feed her lean cooked hamburger and white rice. One pain pill she was getting, was to be taken every 8-12 hours. She is now on the 12 hour interval. She is still getting antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory. I had to suspend her exercises and walks on Saturday the 19th, because her incision started seeping a little. All in all, she seems to be doing rather well.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks so much for the update, it’s great to hear she’s doing so well! It can be scary though to see them so active after this kind of surgery, so I hope you’re successful in getting her to take it a bit more easy.

      On thing I did want to mention is mixing canned with dry, as far as I know mixing is ok but from what I understand one should *never* follow one after the other because this has a potential to lead to an obstruction.


  24. Kathleen says:

    Sorry mom. There was a typo.. This is my email.

  25. 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!

  26. 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! ***

  27. 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. ***

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. 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?

  31. 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…

  32. 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!

  33. 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!


  34. 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?


  35. 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!

  36. 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.

  37. 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!

    • Melissa Redfern says:

      Our 10 month old labrador was diagnoised with severe hip displacia at 5 months old.Weve been taking her to hydrotherapy ever since and having cartrophen injections.She went to see a specialist on monday who said shes now old enough to have her operation.were going with a total hip replacement on 1 doesnt cover all the cost so have to come up with 3000 pounds .we are so worried about the period straight after ,shes got to be still for about 8 weeks not easy with a pup.shes having her op in 4 weeks.she has both hips affected so we might have to have the above operation for 2nd hip as we cant afford 2 hips at 9000 thousand pounds each.I feel so sorry for these dogs every day is a struggle and you dont know if what your doing is best

      • Mom says:

        Hi Melissa,

        I’m so sorry to hear about your pup and we wish you and her the very best with her upcoming surgery. Just a few thoughts, since Riley was not ever going to be living the active life such as search and rescue, agility, Schutzhund or other highly physical activities we opted for the FHO surgery. We felt there was no need to do full hip replacements on either hip and he’s been doing very well ever since. Now, you may have more active plans for your girl (being a lab I’m thinking of hunting or water sports of some kind) and a total hip replacement might then be warranted. Water sports I’m not so sure would even fit because being active in water helps a dog to not be in pain which is one reason for hydrotherapy, they can heal with less pain. We got surgery, hydrotherapy and a couple chiropractic visits in for both hips for a total of about $3,500 for Riley.

        Depending on what your plans are for her, the reasoning behind your vet’s advice to do full hip replacement and just because I think it’s the responsible thing to do, I would get a second opinion on the need for full hip replacement, but that’s how I’d handle it. You certainly don’t have to agree nor do what I’d do, it’s just something you might want to think about and look into in the next few weeks before you proceed. Being that she’s got bilateral hip dysplasia and therefore does need both hips done, FHO surgery might be a viable option for you and her.

        As for helping to keep her quiet, my suggestion is a crate for when you can’t supervise her and perhaps blocking off a small area (or 2 or 3) in your home for when you can supervise so she doesn’t have to be crated 24×7. It will be hard I’m sure!

        Thanks for visiting us and I hope you’ll keep us posted! Good luck!

        • Melissa Redfern says:

          Thanks so much for your reply.weve now had 4 different opinions from different specialists.3out of the 4 said holly would benefit hugely for full hip replacement .The orthopaedic specialist said that if we couldnt afford the full hip the second best thing would be the operation yr dog is having.We was told though that the second option of where they cut of the ball joint would be good to get rid of the pain but she would have limited movement of the hip and probably have a limp .with this advice we decided with the full hip replaced on her worse side.The specialists said that some hips stabalize more at around 12-18 months so were going to leave her second hip to see if this happens ,If it doesnt we will go ahead and have the ball joint removed.Weve just bought her a bigger cage for afterwards as her old one is a little small.Weve also bought 4 baby gates so she can have a very small area of hall when she wants out of the cage.Just been looking at brain games for her to keep her amused when laid in cage.Shes just started her first season aswell so that will just finish before her op.were anxious for her but also exicted in a weird sort of way that finally we can get her fixed

          • Mom says:

            Hi Melissa,

            Wow, I’m impressed! You really are thorough with the second opinions! Way to go, Girl!

            I don’t doubt Holly will benefit greatly which is a very comforting feeling. Obviously, every dog and their hips are individual. Riley does not have a limp, nor do most other dogs that I’ve read about. Unless you’ve got a really trained veterinary eye, people cannot tell that Riley had hip surgery because he walks fine. Occasionally, he has a little bit of a sway and when he lifts his leg he’s got a tad bit of trouble balancing so he pees quick, LOL! But that’s it. Your Holly may have something going on different that makes the Docs warn you about a potential limp. They are the experts and if they all agree then there’s just no getting away from it.

            Are they maybe going to do the spay at the same time they do the hip? Sometimes some surgeries can be combined, but it would depend on the dog and what surgeries they can and can’t double up on of course.

            Just keep telling yourself that it’s hard now, it’s going to get harder during her recovery but once she’s on the mend it’s going to be soooooo much better!

            Riley won’t eat for days and sometimes a couple weeks after surgery. He dropped 10-12 pounds overall through both hip surgeries, and after his latest surgery he dropped another 4-5 pounds. We got his weight back up by 5-7 pounds after his hips but we stopped there because they need to be kept lean for their hips. Then he dropped the other 4-5 after this most recent surgery and I’m still working on putting some weight back on him, although this time it’s so far proving harder to do.

            The point of all this is in case you don’t know that some dogs won’t eat or won’t eat very well after surgery, you might want to stock up on some boiled BONELESS chicken breasts and white rice. I about drove myself insane trying different SAFE foods to get him to eat anything and he wasn’t having anything to do with it. But he will sometimes eat the chicken and rice combo, chicken is his favorite. The boiled chicken and white rice are supposed to be the easiest on their tummies when they’re not feeling well and please note that it’s BONELESS chicken BREASTS. The dark meat is fattier and more likely to cause tummy upset and of course NEVER give a dog cooked bones of any kind because cooked bones splinter.

            Thought I’d pass that along for your very organized preparations in case you want to start boiling some chicken and freezing it, LOL! Let us know how she’s doing, ok? We are thinking good thoughts for you and your sweetie!


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