home / pet health + safety / healthy bytes / vets for pets blog / slipping out of socket: petplan pet insurance discusses dislocated hips in pets
Default image

slipping out of socket: petplan pet insurance discusses dislocated hips in pets

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan


Hips can be tricky. For pet parents, dealing with diseases of the hip can be even trickier (and without pet insurance – costly!).


The hip joint is a “ball and socket” type joint. The ball is the rounded head of the leg bone (or femur), and the socket is located in the pelvis and cups around the ball. The round ligament of the femoral head holds the ball in the socket, and the surrounding hip muscles help support the joint.

Though nearly perfect in design, the hip joint is not without its weaknesses – especially in dogs who are predisposed to hip dysplasia and have shallow sockets. With enough force, even the strongest ligaments and muscles can’t keep the hip joint in place, and the hip can become dislocated.

A dislocated (or luxated) hip occurs when the ball part of the joint separates from the socket. Blunt trauma – like being hit by a car – can cause this type of injury. Affected dogs and cats will not be able to bear weight on their back leg, and the affected leg may appear shorter than the other three. Hip luxations are extremely painful.

If your pet suffers trauma or begins limping, and you suspect he or she may have dislocated a hip, your veterinarian will want to take an X-ray to check the positioning of the hip. Most often, the leg bone slides up and forward, but in some cases the opposite can happen. Knowing where the ball of the joint is located will help your veterinarian correct the problem. Radiographs will reveal if there are fractures in the pelvis or leg which may interfere with correction.

There are two approaches to trying to correct a dislocated hip. The first is through a closed reduction, where the veterinarian tries to manually re-place the hip in its proper location without surgery. Since this procedure is painful, and the vet needs the leg muscles relaxed, your pet will first be anesthetized. Once the joint is back in place, your vet will place the leg in a sling to prevent weight bearing and to encourage the joint to stay in place. Unfortunately, closed reduction can fail as often as it resolves the problem; there’s generally a 50% recurrence of dislocation (although that also means 50% of them stay put!).

If closed reduction fails, open (or surgical) reduction should be considered. There are several options for open reduction, including suturing of the joint capsule and the use of small pins to hold the joint in place. 

Smaller dogs and cats may also choose a procedure called a femoral head ostectomy (FHO), in which the ball part of the joint is simply cut off of the femur and removed. Over time, the muscles around the area will create a false joint. This procedure is not used for dogs over fifty pounds.

Whatever the case, if your dog or cat experiences a hip luxation, he or she will be more likely to experience arthritis is that hip with age. Do your pet a favor and ensure that they stay at a proper weight, as any extra pounds will exacerbate the problem. Consider starting supplements, like glucosamine and fatty acids, for joint support.

A pet that is non-weight bearing should always be seen by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Whether a dislocated hip, fractured limb or ligament injury is to blame, pet health insurance will help take the worry out of the repair bill!


Has your pet ever experienced a dislocated hip? Tell us about the experience in the comments below!

Add a comment here
  • Enter characters above

  • *indicates required field

  • read more »
Email sent Close

Thanks for leaving a comment on this page. It will now be sent to our administrator for approval and should be added to this site shortly.

Comments
Posted by Sonya Brown
on October 21 2013 09:04

Hi Dr. Thank you so much for the very informative post. I have a 21 pound puggle who was hit this weekend by a pickup when she ran into the road on a sniffing expedition. :( That is my worst fear come to pass with any dog. I took her to the emergency animal hospital immediately and the diagnosis is that while she fortunately had no internal injuries and did survive, she seems to have a textbook case of hip luxation. He did try to put in back in socket and was able to get it rotated and in placed, but was unable to get it to stay in socket. Their recommended treatment is for her to have one of those two surgeries today or as quickly as possible so that fibrous tissue doesn't develop. Are there any practical options that are not as surgical. I'd love to say money is not an issue, but while I don't for a second regret the $1000 plus already spent, his guess was approximately $1500 for the surgery and I just don't know how I'm going to be able to do that. I don't want her to be in pain and it breaks my heart that this happened. I wasn't there and someone let her off leash and it did. Clearly, if those are the only humane options then the surgical route is the one I'll take. I have a call in to my vet and am waiting on further info. I just thought it couldn't hurt to ask for an opinion of a vet. Thanks.

Posted by Robyn Mayo
on October 15 2013 15:54

We have an 8 yr old Yorkie who sustained a low-impact hip luxation two days ago. We took him to the vet and an orthopedic specialist and are trying to make a decision as to best treatment. The specialist explained the different options. Cost is certainly a consideration, but doing nothing is not an option for us. He is active but well behaved and would probably tolerate a sling very well. My gut is telling me to try the closed reduction first. Any thoughts from anyone with a similar situation would be greatly appreciated.

our bloggers
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
  • Meet the panel
Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
vet tip of the week

Visit your vet at least once a year to keep your pet protected from preventable diseases.