What is canine Legg-Calvé-Perthes and what is its treatment?

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is a serious pathology that mainly affects puppies of smaller breeds. And we say that it is serious because the recommended treatment goes through a surgical intervention.

Below we will describe what this disorder consists of and what symptoms should put us on alert, especially if our dog belongs to a risk group. It is essential that we go to the vet.

Index of contents

  • 1 What is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?
  • 2 Symptoms of Legg-Calvé-Perthes
  • 3 How is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease diagnosed?
  • 4 What is the treatment of Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?
  • 5 How is surgery for Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?
  • 6 Why should a dog be operated on with Legg-Calvé-Perthes?

What is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?

Technically, this pathology is caused by avascular necrosis of the head of the femur. In other words, the head of the femur, which is the leg bone that articulates with the hip, suffers from a disruption in the blood supply that causes tissue death.

It is not known why this necrosis occurs, but it may be due to genetic factors. Sometimes appears after trauma able to dislocate the hip. For example, when the dog suffers a traffic accident or falls from a certain height. Causes such as vascular alterations, anatomical factors or endocrine problems are also considered.

It affects more to the puppies of races of small size, toy or dwarfs as for example the yorkshire breed, although there are also cases in large dogs. Above all, it manifests between 4 and 11 months of age, before the animal finishes growing. Avascular necrosis of the femur can occur in one or both legs.

Symptoms of Legg-Calvé-Perthes

With the head of the femur necrotic, when the dog loads the weight on that area, in the most severe cases, there is a collapse of the damaged bone, a fracture of the cartilage and a progressive destruction of the hip joint.

This situation, in addition, causes a wear on the muscles and ends up leading to symptoms such as the following:

  • Very marked limp.
  • Total inability to carry weight on the affected leg.
  • Loss of movement in the joint.
  • The diseased leg may appear somewhat shorter than the healthy one.
  • Pain.
  • Muscular atrophy.

How is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease diagnosed?

If we appreciate any of the symptoms described above, we should go to the vet. This professional will suspect the existence of this pathology based on the clinical picture presented by the dog, its size and age, since we have seen that the problem is more common in puppies of small breeds.

The test that allows us to confirm the diagnosis is the standard x-ray, which can be done in any veterinary clinic. With it we will be able to see the state of the hips, the femurs and the pelvis in general, in addition to the severity of the damage that has occurred.

What is the treatment of Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?

The basic treatment of this pathology is oriented to the restriction of physical activity and the administration of drugs with an analgesic effect. The problem is that this protocol can help us to see an improvement, especially in the milder cases, but for good results it will have to resort to surgery.

In fact, in dogs with greater damage, this conservative treatment protocol is not recommended, since it only increases muscle atrophy. For them and for mild cases in which the previous treatment has not worked after a month of prescription, surgery is definitely recommended.

How is surgery for Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?

This pathology must be resolved surgically by a veterinary surgeon. Technically, the procedure performed is an excision arthoplasty of the head and neck of the femur. It is also possible a complete hip replacement, removing the joint and changing it for an artificial one.

In the first case, the vet will remove the head and neck of the femur so that the joint is supported by the muscles of the area. It is the gluteal area, which is well developed in dogs, so joint stability as good as that offered by bone until then is achieved.

With surgery we get the patient to stop feeling pain and regain mobility, especially in smaller dogs. In short, the animal will achieve a good quality of life and a favorable prognosis. Arthroplasty is mostly used because the complete replacement requires an orthopedic specialist and is more expensive.

Why should a dog be operated on with Legg-Calvé-Perthes?

Although with medication and rest it is possible that we improve the clinical signs that the sick dog is going to show, the truth is that, without surgical intervention, over time the joint will deteriorate, which will cause chronic pain in the dog. Therefore, the general recommendation is to operate.

After surgery, the dog usually recovers without any problem. The veterinaryn will provide us with the necessary post-operative care adapted to your situation. Of course, in the most severe cases the healing will be somewhat slower. It can take up to a year for muscle mass to fully recover.