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Huck’s story
Veterinarians usually see cases of hip dysplasia in very young dogs or middle-aged ones when arthritis sets in but symptoms can worsen at any age.
October 23, 2014

Case solved: hip dysplasia


When Huck, a 1-year-old Labrador mix, jumped off the transport truck into the waiting arms of his new owner, Leigh Becker, his outlook on life should have been different. But instead of a light gait and happy disposition, he was limping and hurt.

“I knew something was wrong right away,” said Becker. “Huck was in a lot of pain and as a result, he was distant and aloof. It really affected his behavior.” What should have been a happy time of new beginnings was instead stressful and challenging for both of them.

Becker brought Huck to the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at the Tufts Veterinary Medical Center at the Cummings School for medical care at the urging of her mom, who had brought her own pets there in the past. Michael Kowaleski, DVM, DACVS/ECVS, an orthopedic surgeon, diagnosed Huck with hip dysplasia, a common canine condition where hip joints do not form correctly.

Veterinarians usually see cases of hip dysplasia in very young dogs or middle-aged ones when arthritis sets in but symptoms can worsen at any age. Without treatment, the condition is painful and can lead to loss of hip functionality over time.

The hip is comprised of a ball and socket joint, and total hip replacement surgery is a state-of-the art technique in which the natural joint is replaced with an artificial ball and socket joint. Performing this surgery is technically demanding and should be performed by a specially trained veterinarian who performs the procedure frequently.

Depending on the complexity of the case, a routine surgery takes a little more than hour. In many patients a single total hip replacement will control symptoms, but in others both hip joints can benefit from surgery.

Dr. Kowaleski helped advance total hip replacement surgery while at The Ohio State University and brought the technology to the Cummings School in 2007.  Since then, Dr. Kowaleski and his team perform approximately 50 total hip replacement surgeries annually at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals.

Becker elected to have both of Huck’s hips replaced; the first surgery took place in the winter and the second surgery took place months later at the end of the summer.

huck2“Huck was a great patient,” said Dr. Kowaleski. “Dogs recover much quicker than people after a major surgery like that. They are mobile soon after and the challenge is holding them back from activity so they can heal. Not only did Huck’s physical condition change but he has a much more outgoing personality now that he is more mobile.”

Becker agreed that her dog bounced back quickly and wanted to do more that he was allowed to do. But once he was cleared for activity, the young dog was running and jumping. The pair now hikes in the woods and stays active together. Huck is happiest when he is right by his owner’s side.

“The first year was really tough and it was my first time caring for a pet of my own. I relied on everyone at Tufts to help me through it. Dr. Kowaleski put me at ease. He explained all the steps along the way and was so helpful,” said Becker. “It’s amazing…now that Huck is pain free, he’s an exuberant young dog. Tufts is the only place that could have rehabilitated Huck to the dog he was meant to be.”

To learn more about the orthopedic surgery service at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals, please visit: