Hip-replacement surgery for dogs

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These days, 18-month-old Percy is full of energy, but just a year ago the mixed-breed dog from the Bahamas was struggling to walk.

"He'd been hit by the car and had been crawling around with no use of his hind legs," said Trish Chinitz, his owner.

Percy was found injured on the streets, and rescued by a New York organization that flew him from the Bahamas to Manhattan, where Chinitz adopted him.

He underwent one surgery to remove part of the damaged bone in his hip, but it wasn't entirely effective.

"He was in so much pain and was not at all able to use his leg as you would hope he could," Chinitz said.

During physical therapy at the Animal Medical Center, Chinitz and Percy came to meet surgeon Dr. Rob Hart, who suggested a total hip replacement.

"We had no idea you could do a hip replacement for a dog," said Chinitz.

Hip replacement in dogs and cats began in the 1950s but has become more popular as technology has evolved. Dr. Hart performs 50 to 60 a year at the Animal Medical Center.

"We're doing 1 or 2 a week," Hart said. "It is becoming more popular because people are starting to expect the same kind of health care they're getting for themselves, or their family members, for their pets."

The procedure takes about 90 minutes and involves just two pieces that are implanted. Afterwards, the dog has full range of motion with his hip.

"The day after the surgery was completed he walked out using all four legs," said Chinitz.

"It's one of the amazing things of total hip replacement: it revolutionizes a pet's experience. They go from having a painful hip and two weeks later you meet them again and they're pain-free," said Dr. Hart, who said the owners do need to make sure the animals rest for about two months after the surgery before resuming regular activity levels.

Dr. Hart says the success rate of the procedure is above 95 percent, and artificial hips in dogs last much longer than they can in humans.

"With dogs, their lifetime is shorter so we can do total hip replacement earlier in life and it will last their entire lifetime," Dr. Hart says.

The cost ranges from $3,500 to $6,000 at the Animal Medical Center, though pet insurance can offset that cost.

Hip replacement isn't the only orthopedic procedure available to pets. Ankle and knee replacement are becoming more popular for dogs and Dr. Hart hopes to eventually offer them in New York.