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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Legg-Perthes Disease




Condition Overview

Legg-Perthes disease is caused by a vascular necrosis of the femoral head. Avascular necrosis means death of bone in the head of the femur resulting from an interruption in the blood supply.


Signs are severe lameness and sometimes the inability to bear weight on the leg. Muscle wasting is pronounced and the joint loses some range of motion. The affected leg may be shorter that the opposite normal leg.


The cause for this condition is not clear, but genetic factors may be involved. The disease occurs most often in toy-breed puppies between 4 and 11 months of age. Large breeds are occasionally affected. Avascular necrosis occurs in both hips in about 15% of cases. Occasionally, it is the result of a traumatically dislocated hip caused by trauma such as an auto accident or a fall from a height.

Weight bearing causes the dead bone beneath the cartilage of the femoral head to collapse. This fractures the cartilage and causes a gradual destruction of the hip joint.


A standard X-ray of the hips and pelvis establishes the diagnosis.


Medical therapy involves restricting activity and administering analgesics. Some dogs may improve, but surgery generally produces the best results. Surgery involves either a femoral head and neck excision arthroplasty or a total hip replacement (see Hip Dysplasia). It is difficult to do hip replacement surgery on very small dogs.


The GDC maintains a Legg-Perthes registry, which is now merged with OFA, for breeds in the terrier group. OFA also has a Legg-Perthes registry for a variety of breeds.


Please contact your veterinarian with questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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