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September 7, 2023

Let's take a look at FHO surgery dogs sometimes need. Click through to see Mr. Stix's actual pre- and post-operative x-rays from his FHO surgery in 2019. We have yet-another foster puppy (September 2023) who is recovering from ... you guessed it ... FHO surgery. Yes, I broke my self-imposed fostering sabbatical for the rest of the year to help a new little puppy-girl named STARLIGHT (~4-month-old German Shepherd puppy).

fho surgery dog featured graphic with before & after x-rays

What does FHO mean?

The abbreviation stands for Femoral Head Ostectomy. The femur is the big thigh bone. Ostectomy simply means removal of all or part of a bone. 

What happens during FHO surgery dogs sometimes need?

Basically, the veterinarian removes the ball part of the top of a dog's femur. It's the part that fits into the hip joint socket. 

Doesn't that mean the dog no longer has an actual hip joint?

Yep. It does. This really boils things down, but basically what's left of the femur bone makes enough scar tissue to form a little hip-like pocket.

When might dogs need FHO surgery?

The most common reason I know is that they've suffered a hip injury / fracture, typically from being hit by a car. Many consider the FHO surgery dogs sometimes get a so-called salvage procedure (better than nothing?) when a total hip replacement (much like people often get) isn't affordable or possible.

Dogs born with bad hips (hip dysplasia) or those who develop chronic hip pain also may be candidates for FHO surgery. 

Why choose FHO surgery for a dog's hip?

Well, it's complicated and something to discuss with your veterinarian. In my experience, though, it's often much less expensive and a much easier recovery/rehabilitation compared to total hip replacement. We see it a lot in shelter dogs because so many get hit by cars before they arrive for help.

What does the FHO x-ray show?

You're looking at our youngest dog, Mr. Stix's, right hip both before his FHO surgery and after. He arrived at the shelter with 15 fractures -- all 4 legs, his tail, and his hip. His FHO surgery happened in 2019. He was a mess, and they nearly amputated that right, rear leg, but we worked on physical therapy to show that the leg -- while badly damaged and unable to bend at all at the knee and barely at the ankle / hock joint -- remained useful. 

You can see that they took the upper / inner part of his femur (thigh) bone off. Gone. Here's how his hip looked post-op. It's also before his permanent nakey spot developed an autoimmune skin issue. (I miss that perfect, smooth, pink skin.)

fho surgery dog post-op photo of the incision

Our Latest FHO Surgery Foster Puppy!

Meet STARLIGHT. She is very sweet and quite good in the house. Outside, though, she gets super excited like a JOY Jackrabbit. It's pretty funny, but she still requires some activity restrictions while she heals from FHO surgery, so we can't let her do too much yet. Maybe that's her personality or maybe she just feels cooped up after several weeks at the shelter. 

Her coat coloring is CRAZY. She's very dark, but then she features brindle-like legs, and her undercoat is very light. Right now, she looks like a bit of a dingo. 

Her incision (3rd photo) looks really good.

She is a bit underweight, so I'm feeding her 3 times a day. We'll work on passive range-of-motion stretches and on building her strength back up with increasingly longer / steeper walks and such. She will most likely be with us about a month before going up for adoption from the shelter for which we volunteer. 

FHO surgery dog - foster puppy GSD mix
starlight fho surgery dog shaved area
fho surgery dog incision
About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

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