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Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Disintegration of Hip Joint in Dogs

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease in canines involves the spontaneous deterioration of the femoral head, located in the hind leg. This leads to the disintegration of the hip joint (coxofemoral) and inflammation of the bone and joint (osteoarthritis).

The precise cause of this condition remains unknown, although issues with blood supply to the femoral head are typically observed in dogs afflicted with Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease. It is frequently diagnosed in miniature, toy, and small-breed dogs, and is genetically linked to Manchester terriers. Additionally, most dogs affected by Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease are between five to eight months old.

Symptoms and Types

  • Gradual onset of lameness over two to three months
  • Carrying of affected limb(s)
  • Pain experienced when moving the hip joint
  • Wasting of thigh muscles on affected limb(s)


The precise cause of Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease remains unknown, although some researchers propose that it is associated with blood supply issues to the head of the femur bone.


To diagnose Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease in your dog, you must provide a comprehensive medical history, detailing the duration and frequency of symptoms. The veterinarian will then conduct a thorough physical examination, focusing on the affected limb and hip joint area.

Laboratory testing is typically unnecessary for diagnosis. Instead, X-rays of the affected region will be taken to detect any changes in the femoral bone and joint. In the initial stages of the disease, findings may include widened joint space, reduced bone density, and thickening of the femoral bone neck. In advanced cases, significant deformation of the femoral head, new bone formation in the affected area, and femoral neck fracture may also be evident.


In some instances, rest, along with pain relief medication and cold packing, may assist in alleviating the dog’s lameness. However, surgery, involving the removal of the affected femur bone head and neck, followed by intensive exercise, is often necessary. Following surgery, your veterinarian will advise on physical therapy to rehabilitate the affected limb(s).

Living and Management

Consistent exercise and physical therapy play crucial roles in rehabilitating the affected limb(s). Failure to adhere to these measures may lead to delayed recovery and inadequate response to treatment. In some cases, small lead weights may be attached as ankle bracelets above the hock joint to encourage early weight bearing.

Regular follow-up checkups, typically scheduled every two weeks, are advised to monitor the effectiveness of physiotherapy and exercises. Patience is essential as overall recovery may span from three to six months. Dogs that are overweight may require specific dietary restrictions.

Owners of Manchester terriers with Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease will be educated about the breed’s genetic predisposition to the condition and are often advised against breeding the dog in the future.

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