Intervertebral Disk Back Disease IVDD in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs

By: Dr. Roy Kraemer |
DVM, Bulldog Specialist Veterinarian

“Dr. Kraemer, I’m really worried about my Bell. Lately. She seems to be having difficulty moving her hind legs and is showing signs of pain. There’s an unsteady gait, and she’s reluctant to jump onto the couch or go up and down stairs like she used to. Sometimes, she lets out little yelps when I pick her up. It’s heartbreaking to see her like this. I’ve heard about IVDD in Bulldogs, and I’m wondering if that could be what’s going on. 

Your expertise means the world to us.  🐾💔 #BellTheBulldog #IVDDConcerns”

Bulldog Spinal Cord and Vertebral Column SUPERHIGHWAY

Your bulldog’s spine is the body’s neuro-superhighway, stretching from head to tail and carrying a constant stream of messages between their brain and body.

It’s a two-way street, handling everything from playful jumps to the tiniest skin twitch.

The spinal cord travels from your bulldog’s head and brain to its pelvis and serves as the main neuro-highway for the upstream and downstream of neurological input and output.


  1. IVDD is more common in French bulldogs than in English bulldogs.
  2. Bulldogs with IVDD can present with a degree of mild-to-intense pain.
  3. Bulldogs with IVDD can exhibit mild motor, proprioception, and sensory deficits to grave surgical emergency ones.
  4. Treatment depends on severity; a mild case requires confinement and RX, while severe ones require immediate surgery.
  5. Prevention includes Dr. Kraemer’s IVDD Bundles 

Members of this bulldog community prefer prevention over RX

Bulldog IVDD Intervertebral Disc Disease ULTIMATE BUNDLE

The spinal cord includes 3x major systems:


The motor system acts as the conductor, sending electrical signals like sparks through nerves to muscles about how to move, when to contract, and when to relax, flex, and extend. The motor system powers everything from the powerful strides of a walk to chewing food and blinking.


The proprioception neurosystem tells your bulldog its body position at all times through sensors in muscles and joints; it’s like their body’s GPS. Imagine catching a ball, your bulldog will need to judge the distance, time the jump, and adjust mid-air—all thanks to proprioception’s system.


The pain sensory neurons alert your bulldog to potential harm. From a hot surface paw to a prick, the pain guides them away from danger, acting as a vigilant guard and ensuring their adventures stay fun and safe.

The spinal vertebral column encompasses and protects the spinal cord.

Intervertebral Disk Back Disease IVDD in Bulldogs / ANATOMY

The bony vertebra bodies of the vertebrates shield the spinal cord as it passes through the spinal canal.


The spine serves as a crucial part of the bulldog’s skeleton, protecting the spinal cord as it runs from the head to the tail.


The spinal column consists of four main sections:

  1. Cervical (neck)
  2. Thoracic (chest)
  3. Lumbar (lower back)
  4. Sacral (pelvis)

Each spinal section contains several pairs of vertebrae, connected by intervertebral discs


These flexible discs sit between each vertebra, acting as shock absorbers and allowing for some movement of the spine. The discs have a fibrous outer ring and a gel-like inner core, providing both flexibility and stability.

The discs also help hold the vertebrae together and act as shock absorber

IVDD in Bulldog and French Bulldogs DISC HERNIATION:

Herniation of the intervertebral disc’s inner core (nucleus pulposus) through its outer fibrous ring (annulus fibrosus) can have several detrimental effects on the spinal cord and consequently inflict:


The protruding disc material can directly compress and damage delicate nerve fibers in the spinal cord, leading to functional impairment and potentially permanent damage.

IVDD disc herniation in bulldogs


The body’s natural response to the disc herniation triggers an inflammatory reaction in the surrounding tissues, further impacting nerve function and causing additional pain.


The inflammation contributes to swelling within the spinal canal, creating even more pressure on the vulnerable spinal cord and exacerbating pain and neurological deficits.


Ultimately, the combination of compression, inflammation, and swelling culminates in significant pain for the animal. This pain can manifest in various ways, depending on the location and severity of the herniation, ranging from acute, sharp pain to localized discomfort.

Disc Disease in Bulldog and French Bulldog Back

Clinical presentation depends on the severity of the injury and the trauma location (cervical, throacic, abominal, sacral).


French bulldogs are genetically predisposed to IVDD due to their chondrodystrophic features. These anatomical attributes put additional strain on their intervertebral discs, increasing the risk of herniation.

Unlike other breeds where IVDD is typically seen in older dogs, French bulldogs can experience this condition as early as young adulthood.

Bulldog and French Bulldogs Back Problems

Vertebral Malformation:

Other common bulldog and French bulldog back conditions are vertebral malformations, such as:

French bulldog malformation wedging Kyphosis

Vertebral Fracture

A spinal fracture, or dislocation of the spine, is most commonly associated with trauma.

Vertebral Osteomyelitis:

Spinal infections.

