Total hip replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces a diseased hip joint with a prosthetic hip. It is the gold treatment standard for several hip conditions, including hip dysplasia. Total hip replacement is typically performed by a specialist, because it is a difficult procedure requiring specialized experience and equipment. VETMED’s board-certified surgeons are experienced in this technical procedure.

Hip joint anatomy

The hip joint is composed of the round proximal end of the femur (femoral head) and a depression on the side of the pelvis (acetabulum). The femoral head fits snugly into the acetabulum, forming a ball-and-socket joint that allows extensive hip movement.

Conditions that can be treated with a total hip replacement

Total hip replacement helps pets regain mobility if they suffer with several hip conditions, including:

  • Hip dysplasia — A genetic condition affecting mainly large-breed dogs, hip dysplasia causes improper hip joint development. Degenerative joint disease develops as the unstable joint is repeatedly loaded by normal activity.
  • Avascular necrosis of the femoral head — Caused when the blood supply to the femoral head is interrupted, avascular necrosis causes crack-like fractures in the dead bone.
  • Hip fractures — A fracture involving the hip joint that is too extensive to repair may benefit from a total hip replacement.
  • Hip luxation — Trauma can force the femoral head out of the acetabulum, tearing the round ligament that holds it tightly in place. Although hip luxation can be treated without surgery, total hip replacement may be necessary for cases that don’t heal.

Total hip replacement candidates

Your adult dog may be a total hip replacement candidate if a painful hip is interfering with his comfort, ambulation, and normal activity. Your family veterinarian may refer you to our surgeons if your pet’s history, physical exam, and X-rays indicate he may benefit from the procedure. We will evaluate your dog, as well as his X-rays and blood work, to determine if he is healthy enough for anesthesia and a good candidate for the surgery.

Total hip replacement procedure

During total hip replacement, a prosthetic hip made of cobalt chrome, stainless steel or titanium, or ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene is surgically implanted. The prosthetic joint is made up of three parts:

  • A femoral stem
  • A femoral head
  • An acetabulum

After your dog is anesthetized, the damaged femoral head is removed and the is acetabulum reshaped if necessary. The femoral stem is inserted into the canal running down the femur center, the femoral head is attached, and the prosthetic acetabulum is placed. Bone cement or screws may be used to hold the prosthetic’s components securely in place.


Your pet will be hospitalized for at least one night following the procedure. When he returns home, strict exercise restriction is critical for proper healing. During the first month, he must be confined to a small room or a crate, with absolutely no running, jumping, or playing, and allowed to walk on a short leash for bathroom breaks only. During the second month, activity restriction and confinement continue, while leash walks gradually increase. After two months, if your pet has progressed well, normal activity will be gradually resumed.

Expectations of total hip replacement

The goals of total hip replacement include pain relief, return to normal activity, and improved quality of life. The procedure’s success rate is higher than 95 percent, although uncommon complications can occur, including:

  • Infection
  • Femoral fracture
  • Dislocation
  • Implant loosening
  • Nerve damage

An Australian Sheperd runs smiling with a frisbee.

After total hip replacement, most owners report their dogs have an improved quality of life, and are more active and more comfortable. Some dogs may even develop a better temperament once they are pain-free.

Ask your family veterinarian if your dog may be a total hip replacement candidate, or contact our hospital to learn more about our total hip replacement surgery.