Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

This disease of young small breed dogs results in destruction of the head (ball) of the femur bone. The underlying cause of this condition is likely genetic. The condition typically affects only one hip, but 17% of dogs have both hips affected. This disease is due to a disturbance of the blood supply within the femoral head that subsequently results in death and resorption of the bone. The femoral head collapses which results in hip pain.

LCP affects small breeds of dogs with the Yorkshire terrier most commonly affected. Warning signs of LCP that are most commonly seen by pet owners may include hind limb lameness, muscle atrophy, stiffness on the affected limb when first getting up from a nap, exercise intolerance, and pain upon petting the hip. The lameness initially is mild but with time becomes severe. Examination by a veterinarian typically reveals pain on extending or spreading the affected hip(s) apart.

Legg Calve Perthes - X-ray copyDiagnosis
The diagnosis of LCP is based on the evaluation of X-ray images of the pelvis. In order to obtain properly positioned X-rays, your dog may need to receive sedation.

Typical signs on the X-rays include a moth-eating appearance of the femoral head, a misshapen femoral head and arthritis (bone spurs) of the hip joint.

Nonsurgical treatment of LCP includes exercise restriction and administration of medications to relieve pain. Usually this conservative treatment modality is not effective, and surgery is needed. The treatment of choice is the femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO). This procedure involves the surgical removal of the misshapen femoral head and neck. Following this procedure, the hip is kept in place with the soft tissues around the hip and the hip muscles. As healing progresses, a false hip joint forms as scar tissue develops in the hip. After surgery, rehabilitation therapy is critical to ensure the hip maintains normal range of motion and to rebuild the muscles around the hip. Rehabilitation by a professional therapist is strongly recommended. This part of the treatment is as important as the surgery.

Aftercare and results
The FHO has the best outcome in small dogs; however, intermittent hip soreness may be seen with heavy activity. Thus intermittent use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories may be needed.

For more information on this subject, speak to the veterinarian who is treating your pet.