Thursday October 25, 2001
Legg-Perthes Disease (Avascular Necrosis of the Femoral Head)

Race Foster, DVM
Marty Smith, DVM
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.

Legg-Perthes disease is a disorder of small breeds of dogs, especially Yorkshire Terriers and West Highland White terriers. With this condition the puppy will grow normally until about three months of age. At this time the ball (femoral head) of the hip joint begins to degenerate. It is believed that the blood supply to the femoral head decreases causing the bone to deteriorate and actually die. Similar conditions occur in humans. The end result is a malformed hip joint and secondary arthritis.

What are the symptoms?

Even though the hip joint deterioration begins around three months of age it is not until the puppy is six to ten months of age that it becomes lame. One or both hip joints may be involved. The dog will limp on the affected side(s).

What are the risks?

The hip joint will never be normal and some lameness will always be present. Arthritis will be the result in the affected joint.

What is the management?

Surgery to remove the diseased bone, i.e. the femoral head, is successful. The hip joint will not return to normal function however the destructive arthritic process will be greatly slowed. The secondary arthritis should be managed similarly to other forms of arthritis.

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© 2001 Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.

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