Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Terriers and toy breed dogs are especially prone to Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease is a debilitating condition in dogs that leads to loss of function of one or both rear legs. It is also called avascular or aseptic necrosis of the femoral head, and it is a condition of the hip joint.

A dog’s hip is a ball and socket joint.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball part of the joint is formed by the head and neck of the femur, which is the large thigh bone. The socket is part of the pelvis.

In Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, an interruption of the blood supply to the head and neck of the femur causes the bone there to die. Eventually, the blood supply returns to normal, and the bone remodels itself. However, while it is in the diseased state and the animal bears weight on it, the head of the femur becomes flattened. Therefore, when the bone remodels to that new shape, the joint becomes deformed. Severe arthritis then develops quickly. The hip is extremely painful for the dog during the initial low blood supply phase and chronically sore after the remodeling phase.

Presentation and Signs of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Causes of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease in dogs is caused by an interruption in the blood supply to the head and neck of the femur. The exact mechanism for this disturbance is not understood. Most cases have a genetic basis, but Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can also be caused by trauma to the hip.

Breeds, Gender, and Age Most Commonly Affected by Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Diagnosis of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is diagnosed through a veterinarian's examination and hip x-rays. The x-rays can also help determine how advanced the disease process is.

Treatment of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Prevention of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Because the majority of cases of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease have a genetic basis, there is no way to prevent its occurrence in individual dogs. Over time, the prevalence of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease could be decreased in the general dog population through responsible breeding practices. Dogs that have suffered from Legg-Calve-Perthes disease should not be used for breeding, as that will perpetuate the disorder.

Prognosis for Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs

The prognosis for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease in dogs that have surgery before arthritis sets in is excellent. "With the proper surgical technique, virtually 100 percent of these animals will become ambulatory and free of pain." (Brinker, 1990)


Works Cited

  1. Brinker, P. F. (1990). Handbook of Small Animal Orthopedics and Fracture Treatment, Second Edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company.
  2. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. (n.d.). Legg-Calve-Perthes Overview. Retrieved from Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

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