Total Hip Replacement In Dogs: Four Possible Complications You Should Know About

Posted on: 30 September 2015

If your dog shows signs of hip pain and problems with mobility, a vet may recommend a total hip replacement. Total hip replacement (THR) is a complex, invasive form of surgery, and while the procedure has a high success rate of around 95 percent, complications can arise. Find out about the possible side effects from a total hip replacement, and learn more about the steps you or your vet can take to avoid these issues.

Problems with anaesthesia

Your dog will need anaesthesia during the surgery, and the anaesthetist will constantly check the animal's vital signs to spot any problems. Nonetheless, there is always a small risk of complications when a vet uses anaesthesia, particularly in older dogs. If your dog is at very high risk of problems with the anaesthetic, your vet may tell you that the surgery isn't possible. Make sure the vet knows the animal's full medical history, in case older issues may increase the risk of complications with the anaesthetic.

Wound infection

Post-surgical infections are generally rare because the surgeon works under sterile conditions. Unfortunately, if the joint develops an infection, it's often difficult to deal with the problem, especially if the bacteria get into the bone cement, because medication cannot get to germs this deep in the wound. As such, your vet will carefully check the dog for signs of an infection before surgery. For example, he or she may take a skin sample around the joint for analysis to confirm there are no underlying problems.

Your vet will also normally prescribe antibiotics to help the dog's recovery. Even so, you should carefully check the wound site every day to spot any early signs of an infection. Early treatment can cut the risk that the infection will spread.


You can't explain to a dog that he or she needs to take it easy after surgery, and within a few days, your furry friend will almost certainly want to run around as though nothing is different. Unfortunately, over-exertion can lead to luxation, where the hip pops out of the socket. Any type of trauma can lead to this complication, which may mean your dog needs further surgery.

You need to carefully control your animal for the first 6 weeks after surgery. Keep the animal on the lead and restrict exercise, especially in the first week. Ask the surgeon for advice about exercises and therapy that can help the dog rehabilitate. Pay particular attention to excitable dogs that may jump up at you at home.

Femur fracture

The thigh bone (or femur) connects to the pelvis and the tibia bone. Fractures can sometimes occur, particularly in the middle of the bone. Older dogs or animals that are too active after their surgery are at higher risk of this injury.

Femur fractures will normally heal without damaging the hip replacement, particularly in younger dogs, but the animal is likely to need further surgery. Careful rehabilitation will help this bone gain strength, cutting the risk of a fracture. Nerve damage can also sometimes occur, but this will normally heal over time.

If your vet recommends a total hip replacement for your dog, it's important to know about some of the complications that could arise. For more advice, talk to the surgeon, and make sure you know what you need to do to help your pet recover quickly. For more information, contact a local pet clinic like Veterinary Specialist Services