Dogster Trauma: Hip Dislocation in Dogs

Written by:

Patty Khuly, DVM
Published: September 01, 2006

Yesterday I became engrossed (yet again) in reading and responding to posts on Dogster`s health forum. I love the mix of zany and knowledgeable that serves as advice on this forum. One person posts a problem or just vents about their dog’s condition. The subsequent ten or twenty posts are usually caring, compassionate versions of advice.

Although some very misleading information is often provided, I love this forum and support its approach entirely—it’s like having your friends over for coffee to talk about the dog. The culture at Dogster is educated and no one expects veterinary advice, just an understanding ear.

During my surf, I located a thread labeled, URGENT. In it, a dog lover agonized over a housemate’s dog. The lab mix (as I recall) had been hit by a car, suffering what she assumed to be a hip dislocation. Because the dog was still able to amble around on its own three legs, the housemate had refused to seek veterinary care for the dog.

These are the cases that haunt me—all the pets badly maimed and suffering in silence that I will never see because of human irresponsibility. I try not to think of it as evil. I have to assume these owners are just ignorant or truly destitute (in which case responsibility would dictate they at least take the dog to humane services).

There are three options for hip dislocation (coxofemoral hip luxation) in dogs that don’t involve a trip to humane services or euthanasia. I presented them in my Dogster reply as follows (expanded somewhat for this audience):

1-Do nothing: Your dog may walk and make it around the house OK, but he’ll never run and play without experiencing serious pain. Silence (lack of whining) is NOT evidence of a pain-free life. Eventually, a fibrous connection may form between the leg bone and the pelvis that will allow your dog to bear weight on the limb. This feels like arthritis-plus. It is indisputably painful—all the time.

2-Take him to a surgeon: You will likely pay $1500 to $2500 to have the hip properly repaired, if that’s possible at this point. Time is of the essence in hip dislocations as with most orthopedic injuries. Definitive repair, where the ball and socket joint are restored to their original condition, is usually possible within a few days. After that, the dog’s body will start to repair itself by attempting to form a false joint that will stabilize the area. This attempt at healing brings lots of fibrous tissue into the area, which makes proper reconstruction of the joint very difficult. A drastic salvage procedure, such as hip replacement, is often needed if enough time has elapsed. That’s $3500 to $5000—ouch!

3-Take him to a vet and have his leg amputated: Amputation is by far the best solution for an otherwise healthy dog whose owners have no funds for a veterinary surgeon. Three-legged dogs do very well and usually live long, pain-free lives. An amputation usually costs about $750 to $1000 but many hospitals can do a bare bones approach for less. Don’t expect a payment plan if you don’t have an established relationship with a veterinarian.

It sickens me to know this dog sustained a severe injury two weeks ago and has yet to receive any medical attention. In a perfect world, his owners would be tried for animal cruelty. In ours, dogs are property unless you actively hurt it in an unusually cruel way. Most people are still too ignorant to know that passive neglect of a hip dislocation is a horribly cruel sin of omission.

Dogster`s typically sympathetic crowd was of the same mind. Even those with empathy on overdrive were out for blood.