She was born in an Iowa puppy mill on
November 20, 2005. According to her “papers” she was
purchased for $699.99 from a pet store called Animals &
Sofia is one of the lucky ones. While
her genetic physical condition is deplorable, her
temperament is wonderful. And more importantly, Sofia was
surrendered to rescue where she could receive the special
medical treatment she needed in order for her to live a
normal, pain-free life.
One of the first things we noticed
during our initial evaluation was that Sofia sat “crooked”.
When she walked or tried to run, instead of having a fluid
forward gait, she bounced up and down. Hip dysplasia was
suspected and was confirmed with radiographs taken at the
same time she was anesthetized for her spay surgery. The
diagnosis was worse than we had expected – Sofia had NO hip
sockets. Her femur was sliding back and forth along the
pelvic bone since there was no hip socket to form the joint
and secure the bone. This is a very painful condition and we
were told she was already showing signs of osteoarthritis at
her young age of 2 years.
Our “rescue friendly” veterinarian, Dr.
Christopher Keefe of the Creeks Edge Animal Hospital in
Hainesport, NJ, referred Sofia to Dr. Robert Orsher, an
orthopedist at the Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center
in Langhorne, PA. Dr. Orsher’s report stated: “both rear
legs were not well muscled but she could walk quite well.
Radiographs demonstrate hip dysplasia with complete
dislocation of her hips. The recommendation is bilateral
femoral head and neck excision, or Femoral Head Ostectomy
surgery, followed by 8 weeks of physical therapy.”
Hip Dysplasia means abnormal growth or
development of the hips resulting in a poor fit of the “ball
and socket” in the hip joint.
In a “normal” hip, the femoral head -
which is the round ball on the top of the femur bone –
connects into the Acetabulum, the socket of the pelvic
bone. There is a fibrous joint capsule surrounding it and
lubricating fluid as well. Both of these bones are coated
with cartilage so that they move smoothly against each
When a dog has dysplasia this ball and
socket don’t fit properly. The acetabulum is flattened, or
in Sofia’s case, non existent, so the ball of the femoral
head has no support and slides whenever movement occurs.
Hip dysplasia was first discovered in
1935 and is prevalent in many breeds of dogs, most commonly
large and giant breed dogs. 85% of the time the dysplasia
occurs bilaterally, or in both hips. 94% of all dysplastic
dogs will show radiographic evidence of their disease by two
years of age. A conscientious breeder will have radiographs
taken of all their breeding dogs at 2 years of age. These
radiographs are submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for
Animals (OFA) and they are read by radiologists. The hips
are given a classification of excellent, good, fair,
borderline, mildly dysplastic or severely dysplastic. An OFA
classification of excellent, good or fair is considered
within normal limits. If the dog is two years of age or
older, a breed registry number is assigned and the dog is
then certified. You can bet Sofia’s puppy mill breeder
wasn’t concerned with the hip quality of his breeding stock.
Hip dysplasia is
inherited and multiple genes must
be present for the condition to occur. It’s quite possible
to get dysplastic puppies from parent dogs with normal hip
radiographs. Most times the puppy’s hips are “normal” at
birth but clinical symptoms may start to show as early as 3
months of age but more commonly between 5-10 months.
Genetics play an important factor in hip dysplasia; however,
other contributing factors are the breed of the dog, the
skeletal conformation and the growth pattern. Feeding a
high protein, high calorie “large breed” dog food can cause
rapid weight gain which increases the occurrence and
severity of the condition. Signs of hip dysplasia include
abnormal gait, “bunny hopping” when running, lameness,
difficulty climbing stairs or getting up and exercise
Treatment of hip dysplasia can be conservative or
surgical. The objectives of conservative therapy are to
relieve pain and maintain limb function, as well as to
continue the dog in as normal a level of activity as
possible. Conservative therapy consists of weight control,
moderate exercise, and pain relief medication. Maintaining
good muscle support will always be the most important
criteria in caring for dogs with hip dysplasia. Muscle is
built by walking, jogging, and swimming. Acrobatics (playing
Frisbee, jumping, etc.) should be avoided as they place
unnecessary pressure on the joint.
Sofia’s surgery was performed on November 13, 2007.
During the procedure the top of the femoral head was cut
off. This relieved the bone on bone pressure. A “false
joint” will form which will encapsulate the two bones but
there will be no bone to bone contact.
She was kept in the Intensive Care Unit for two nights and
sent home the following day with three pain medications - a
Fentanyl patch on her skin and two additional oral
medications. She was not able to walk. Her take home
instructions were that she was to be kept quiet for the next
10 days. She was allowed out of her crate for snuggle
sessions with her foster mom or for potty breaks, but only
if she was supported by a sling that went underneath her
abdomen to prevent her rear legs from bearing any weight.
This ‘slight’ bump in the road didn’t deter our Sofia.
Not one bit. She quickly figured out how to scoot across
hardwood floors in a sitting position.
Her surgical staples were removed on November 24th
and she was ready to begin the next step in her
recovery process - rehabilitation.
Dr. Orsher sent her home with some range of motion
exercises to perform daily: leash walking up and down stairs
several times a day, a controlled leash walk dragging weight
for resistance to build up the muscle, and a referral for
water therapy. She was ecstatic to resume her walks around
the neighborhood, no matter how wobbly she was. Sofia
quickly learned that she could cheat on some of these
in-home exercises. Rather than try to propel herself up the
stairs using her rear legs, she learned that she could pull
herself up the stairs using her chin and front legs, thus
putting very little weight on her rear legs!
Sofia’s initial consultation for her 8 week course of
aqua therapy at PetPT in Cherry
Hill, NJ, involved a swim in the pool with Dr.
Russell Howe-Smith. In the pool he noticed that her rear
legs would cross when she was attempting to walk, something
her foster mom had noted as well. Dr Howe-Smith prescribed
bi-weekly sessions on the underwater treadmill and several
additional daily exercises at home to help her regain her
strength, flexibility and balance. Walking on uneven fields
at her foster mom’s farm and eating her meals while standing
with her front 2 legs elevated on a step to reach her
raised food bowl forces her to use those rear legs. She
also gets back massages to prevent her from curving her
spine when she strains her muscles, and gentle stretching of
her rear legs in the evening. Clearly, the more physical
exercise she gets, the better off she’ll be provided she is
willing and able to do it. Sofia has already demonstrated
that chasing balls, hopping up and down stairs and raiding
the toy basket are not a problem.
LOVES her water therapy.
She can’t wait to jump out of the car and get inside to
leap on the treadmill platform. While she’s on
the treadmill she plays with balls and toys and loves to
dive off the platform into the water to retrieve them.
At her 6 week evaluation Dr. Howe-Smith measured her
around her thighs with a tape measure to see if her muscles
had grown. We were thrilled to learn that Sofia’s legs are
now symmetrical and her flexibility has increased. She will
be undergoing an additional 5 weeks of rehabilitation.
be very important for Sofia to remain slim and trim so that
no additional stress is placed on her joints. Maintaining
her muscle tone will also be extremely important.
can’t even begin to thank Sofia’s foster mom for her
dedication and devotion to Sofia while she has been in her
care. This is a remarkable example of a volunteer going
above and beyond what is normally required of our foster
homes. We know if Sofia could talk she’d express her
heartfelt gratitude as well. In the meantime she’s showing
her appreciation by being a cooperative patient and giving
lots of wags and kisses.