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Hip Dysplasia in Cats: Surgical Options

Dysplasia, Hip Dysplasia, Maine Coon, Persian Cats, Total Hip Replacement

When our adopted Maine Coon started having difficulty getting up, we were concerned that she might be suffering from the hip dysplasia common to certain breeds of cats. Fortunately, the vet determined that she was simply awakening slowly from her catnaps.

What is Hip Dysplasia in Cats?

This disorder occurs when a cat’s hip joints fail to develop normally. According to PetMD, the malformation slowly deteriorates, resulting in the loss of function of the pet’s hip joints.

With abnormal hip joint development, the animal can end up with a dislocation of the ball and socket. These cats develop hip dysplasia due to a mix of genetic and environmental causes. They inherit a defective gene from each parent, even though neither parent might have shown any signs of dysplasia.

While the condition is relatively rate, some breeds are exceptionally prone to hip dysplasia. Maine Coon and Persian cats are particularly at risk because of their heavy bones. As a matter of fact, nearly one out of every five Maine Coons suffers from this type of dysplasia.

Cats with hip dysplasia show signs of lessened activity. They might have trouble getting up or be reluctant to run, jump or climb stairs. Limping often seems worse after exercise. In addition to osteoarthritis and a decreased range of motion in their joints, they sometimes lose thigh muscle mass.

Surgical Options

Many cats with hip dysplasia require surgery. Whether it’s appropriate depends on the pet’s size, age, severity of joint looseness, extent of osteoarthritis and a veterinarian’s treatment preference. Owner finances are also a concern.

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For cats that don’t undergo surgery, physiotherapy – passive joint motion – often reduces joint stiffness and helps protect muscle integrity. Anti-inflammatory drugs minimize swelling and inflammation, and pain medications reduce discomfort. Weight control is important to all cats with hip dysplasia.

The Michigan Veterinary Specialists practice indicates that the prognosis for hip dysplasia in cats is good with treatment. There are four surgical options for treating this disorder.

Total hip replacement. This type of surgery is successful in about 90 percent of the cases in which it’s used. Cats suffering from severe osteoarthritis or who don’t respond to medical treatment are candidates. The most serious potential side effect is infection at the site of surgery. It can occur immediately after the procedure or even years later. When an infection occurs, vets typically need to remove any implants. Antibiotics before and after the surgery help ward off bacteria from reaching the cat’s bloodstream and, ultimately, the prosthesis. Another potential problem is dislocation of the prosthetic hip if the pet is overly active during recovery. This requires a second surgery to correct.

Femoral head and neck excision. It might be the best choice when a total hip replacement is prohibited by cost. This surgery works best when the animal has good hip muscles. While it doesn’t usually result in completely normal hip function, it can significantly reduce the pain of a cat with hip dysplasia. Infection is rare. Without sufficient post-operative exercise, the hip can lose mobility, however. Therefore, rehabilitation exercises are important.

Triple pelvic osteotomy. This surgery also has around a 90-percent success rate. The procedure is appropriate for cats less than a year old and rotates the hip socket. One drawback is the possible development of arthritis as the animal ages. While infection is uncommon, implants that secure the pelvis might loosen if the cat is overly active during the 60 days following surgery.

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Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis. Kittens younger than six months are candidates. The procedure fuses part of the pelvis to improve the stability of the hip joint. It also has a success rate of around 90 percent.

Following surgery, the veterinarian will schedule follow-up appointments for X-rays and to evaluate the rate of healing. Once a cat has received a diagnosis of hip dysplasia, the animal should never be bred since this disorder has a genetic basis. The parents of the cat also should not be bred again.