Even as a young dog Ava’s owners noticed early signs of problems. She was still growing when there were clear indications of difficulty getting up from rest and some hindlimb stiffness during movement. Being a Bernese Mountain Dog, she was expected to grow to over 30kg so anything affecting her mobility could become a big problem.
In 2020, in the midst of Covid, Ava had hip x-rays performed to try to find the root of the problem. These showed a condition called hip dysplasia which is a deformity of the hip joint which often leads to arthritis. “Dys” means bad or abnormal whilst “plasia” means growth or development; so Hip Dysplasia (HD) means abnormal development of the hip joint. Unfortunately for Ava it was affecting both her hips.
The hip (coxo-femoral) joint consists of the socket (acetabulum) at the side of the pelvis which is designed to “cup” around the ball (head) of the femur. This ball and socket should allow the joint to move both backwards & forwards for walking but also to splay outwards like frogs’ legs.
In HD the deformity often involves a shallow socket and a deformed ball. These simply don’t fit as snugly as they should so instead of the joint rotating smoothly, it slides and bumps around causing trauma which leads to joint inflammation (arthritis).
The body responds by forming scar tissue in an attempt to tighten things up, however, in severe cases this only adds to the stiffness and reduced range of motion.
All in all, the hips become stiff and painful, the dog struggles to get up or even to walk, the muscles waste, the joints become less mobile, and quality of life becomes affected. After a follow up set of X-rays late last year, Ava was referred to a specialist for assessment.
They advised surgery due to Ava’s size, her age and the severity of her problem. In January this year she had a Total Hip Replacement on her right hip joint which was the most severely affected. Both the acetabulum & the femoral head were replaced, and Ava began the long road to recovery.
Ava was a champion during this time. Due to her size, her owner’s converted a baby’s playpen as a restricted area for her to rest for the first 12 weeks. She was religiously taken for gentle exercise to encourage healing and strengthening of the tissues around the joint.
Follow up x-rays at 6 weeks were very positive and Ava has gone from strength to strength.
Ava is now seven months on from her surgery. She is very lively and is behaving like a puppy again! She loves running around the field which she hasn’t been able to do for years. She’s even started cocking her leg to wee – which is unusual for a female anyway but especially as she’d never ever done this before! Her owners are thrilled despite the fact she can now jump up on the sofas!
Ava’s surgery was very costly (have I mentioned the benefit of pet insurance!), and the recovery was intense and time consuming. Any decision for a big surgical procedure is difficult and worrying but in Ava’s case it has been a huge success which has transformed her life and given her owners back their active, fun dog.
Well done to Ava and well done to her owners for committing to improving Ava’s quality of life.
Enjoy your pets!
Jason Williams Bicester Vets
Ava’s hips before her surgery
See Ava’s hips after her surgery below
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