Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease in Dogs

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Last updated on
4 min read

Key takeaways

Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP) disease is a rare condition in dogs that results from loss of blood flow to the head of the femur (the thigh bone) where it forms the hip joint with the pelvis.

  • An inherited condition of growing puppies, and is found most commonly in small terrier breeds and miniature poodles
  • Typically affects one hip joint
  • Symptoms include lameness on the affected hip, pain on palpation, poor muscle mass, and loss of function of the limb
  • Diagnosis involves physical examination and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment includes pain relief, exercise, weight management, and surgery
  • Prognosis following surgery is good for reduction in pain and return to function
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A closer look: Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease in Dogs

Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP) is a rare condition that results in pain and loss of function of the affected hip joint. While not life-threatening, LCP is a distressing condition that usually requires surgical treatment.

LCP is occasionally bilateral. Dogs with bilateral disease are sometimes not obviously lame but have limited mobility resulting in reduced ability to run, jump and climb. There may also be muscle loss around both hips.

Dogs with suspected LCP benefit from prompt veterinary attention.

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Risk factors

LCP is a degenerative condition and worsens as the femoral head deteriorates, and osteoarthritis progresses. As this occurs, symptoms of lameness and pain worsen. In severe cases, dogs may be unwilling to move and in severe pain.

The genetic risk factors of LCP are not fully understood, but it is more common in small terrier breeds, particularly Yorkshire terriers, and miniature poodles.

Possible causes

LCP is an inherited disease which results from a disturbance to the blood flow to the femur in young puppies. Most dogs with LCP are between 5-8 months of age.

Loss of blood supply to the femoral head results in weakening of the bone and cell death. The bone collapses under pressure, leading to a severely misshapen femoral head, loss of cartilage, the development of arthritis, and pain.

Main symptoms

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnosis of LCP disease involves:

  • Physical examination
  • X-rays
  • CT scan

Referral to an orthopedic specialist may be required.

Steps to Recovery

In some cases, conservative management is attempted for cost concerns or to avoid the risks of surgery.

Conservative treatment options include:

  • Crate rest
  • Pain relief
  • Physiotherapy
  • Exercise management

In most cases, conservative management is unsuccessful.

Definitive treatment is surgical, such as:

  • Femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHNO) - surgical removal of the femoral head
  • Total hip replacement (THR)

Following surgery, physiotherapy including range of motion exercises are recommended to optimize recovery outcomes.

LCP is a painful disease which results in significant dysfunction to the affected leg. Prognosis with conservative management depends on the level of osteoarthritis, but most dogs continue to experience hip pain even with pain control.

Ultimately, LCP is a surgical condition that requires removal of the painful femoral head. Prognosis following FHNO or THR is excellent.


Prevention is not possible in individual animals, but dogs with LCP disease should not be bred to reduce passing the condition to offspring. Avoiding breeding mating pairs that previously produced an affected puppy is also recommended.

Is Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease in Dogs common?

LCP is overall rare in dogs, but is more common in small terrier breeds and miniature poodles.

Typical Treatment

  • Pain relief
  • Physiotherapy
  • Exercise management
  • Surgery

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