Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP) disease is a condition that affects the hip joint of young dogs. It’s often diagnosed in small breeds, such as Yorkshire Terrier, West Highland Terriers, Manchester Terriers, and many other small and toy breeds.
The exact cause of LCP disease is unknown, but it’s thought to be related to the poor blood supply and lack of nutrients within the ball of cartilage at the end of your dog’s femur bone (the thigh bone).
This article will explain what causes this painful condition, how it affects your dog’s mobility, diagnosis options for early detection, and treatment options for pain relief, including surgery if necessary.
Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP) disease is a hip joint disorder caused by damage to the blood supply to the ball of your dog’s femur. The dog’s femur is the long bone that joins the hip with the knee. It is characterized by partial or complete destruction of articular cartilage and synovial fluid, which causes an inflammatory reaction in the joint capsule.
The disease usually occurs between the ages of 6 and 7 months but can start as early as 3 months or as late as 13 months. Both males and females are equally affected by LCP disease. The Yorkshire Terrier is the most commonly affected breed, but West Highland Terriers, Manchester Terriers, and many other small and toy breeds are also susceptible to this disease.
LCP disease is caused by reduced blood flow to the femur bone. The bone comprises a head and neck socket. When the blood flow to this head and neck socket reduces, it can lead to LCP disease. The exact reason for that loss of blood flow is not known. However, it is thought that genetics has a significant role to play in your pet’s risk of developing the condition. The cause of the disease has been a subject of ongoing research at Cornell University.
LCP disease affects the ball of your dog’s hip joint (or femoral head) and causes it to become deformed or damaged over time. As a result, blood supply is compromised, and cartilage tissue doesn’t develop properly, leading to bony growths inside your dog’s hip socket (acetabulum).
The result is pain and stiffness when walking or running on three legs. Some dogs will shift their weight from side to side when standing still to avoid putting pressure on their hips altogether. If left untreated for too long, some dogs may even experience a complete loss of mobility due to permanent damage in their hips caused by LCP.
The LCP disease can affect your dog’s health in multiple ways. You may find some of the following symptoms in your dog if he or she is suffering from LCP disease:
- A decrease in appetite
- Weight loss. LCP disease can cause your dog to lose weight because he needs to be able to move around more freely and therefore eat more food. He may also lose weight because his bones may be too painful or stiff for him to be able to walk around and eat as easily as he might like, so he’ll have trouble getting enough energy into his system to keep himself healthy and strong.
- Licking or chewing at the skin over the affected hip. The chewing is often painful, and it can cause bleeding.
- Your pet may have a limp, gradually worsening over a few weeks or months. It will start with a slight limb and then increase to the extent that your pet won’t put weight on the affected leg. Also, severe pain can arise suddenly in some cases instead of rising over time.
- There may be some popping or grating sounds when the affected joint is moved.
If you notice your dog limping, exhibiting a wobbly gait, and/or showing pain in its hip area, take it to the vet immediately.
If left untreated, this disorder can lead to permanent bone damage and arthritis, which is not something any dog owner wants to deal with.
A veterinarian will perform a thorough physical diagnosis to examine the hip structure and look for clinical signs to diagnose LCP disease. Radiographs are also taken for the diagnosis. If a pet has LCP disease, the radiograph will show a deformity of the femur bone structure. The femur’s head may look worn down, and there is an increase in the space around the joint.
Some dogs may have similar signs of discomfort to other orthopedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia, so it’s important to rule out these other ailments to provide the right treatment.
If your dog has only a mild case of LCP disease, your veterinarian may recommend rest and pain medications such as Previcox. Previcox for dogs is an anti-inflammatory medication that helps relieve pain and reduce inflammation associated with this joint condition in your dog.
However, surgery is the most effective treatment for LCP disease. The vet will perform surgery to remove the affected femoral head and neck with a procedure called a Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO). The surgery deals with the root cause of the disease and helps alleviate your pet’s pain. Most dogs can run and frolic as they used to follow recovery from the surgery. The key is to follow the recommended diet and physical therapy while ensuring that your pet properly takes the medication.
Following surgery, it’s necessary to undergo rehabilitation therapy to rebuild muscles weakened due to a joint loss. Dogs with muscle atrophy may need to rehabilitate longer than other dogs.
The leg will be a little shorter because the femoral head and neck are removed, resulting in a slight limp, but this usually doesn’t cause any functional problems or pain. Your dog will start to walk normally about a couple of weeks after surgery, and by the end of 2-3 months, it will fully recover.
Your dog will get pain medication to help it return to everyday life. It’ll stay on a chondroprotective drug, such as glucosamine. The use of this drug can help protect the cartilage.
If you think your dog might have Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, take them to the vet immediately. The condition can get severe if left untreated, and your pet may face unbearable pain. Early diagnosis and treatment can help mitigate the pain of this condition and prevent long-term damage.