Spinal and Vertebral Cancer:

Spinal tumors of the spinal bone or cord

Spinal Spondylosis

Arthritis of the spine, most common in the lumbar and sacral vertebrae

bulldog spondylosis vertebral arthritis

Spinal Fibrocartilaginous emboli,

Is an acute “stroke-like” disorder of the spinal cord. In contrast to other spinal conditions such as Bulldog IVDD, Bulldog FCE is a painless spinal condition except for an initial sharp pain that soon subsides.

Intervertebral Disk Back Disease IVDD in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs lumbosacral disease 

IVDD in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs CLINICAL MANIFESTATION:

  • STIFF NECK: Stiff, sensitive neck
  • CRYING: Crying out when touched around the neck or head movements
  • POSTURE: An arched back, hunched posture
  • STANCE: A praying position with the head in a low stance
  • TENSE: Tense abdomen
  • WEAKNESS: Front and/or hind leg weakness, paw abnormal placement, lameness, and/or motor problems (paraplegia, paralysis)
  • MOVEMENT: Distress, reluctance to move, jump or walk upstairs
  • CRYING: Crying out when touched or picked up
  • URINATION: Difficulties in evacuating the bladder (larger than normal bladder), urine incontinence
  • DEFECATION: Fecal incontinence
  • DRAGGING: Dragging and knuckling the legs and paws
  • PAIN: Lack of pain or oversensitivity to pain
  • WOBBLE: Wobbly, Ataxic gait

The two most common locations of the bulldog and French bulldog IVDD are the

  • CERVICAL (neck )
  • THORACOLUMBAR (mid-section).

Intervertebral Disk Back Disease IVDD in Bulldogs DIAGNOSIS

  • EXAM: Neurological Examination
  • LAB: Blood and Urine Test
  • XRAYS; Radiographs
  • TAP: Spinal Tap (cytology, fluid analysis, culture)
  • IMAGING: MRI and/or CT is usually necessary for a final diagnosis

IVDD in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs PREVENTION:

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The members of this bulldog community prefer prevention over RX



Wipe the perianal area and vaginal area if dripping to avoid irritation, scalding, and infection with an antiseptic wipe

IVDD in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs: SURGERY REPAIR

Your veterinarian neurologist will evaluate the damage to sensory, proprioception, and motor nerves and the imaging findings to help you decide between the medical and surgical options and the urgency of surgery. If your bully is unable to walk normally, is paralyzed, or has no deep pain sensation, surgery may be recommended.


Surgery to decompress the herniated disk material is required in severe cases.

Timing could be critical, don’t delay the exam.



If needed, manual compression of the bladder


If surgery is not successful, “Wheels” with lower section support could improve mobility


Wipe the perianal area and vaginal area if dripping to avoid irritation, scalding, and infection with an antiseptic wipe Like

Intervertebral Disk Back Disease (IVDD) in Bulldogs: PROGNOSIS

Loss of deep pain perception is a critical indicator in IVDD and a medical emergency
If your dog loses his or her deep-pain sensation, seek immediate veterinary attention.  Most of the time, this requires urgent referral to a neurologist for possible decompressive surgery.

The longer the damage has been present, the worse the prognosis.

IVDD in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs WARNINGS

Bulldogs and French Bulldogs IVDD / CAGE REST:

When opting for medical management, strict cage rest will be essential for at least four weeks.

This rest is essential to allow a “scar” to form over the top of the disc material; early activity may precipitate the herniation of the rest of the disc material and worsen your dog’s condition.

Strict cage rest for a minimum four weeks

Bulldog Intervertebral Disk Back Disease / URINATION:

After a spinal injury, your bulldog’s bladder function might be compromised due to interference with nerve signals that control bladder muscle contractions and relaxation.

This can result in

  1. The bladder may not expel urine entirely, increasing the risk of infection.
  2. Due to ineffective contractions, the bladder may overflow, leading to uncontrollable dribbling.

Watch for signs such as

  • frequent dribbling or leaking,
  • noticeable wetness around the vaginal folds and hind legs
  • straining to urinate,
  • urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to urine stasis and incomplete emptying.

Bulldog and French Bulldog  IVDD / DEFECATION:

Just as spinal injuries can impact bladder function, they can also disrupt your bulldog or French bulldog’s bowel movements due to damage to nerves governing bowel function, which can impede the ability to initiate and complete defecation, leading to:

  1. CONSTIPATION: Difficulty passing stool due to slowed intestinal movement and weakened straining muscles.
  2. FECAL INCONTIENCE: loss of control over bowel movements, resulting in accidental leakage of stool.
  3. IMPACTION: accumulation of hardened stool in the rectum, causing discomfort and further blockage.

Signs to Monitor:

  • STRAIN: Straining to defecate, your dog may push and grunt but be unable to pass stool.
  • FREQUENCY: reduced stool frequency, passing stool less than once a day, or experiencing prolonged intervals between bowel movements.

You might need to add a stool softener like

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The information provided on this platform is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian regarding any medical condition. It's important to always consider professional medical advice promptly and not to delay seeking it based on information you've read on this platform. Any reliance on the information provided here is entirely at your discretion.

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