Hip X-rays Without Anesthesia

One Owner's Experience

by Catherine de la Cruz

Owners of Great Pyrenees and other large dogs are sometimes reluctant to anesthetize their dogs for an optional procedure like hip x-rays. In that case, talk to your vet about doing your dog without it. While OFA says they prefer that the dogs be anesthetized for better positioning, they will accept and read plates from dogs that have been done under only physical restraint. In my own experience, the percentage of dogs that grade "Excellent" has been the same, with or without anesthesia.

All of my dogs have been x-rayed without anesthesia - and I have more than 90 dogs on file with OFA and/or GDC. If your vet is willing to work with you and with your dog, and your dog is calm and willing to be briefly restrained by yours and the vet-tech's hands while the vet extends (pulls on) his legs, there is no reason to use anesthetic. If you have any reason to believe he is in pain, or if he has had stifle repair, then short-term tranquilizer (injectable ace-promazine) would be in order.

The dog is lifted to the x-ray table and laid on his side. You stand at his head to restrain his head and reassure him. A vet tech stands at his rib cage - she will be the one doing the actual positioning when he is rolled to his back. The vet stands at the other end of the table and will be the one positioning his legs.

When everyone is in position, and the dog has been relaxed and reassured by some tummy-rubs, roll him onto his spine. You hold on to his head, pointing his chin up, and use your other hand to restrain his front legs. The tech at his side should be sure he is exactly on his spine - some use sandbags for this. The x-ray machine is adjusted and calibrated, then the vet takes hold of his hind legs above the hocks, pulls them toward her and rotates them inward until the stifles are pointing upward. It is VERY important that the stifles be parallel, and the knee-caps be uppermost. This is to assure that the femurs are exactly in position within the sockets (acetabula) in the pelvis. If the dog is in pain, or struggles too much, exact positioning can't be done, and the x-ray will not be of the best quality.

Vets who do this all the time have a foot-pedal that activates the x-ray - if a tech has to step behind a barrier and activate the machine from there, it is harder to get exact timing. But it can be done.

Once the plate has been exposed, let the dog relax, but remain on his side on the table. Develop the film, examine it for quality and, if a retake isn't necessary, lift him down.

My pups get lots of practice for the "big day" because they become used to the grooming table from puppy-hood, are encouraged to lie down on the table, are occasionally rolled over and put in "strange" positions - all in preparation for the day a vet needs to manipulate them on a table for any reason.

Remember to indicate on the application form whether the dog is identified by microchip or tattoo.

Once the vet has shown you the plate and explained what you are looking at, you are all ready to go home. Be sure you have given the vet a separate check for the OFA fee and ask her to mail the plates for you. If the news has been good, celebrate with ice cream for everyone - vanilla for the dog! Good luck.

Return to Library