LCPD (or avascular necrosis of the femoral head) is a hip disease that affects toy and other small breeds, typically in young dogs 4-12 months of age. While it usually only occurs in one leg, it can be bilateral in about 10-15% of cases. Fortunately, the condition is rarely seen after the age of one.
Blood supply to the neck and head of the femur (the leg bone that fits into the pelvis) becomes inadequate and that part of the bone “dies.” The bone degenerates, becoming rough (arthritic) and may even collapse. Limping/lameness is usually the first symptom and may be sudden or progressive. Manipulation of the rear leg by the hip joint is painful and that leg may even be shorter than the other one.
The general consensus is that LCPD is hereditary, probably from selective breeding for “toy’ size. It is also thought since toy dogs mature more rapidly, the early effects of sex hormones may influence the hip joint and cause disease. Further, an injury to the developing hip could stem the blood supply, resulting in LCPD.
X-rays will positively confirm the diagnosis. If the destruction of the bone is mild, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and bed rest may be adequate. However, in most cases, surgical treatment is best. The surgery, known as excision arthroplasty, entails the removal of the femur head and neck. Subsequently, scar tissue causes a new, stable joint to form. This is the same surgery performed on dogs with hip dysplasia.
The prognosis is good to excellent—dogs heal remarkably well from this surgery, with no limping or pain afterwards.
Since there is still much to learn about this disease, it should be assumed that any dog with LCPD has inherited it and should not be bred.