Issue Description Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is common in small
breed dogs and affects the hip joints of dogs in the ages of 4 to 12
months old. The hip is joined by the thighbone forming a ball and
socket joint. The top of the thighbone is also known as the head of
the femur. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease causes the center of the head of
the femur to degenerate and die. When this bone degenerates in such a
young dog, it is severely painful and causes the dog to be unable to
walk. Other Names Legg-Calve-Perthes Syndrome, Aseptic Necrosis of the Femoral Head,
Legg-Perthes Disease, Coxa Plana
Causes Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is considered to be
an inherited disease and possibly occurs when dogs are bred inside the
same litter. It is most commonly seen in small breed dogs like
terriers, miniatures, and toy poodles though no one is, at this point,
sure why the smaller breeds of dogs are targeted more than the larger
Symptoms A young dog affected with this disease will
gradually develop pain and lameness in 1 hind leg, which slowly
worsens over 3 or 4 weeks. The pain will become quite severe, and
there is usually muscle shrinkage (atrophy) in the affected leg.
Diagnosis Your veterinarian will suspect this disease if
your young toy or small-breed dog shows signs of pain and lameness in
the hip joint. Usually only one hip is affected, but occasionally both
are involved. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, there
may be muscle wasting (atrophy) in the affected limb. Radiographs will
show whether your dog has the characteristic features of this disease,
and also if there are other bony degenerative changes to the hip.
Diagnosis is confirmed with a bone biopsy.
Treatment Treatment of this condition varies according to
the severity of the signs seen. In mild cases, enforced rest may be
sufficient to allow healing of the damaged areas to occur. In some
cases, immobilization of the affected limb using an Ehmer sling may be
beneficial to recovery. Many dogs have advanced cases of this disease
by the time they are examined by a veterinarian and medical treatment
is not likely to work. In these dogs, excision of the femoral head
(ball portion of the hip joint) is often beneficial. Removal of this
section of the bone diminishes painful bony contact in the hip joint.
Recovery from this surgery can be slow with recovery periods of up to
one year sometimes occurring before good use of the affected leg
returns. If muscle atrophy is not present at the time of surgery the
recovery time is usually much less. Pain relief and anti-inflammatory
medications may be beneficial.
It is also important to
remember if you have a dog that has had Legg-Calves-Perthes disease
then you should not breed it. If any family member of the animal has
had the disease then they should not be used for breeding so the
disease is not passed on to other generations of dogs, since it is
believed to be hereditary.