I walked into surgery today not to fix an animal, but to stop that animal’s pain. Sometimes that is all that is possible, however personally I believe that no animal should suffer so this option is better than leaving the animal in pain.
This surgery is listed in the textbooks as a salvage procedure, a surgery of last resort when nothing else has worked or is possible. It is for the hip joint when there are such severe arthritic changes that it is just pure pain with every movement. The options with damage to this joint in mild cases is for pain management via medication, however when it gets to a severe stage the only option becomes total joint replacement.
Total hip joint replacement is an option that is very real within the UK, and within specialist referral veterinary hospitals a common procedure that takes place on a weekly basis. However this can be an expensive procedure, though if you do have pet insurance may be covered under this so it is worth checking if you have pet insurance.
When total joint replacement is not possible, then the only option when pain medication fails tends to be the femoral head and neck ostectomy. This is a surgery where the top part of the femur (the thigh bone) that forms the joint connection to the hip is removed. The movement of this bone against the socket in the hip is what usually causes the pain, so the removal of this part of the bone stops the movement and so stops the pain.
The muscles around this joint are pretty strong, and during the months after the surgery the space will be filled with new tissue and the surrounding muscles will develop more. However this surgery does mean that the animal will be permanently lame and have a limp. In some cases the leg may even appear a little shorter than the opposite leg, however there will be no pain, and the patients I have seen with this surgery have recovered well to become very active again.
This is also a different surgery in a different way, as after the surgery instead of restricting the animal to cage rest the animal should be lead walked straight away to help the development and strengthening of the muscles. The difference with patients that I have seen from before surgery and a week later has been remarkable. However I hope that one day total hip joint replacement will become affordable for every animal in every country.