What is Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease?
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (LCP) is a hip joint disorder involving a dog’s hind leg in the femur bone area. It occurs most commonly in toy and miniature breeds when the dogs are between 4 months and 1-year-old, with the highest risk occurring around the age of 7 months. It can cause numerous problems in dogs, such as inflammation, stiffness, pain, and even inability to move around and walk. The condition usually only occurs in one hip rather than in both hips. Males and females are equally at risk for developing LCP.
Certain dog breeds are more likely than others to be diagnosed with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. These include the Yorkshire Terrier, Pug, Poodle, Scottish Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, Chihuahua, and West Highland White Terrier. Numerous other breeds are also at risk.Legg-Calvé-Perthes (LCP) disease is named after Legg, Calvé, and Perthes, who in 1910 identified this hip disorder that could occur in children. The disease can also occur in dogs, especially very young ones, and can result in serious disability including the inability to walk.
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Symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs
Numerous symptoms can occur when a dog has LCP. These range from mild to severe, depending on how advanced the disease is. Symptoms can include:
- Dog will not put weight on the diseased leg
- Inability to walk from time to time
- Pain during physical examination when a veterinarian tries to extend the hip joint
- Collapse of the femur bone head
- Muscle atrophy
- Diseased leg seems to be shorter because the femur bone head has collapsed
- X-rays show increased joint space
If your dog has any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian for an examination appointment. Early diagnosis of LCP can help to bring about a more favorable outcome.
It does not appear that there are different types of LCP. Even if there is more than one cause of the disease, the symptoms and treatment protocol are the same for any cases of LCP.
Causes of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs
Various hypotheses exist among experts as to what causes LCP in dogs. Even Legg, Calvé, and Perthes, the three people who identified the disease, had differing ideas about its cause. The following are some of the hypotheses about what causes LCP:
- The disease could be related to a vascular problem and limited blood supply going to the femur bone area. Adequate blood supply is needed to bring nutrients and oxygen to, and remove waste from, the hip joint. Legg supported this hypothesis, which seems to be the most commonly supported hypothesis.
- Some experts believe dogs inherit LCP from their parents or other previous generations but are unsure how that happens.
- LCP could be caused by an endocrine system disorder.
- Rickets could cause LCP. This is what Calvé believed.
- Infective degenerative arthritis could cause LCP. Perthes supported this hypothesis.
Diagnosis of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, including limping or lameness, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. At the appointment, the veterinarian will complete a physical examination if they suspect LCP. They will test out the dog’s hip, performing various movements such as trying to extend the dog’s hip joint. They will most likely also do X-rays to get a better picture of what’s going on.
Treatment of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs
A veterinarian will typically use a combination of X-rays and physical examination results to determine the best course of treatment. X-rays play a pivotal role, and some experts believe they are more important to making a diagnosis and deciding treatment course than physical examination is.
Treatment depends on how severe the LCP disease is. If the dog’s case is mild, limiting his or her activity and allowing the dog to rest can provide relief. In some cases keeping the dog in a cage and only allowing the dog to leave the cage when being carried outside for toilet, purposes are the best treatment option. This limited activity along with treating the condition with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NDAIDs) may be the only necessary treatment. If the femoral head collapses at any time when attempting to recover the dog’s health through this type of immobilization and rest, then surgery would likely be required.
If the case is more serious, to the point that the dog is unable to walk at all because of pain and muscles have weakened because the dog is not using them, less invasive options may not be sufficient. In these cases, surgery to remove the femur bone head and neck may be necessary. This can result in a reduction or elimination of the pain associated with LCP. After surgery, the tissue and muscle in the area form a false hip joint. Also in serious cases of LCP, total hip replacement surgery may be necessary. In some cases of LCP, surgery provides the best outcome, as opposed to less invasive options.
Recovery of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs
If the dog does not need surgery for LCP but instead requires complete rest and immobilization, after following the rigid rest protocol the dog may experience a complete recovery. He may then be able to move and walk normally without pain. This healing process may take several months although healing time and outcome vary based on each dog’s individual case. It is essential to follow the strict protocol for rest, or there could be relapses and inadequate recovery.
If the dog has surgery on the femur bone head and neck for LCP, the recovery process involves various exercises and other protocols based on the veterinarian’s individualized instructions. It can take a while – up to 1 year - for complete recovery to occur. During this time the dog should gradually experience improvements in functioning, and pain should decrease as a result of surgery.
It is important to take your dog for all appointments that your veterinarian recommends throughout the recovery process and to carefully follow all instructions from the veterinarian. This will help to ensure a complete recovery. In all cases of LCP, whether mild or severe, the veterinarian will typically do X-rays at times to monitor the recovery process.