Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs: Diagnosis, Treatment & More

What is a Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease?

In the leg, just like in humans, the femur is the largest bone. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a condition where the head of the femur (the end of the femur that connects into the ball-and-socket joint in the hip) begins to break down. Long term, this condition can lead to a collapsed hip and arthritis.

What Causes Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease?

While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, it is believed that blood flow in the area is the leading contender. The blood flow interruptions from clots begins to deteriorate the bone over time. This weakening of the bone eventually comes to a head. Some scar tissue in the area can form to act as a temporary solution, but the overarching change in bone structure from this disease ultimately leads to arthritis.

Can Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease Be Diagnosed?

Yes. If you notice your dog having a limp, it could be time to get that limp checked out. Generally, the limp will continue to worsen over time. Lameness can occur from this disease, so it is best to get ahead of it.

This disease is usually only in one of the legs, so if you see a limp and muscle loss in that leg, you should get a professional opinion to rule this disease out as a potential problem.

If you have a smaller dog, most notably in the toy and terrier groups, keep an eye on this disease.

Can Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease Be Fixed?

To properly diagnose this disease, a series of X-rays are conducted over time. Initial X-rays may show a flattening of the femur with later stages showing evidence of deterioration and arthritis.

Okay, So What’s The Prognosis?

Depending on the severity of disease, pain medicine can be a good course of action for more subtle cases. While medicines can help, proper diet and weight management of the dog is essential to keep any unnecessary pressure off the joint.

For more advanced stages of this disease, surgery could be your best course of action. This is only for cases where medical therapy falls short and the X-Rays are showing evidence of deterioration.

In the event of surgery, you have two options, with the second one being the more expensive of the two.

Femoral Head and Neck Osteotomy: Removal of the head of the femur. Here, the body would generate scar tissue to heal.

Total Hip Replacement (THR): The total hip replacement procedure would recreate the hip with joint replacement implants. This surgery is more expensive. In the event that the FHO doesn’t work, this surgery can still be a solution.

Pain medication and physical therapy would be the main steps post surgery. Most veterinarians would have the dog on chondroprotective agents as well. These agents (glucosamine, as an example) help protect cartilage long term.