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Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease in dogs – the clinical picture, cause, symptoms, affected breeds and diagnosis.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes is also referred to as aseptic femoral head necrosis. Necrosis means the death of one or more cells. Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is a disease of the femoral head in puppies and young dogs in which there is death of tissue of the femoral head. However, this process does not result from inflammation or a pathogen.

How can the femoral head (head of the femur) die?

This disease of the musculoskeletal system is a growth disorder in the young dog. This occurs prior to epiphyseal joint closure (closure of the growth plates). A deficient blood supply occurs, causing the tissue of the femoral head to die. So it cannot develop to its normal size. In addition, severe deformations occur, which is caused by bone resorption (osteolysis). The femoral head can thus no longer fit optimally into the joint socket. This inevitably leads to the development of hip osteoarthritis, which is very painful for the dog.

What causes the circulatory disturbances and inadequate blood supply to the head of the femur?

The reason for this is not entirely clear. A genetic predisposition is strongly suspected. Metabolic disorders, malposition of limbs and hormonal factors are also discussed.

Which dogs are affected?

Legg-Calvé-Perthes mostly affects smaller dogs that weigh less than 10 kilograms. Commonly affected breeds include:

  • Maltese
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Dwarf dachshund
  • Pekinese
  • Miniature poodle
  • West Highland Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Cairn Terrier

Most often, the disease occurs only on one side.

What are common symptoms for Legg-Calvé-Perthes?

The first symptoms usually appear between the 3rd – 10th month of life. They resemble those of hip dysplasia. They may last for several months and then subside. The resolution of symptoms is causal in the completion of bone growth. However, the deformities of the femoral head and neck caused by the disease prevent the joint from functioning normally.

  • Pain during movement
  • Sensitivity to touch on the hip
  • Snapping backwards to the hip as if there were a fly there
  • Licking and nibbling on the hip area
  • Mild to severe lameness
  • Pain when standing up
  • Significant loss of muscle in the thigh and buttocks
  • Decreased enjoyment of play and movement
  • Faster fatigue and lying down
  • Limited mobility of the hip

In any case, if your dog shows one or more of the symptoms, I recommend that you take him to your veterinarian to have him examined accordingly.

How is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease diagnosed?

The typical symptoms and an orthopedic examination provide initial clues, which are confirmed by appropriate radiographs.

In the next article you will learn how Legg-Calvé-Perthes is treated, what physiotherapy can do and what you as a dog owner can do yourself to support your dog in a meaningful way.

All the love, your Tina



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