Can Surgery Be Done for Arthritis in a Dog's Hocks?

Your dog's hocks are located just above his paws, between the tarsal bones and tibia.
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Osteoarthritis is the most common form of canine arthritis to occur in a dog’s hocks, his ankles. Sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage wears away and bone-on-bone friction occurs. This painful condition causes bone destruction as well as tissue swelling and abnormal bone regrowth. Although no cure for osteoarthritis exists, your veterinarian can prescribe treatments to reduce pain and slow the disease. These treatments include surgery, prescription medications and physical therapy.

Recognizing Symptoms and Diagnosing Arthritis

If your dog is suffering arthritis in his hocks, he may exhibit some telltale signs. If he’s limping, favoring a paw, lame, or excessively licking a particular hock or paw, contact your veterinarian immediately. Other signs include lethargy and decreased alertness. Your veterinarian will begin a series of diagnostic tests, wherein you’ll be required to share your dog’s medical history. Radiographs and a physical exam may be conducted, which should help your veterinarian determine whether your dog’s arthritis is inherited, caused by aging or caused by a previous injury.

Treating Hock Arthritis With Arthrodesis Surgery

In the hocks, the only arthritis surgery possible is arthrodesis. This surgery is performed only in severely debilitating cases of end-stage arthritis. In order to be a candidate for the surgery, your dog’s hock must be free of infection. While your dog is anesthetized, your veterinarian will remove all the cartilage from the affected area. Then, bone graft will be placed into the joint and the joint will be fused into a stable position with screws, plates, pins or wires. After approximately six weeks of rest and recovery, you will begin increasing your dog’s exercise. Most dog owners report significant improvements after arthrodesis surgery.

Treating Hock Arthritis With Prescription Medications

No cure exists for arthritis; surgery doesn’t become a viable option until all other treatments have been exhausted. It’s likely your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics, painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs to help your dog manage his pain and reduce the swelling. All drugs must be taken as prescribed and some drugs prescribed for dogs have undesirable side effects. Thoroughly follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

Treating Hock Arthritis With Physical Therapy and Home Care

Because arthritis in the hocks is particularly painful, you should always consult with your veterinarian before providing physical therapy. Your veterinarian may advise that you take your dog on five-minute walks and participate in gentle play sessions. Swimming may be part of the regimen. Because arthritis is most often associated with age and weight, you may be asked to change your dog’s diet and make efforts to reduce his weight.