Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) Surgery in Dogs: What To Expect

Four Minutes
Mar 22, 2023

If you’ve noticed that your canine companion is limping or having trouble walking, it may be an issue related to their hip joint. If the problem is severe enough, one treatment option that your vet may recommend is a type of surgery called femoral head ostectomy (FHO).

To help you make an informed decision about whether FHO is the best option for you and your pet, here’s a breakdown of what the surgery entails, when it’s needed, and the potential financial costs from diagnosis to recovery.

What Is Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) in Dogs?

A dog’s hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint. At the end of the leg bone or femur is a ball-like protrusion which is capped with cartilage. This is referred to as the femoral head.1 The femoral head normally fits into the joint in the pelvis bone called the acetabulum. Normally the joint moves smoothly on the cartilage head, preventing friction between the two bones.1

However, if the joint becomes damaged or diseased, your dog’s mobility can be affected. This can lead to painful or awkward movements for your dog.1

With an FHO, a veterinary surgeon can remove the femoral head. After the surgery, your dog’s muscles can help to hold the femur in place. Over time, scar tissue can build up between the femur and the acetabulum creating what is known as a pseudoarthrosis (false joint). While this is different from a normal joint, it can allow your dog to move freely without pain. Over time your dog may be able to recover most of their mobility.1

When Is Dog FHO Recommended?

While not as extensive as a canine hip replacement, an FHO may be considered a ‘salvage procedure’ and can’t be reversed. That’s why it’s usually recommended only if your dog’s pain can’t be treated using medication, weight loss, non-surgical options, and/or other surgical procedures.1

Some common reasons why an FHO may be required can include:

  • Canine hip dysplasia: This is a condition that can occur in younger dogs. When the bones in the ball-and-socket joint don’t grow at the same rate it can cause instability in your dog’s legs. This can lead to a “bunny hopping” gait as well as pain, limping, or lameness.
  • Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease: This condition occurs when the blood supply to the head of the femur is blocked or disrupted. If the bone and cartilage don’t get enough nourishment, it can cause the femoral head to soften. Over time the weakened bone will crack and potentially collapse the joint.1
  •  Arthritis: Osteoarthritis is more likely to occur in older and overweight dogs where the cartilage at the end of the femur wears away over time leading to bone-on-bone grating.

Is FHO surgery right for your dog?

FHO surgery can typically be recommended for smaller dogs (usually under 50 pounds) that are at a healthy weight. However, the final determination will need to be made by your veterinary surgeon. That said, experts claim that the procedure tends to be the most effective in dogs weighing less than 40 pounds.1

How Much Does FHO Surgery Cost for a Dog?

If you and your vet decide that FHO surgery is the way to go to help your furry friend get back on their feet (or paws), it can be a good idea to consider the potential costs.

Diagnostic costs

Before performing any operation, your vet may need to take an X-ray to examine your dog’s hip joint and assess the problem. The average cost of a dog X-ray is about $150 to $250, but some can cost upwards of $500.

Your vet may also need to perform pre-surgical bloodwork to determine how well your dog will respond to anesthesia. This can potentially add another $200 to your costs.2

Costs of surgery

Your dog's size, age, and condition can all affect the cost of the surgery. But according to the New England Veterinary Center, it usually starts around $1,200 and can go up to $2,500 or more.3

Post-surgery costs

While many dogs can return home after the surgery is performed, some may need to spend some time at the vet before coming home which may come with additional costs. After that, you may also need to provide them with additional care as their body builds the new “false joint.”

  • Medications: During the first few days after your dog’s FHO, they may need your help managing the pain and making sure that they are healing properly. This could probably require prescription pain medications and antibiotics.
  • Follow-up visits: It can take about 6 weeks for a dog to make a full-recovery after an FHO. During and after that time, your vet may want to check your dog for any signs of infection and to make sure that they’re healing properly.3

Alternative therapies

To help with your dog’s recovery, your vet may also recommend alternative therapies which may help them heal and recover mobility faster. These may include:

  • Laser therapy: It may seem like science fiction, but according to the American Animal Hospital Association more vets are using therapeutic lasers to help reduce inflammation and improve healing.4 PetMD currently shows that laser therapy can cost between $40 – $100 per session.5
  • Hydrotherapy: With hydrotherapy, your dog is encouraged to swim or run on an underwater treadmill designed for dogs. The American Kennel Club, prices these as $35 – $45 for an initial consultation and $35 – $50 for an underwater treadmill session.6

Worried About the Cost of FHO? Dog Insurance May Be able to Help

The good news about FHO is that it has been shown to be an effective way to help relieve your dog’s pain and improve their quality of life for years to come. However, it may cost you thousands of dollars for their surgery and recuperative expenses.

That’s why MetLife’s Pet Insurance has dog insurance policies that could cover both surgical and traditional treatment options as well as alternative therapies.7,8 Get a quote today.

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1 “Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO), ”Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center

2 “Handy Guide To Dog Blood Tests,” Dogs Naturally Magazine

3 “Fixing Your Dog's Hip - Dysplasia Surgery Cost,” New England Veterinary Center

4 “What is veterinary laser therapy?,” American Animal Hospital Association

5 “Laser Therapy for Dogs,” PetMD

6 “Hydrotherapy for Dogs: A Growing Trend in Canine Physical Therapy,” American Kennel Club

7Coverage underwritten and issued by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 or Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations. Application is subject to underwriting review. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC for details. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator for this coverage. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois) 

8 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC

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