A Guide To Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) For Your Pet

Reviewed By Tom •  Updated: 03/29/21 •  4 min read
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The femoral head ostectomy (FHO) is a medical procedure used to relieve pain and restore normal mobility to a broken or infected hip in dogs or cats. It was first used by a Scottish Veterinarian named ‘James Spreull Andrew Spreull’ in 1961. FHO can be done on cats or dogs of all ages. Some of the other names that this procedure is known for are Girdlestone’s operation and excision arthroplasty of the femoral head and neck.

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When To Consider The FHO For Your Dog/Cat:

The FHO operation is initially advised for dogs weighing less than 50pounds. The main reason for performing FHO surgery is to correct fractures around or within the animal’s hip or to treat hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia in dogs is a deformity of the hip joint that can be corrected with this procedure. This operation is also advised when the hip joint cannot be corrected by pain medications, non-surgical procedures, or weight loss. FHO is suggested as the last option.

For Injuries

It is also performed on animals with trauma where the head of the femur is damaged seriously. Most dog owners with Hip Luxation consider FHO as the Surgical corrections are usually less expensive as compared to the life-long care and treatment of pain. Moreover, in some cases, surgery is the only option to get your pet out of the pain.

For Arthritis

Another reason FHO is used is Severe arthritis of the hip. In continuous, final arthritis, the cartilage that shields the acetabulum and femur’s head can become crumbled/damaged. Now when the hip moves, the animal will feel extreme pain due to this. To correct and relieve pain, performing an FHO can eliminate this position of connection and ease the pain.

For Leg Perthes

FHO is also used in a rare disease called ‘Legg-Perthes.’ This disease often develops in toy breed/miniature dogs. In this disease, at an early age of the dog, the bone in the head of the femur starts to expire. It starts to fall because of the Degenerative Changes. This disease also gives extreme pain. In this case, FHO can be used to separate the femoral head to relieve the dog’s pain. 

Procedure Of Femoral Head Ostectomy:

Most of the time, you’ll have to visit the clinic early morning. The surgeon might also guide you about the food-intake of your pet before the surgery. 

FHO surgery is done using anesthesia. The surgery reveals the part of the head of the femur bone. A Bone Hammer or a saw (short) is used to separate and chisel the head. Most of the time, the surgery is done only on one side, and then after it recovers, the surgery is performed on another side. In the FHO surgery, the femur’s head is not changed but is naturally left to recover and develop Fibrous Scar tissue to make the joint ‘False Joint,’ also known as ‘pseudoarthrosis.’  

The femur’s neck is usually displaced along with the femur’s head to prevent surgery issues, such as continuing pain or bone rubbing. This process is also named “Femoral head and neck ostectomy.”

Your dog will stay in the clinic after the surgery for some hours or days, but this may vary according to your pet’s health or operation. Your pet might be wearing an Elizabethan collar (cone) to stop licking at the operational area.

How long does it take for a Dog/Cat to recover from FHO surgery?

Your dog or cat shouldn’t indulge in a challenging physical activity after its operation for around 4-5 weeks of Surgery. They should avoid activities leading to immediate turns and twists as these actions can slow down the muscle and joints’ healing process. Usually, it’ll take roughly six weeks to recover correctly after the Surgery.

Post Operative Complications

Post-operative complications after FHO are rare and have little to no effect on the animal’s life. Still, they involve shortening of the limb, neurological injury or muscular injury, knee cap luxation, muscle atrophy, continued lameness, and lesser motion range.


Nearly all of the dogs/cats re-acquire the natural function of the injured limb. The animals with a weight lesser than 40lbs are reported to get more significant deep-routed results than those heavier in weight.


FHO is a safe surgery done to relieve pain and recover natural hip mobility in most cats and dogs. This Surgery is often recommended to animals weighing less than 50 pounds. This Surgery is primarily used to heal fractures in or within the hips. Your doctor will instruct you to prevent your pet from getting into strenuous physical activities to fasten up the healing process. Keep in mind that post-operative care is very important to avoid any dislocation of the newly formed hip joint. So, the follow-ups are vital. 

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Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!

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