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Sky immediately following total hip replacement surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.
Sky immediately following total hip replacement surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

Total Hip Replacement Gives Young Husky Bright Future

“Case of the Month” – July 2021

Sky, a 2-year-old female Siberian husky mix, was rescued nearly a year ago. Her owners Renee Gee and Brian Estill of San Francisco noticed some stiffness in her back right leg when walking. While doing a good job of masking any pain, Sky did yelp when her primary veterinarian palpated and extended the leg. X-rays confirmed a luxated right hip, and her veterinarians suggested a hip replacement might be necessary. A second opinion resulted in the same diagnosis and surgery suggestion. Being a thorough and detail-oriented dog owner, Gee decided a third opinion at the UC Davis veterinary hospital was the right thing to do.

On orthopedic exam at UC Davis, Sky had a mild lameness on the right hind leg at the walk and more visible at the trot. She could easily put weight on the leg while standing but was painful on extension of her right hip and a grating/grinding called crepitus was felt my faculty member Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little and resident Dr. Karen Park upon range of motion of Sky’s hip. Additional x-rays confirmed her right femur was luxated out of the hip joint and had chronic degenerative changes. Dr. Marcellin-Little agreed that a total hip replacement was the best course of action.

Sky with owner Renee Gee at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.
Sky with owner Renee Gee at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

“I was devastated,” said Gee. “She’s so young and has so much energy, that I never thought a hip replacement would be recommended. But each veterinarian we saw kept suggesting the same treatment option, so we realized it was the right thing to do. We were encouraged, though, by all of them reassuring us that her young age afforded a better opportunity to heal properly with few potential complications.”

Sky’s total hip replacement surgery involved a stem implant being placed in the femur that interacts with a cup that is implanted in her pelvis. The surgery was a success, and Sky remained hospitalized for three days.

But the hardest part was yet to come.

Sky had to remain inactive for three months while her hip healed. She was confined to a small pen and only allowed brief leash walks outside for elimination purposes. She was not allowed any off-leash or high impact activity and was not allowed to run, jump, or play until cleared by a veterinarian to return back to normal activity.

“We were told no activity for the first month,” said Estill. “It was a bit of a struggle for the first two weeks – she has so much energy. But she adapted well.”

“She did really well with the crate confinement,” Gee agreed. “They told us the first month of recovery holds the highest risk of the hip displacing, so we followed the doctor’s recommendations closely.”

Another recommendation from Dr. Marcellin-Little was for Sky to lose about five pounds. The lesser weight would ease the burden on her hips and improve her overall health.

“Dr Marcellin-Little was really good about educating us on what a healthy weight is for Sky,” Gee said. “It can be very misleading with a dog like a husky. You’d think they should be bigger.”

When Sky reported for surgery, she weighed 55.6 pounds. At Sky’s three-month recheck appointment, Gee and Estill did a great job of getting her down to 49.4 pounds.

X-rays taken at her recheck appointment showed the cup and stem in her hip to be stable with no sign of movement or loosening. With that good news, Sky is able to transition to more freedom of movement over the next few weeks and slowly work her way back to full activity.

Sky is covered by pet insurance which helped pay for a large portion of the total costs.

“Finances were a major consideration,” said Gee. “Had we not had pet insurance, we might not have chosen the hip replacement.”

However, Sky’s preliminary examinations and surgery workups exhausted a significant portion of the maximum insurance payout. Therefore, Gee and Estill received additional financial help from friends and family.

“We’re deeply grateful for our supportive friends and family whose generous donations allowed us to move forward with the surgery and get Sky back on her feet,” Gee said.

“Working with the UC Davis team was absolutely great,” continued Gee. “We appreciate the great communication from the doctors. I had a lot of questions, and the team responded to all of them and never made me feel like I was asking too many. That made me feel confident that I was doing all the right things. We’re so lucky to live near the top veterinary school and have a top surgeon perform Sky’s surgery.”

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Upcoming improvements to the UC Davis veterinary hospital as part of the future Veterinary Medical Center expansion will allow clinicians like Dr. Marcellin-Little to expand their cutting-edge procedures and continue to push the limits of veterinary medicine. With the help of donors to the project, faculty members will be able to integrate teaching, research, and clinical activities into compassionate care that will transform more lives like Sky’s. 

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