Vertebral Malformation Back Problem In Bulldogs And French Bulldogs

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

Vertebral Malformation Back Problems in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs are common in both breeds.

The bulldog skeleton is supported by a spinal column that is composed of two main parts:

VERTEBRAE: Multiple vertebrae (cervical, thoracic, abdominal, sacral, and tailbone).

DISC: Soft, pasty, spongy discs (the dark space/line between the vertebras seen on radiographs) that cushion those bony vertebrae and allow a range of motion.

Vertebral Malformation in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs / CAUSE:

Vertebral Malformation is a congenital (born with) spinal condition. Most congenital malformations related to the bulldog spine are due to abnormal development or fusion of the primary ossification centers of their vertebra.

Bulldog’s and French bulldog’s vertebral malformations include:

  1. Bulldog and French Bulldog Hemivertebrae
  2. Bulldog Block Vertebrae
  3. Bulldog Transitional Vertebrae
  4. Bulldog and French Bulldog Spina Bifida

Vertebral malformations in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs are frequently identified incidentally during routine radiographic examinations.

Although many bulldogs are diagnosed with at least one form of vertebral malformation, only a few will exhibit pain or clinical issues.

severe kyposis vertebral malformation in french bulldog


Bully vertebral malformations are due to abnormal development of their “vertebral body” that matures into a wedge-shaped body instead of the normal elongated vertebral body. Occasionally, this bulldog’s malformed, wedged vertebrae will compress the spinal cord.

Depending on location and severity, the compressed spine could result in pain and a wide range of neurological problems.



The corkscrew tail, common to English bulldogs, French bulldogs, and other brachycephalic breeds like Boston terriers, is also due to a vertebral malformation.

Bulldog Tail bones radiography 360 corkscrew

Fortunately, the spinal cord ends before the tail begins. Thus, there are usually no neurological problems associated with bulldog tail malformation.

Nevertheless, Bulldog and French bulldog tail malformations (i.e., corkscrew) are often associated with bully tail skin folds and moist dermatitis.


This bully skin-fold condition can lead to an infected, painful tail that could be prevented and must be managed diligently with daily antiseptic & antifungal wipes like Dr. Kraemer’s V4B Bully Antiseptic Extra Large Medicated SkinFolds Wipes

bulldog skinfolds antiseptic lineup bundle


The most common area for bulldog hemivertebrae malformations is around the 8th thoracic vertebrae (the upper back) and when the wedging starts compressing the spinal cord, the following signs can be observed and noted:

  • A weakness of the rear limbs
  • The wobbling of the hind end
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Hind leg muscle atrophy

Dr. Kraemer’s Bulldog Vertebral Malformation RULE OF THUMB:

In most cases, once the vertebral body growth plates fuse, at about 9-10 months of age, any clinical signs associated with the condition should plateau.

Vertebral Malformation in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs TIPS & WARNINGS:

Bulldog Back Disease BREEDING WARNING:

Selective breeding for a bulldog or French bulldog screwtail hemivertebra can also be selected for hemivertebrae of other spinal vertebrae (cervical, thoracic, abdominal, and sacral).

In contrast to the tail vertebrae, wedging of those other vertebrae can lead to a compressed spinal cord and the associated pain and neurological deficits.

Bulldog Vertebral Malformation DIAGNOSIS WARNING :

If your bulldog or French bulldog presents with neurological problems and pain associated with their back, additional testing with more advanced imaging (MRI and CT) might be required to confirm that they are related to the malformation.

Tip DIAGNOSIS: Most of the time, the diagnosis of a bulldog or French bulldog hemivertebrae is an incidental finding.

Bulldog Vertebral Malformation PREVENTION &TREATMENT:

REST & CONFINEMENT: Acute cases can often benefit from and improve with rest and confinement.

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT: Weight control is critical for all back problems.


Natural pain relief, joint support, and anti-inflammatory supplements might help to prevent and manage bulldog back problems.

Fr. Bulldog V4B comfort and Painless handout


Corticosteroid injections or NSAIDs might be recommended, as well as muscle relaxants.

Non-RX: cutting-edge, non-Rx modalities for pain management and healing are now available.

  • Stem Cell Therapy
  • PRP
  • Cold Laser Therapy
  • tPEMT

In more severe cases, back decompression surgery might be required.

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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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