Vertebral Malformation

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs

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

Bulldog and French Bulldog Vertebral Malformations are often an incidental finding diagnosed after routine radiographs.

Overall, a high percentage of bulldogs are affected by at least one of those vertebral malformations, many of which have no pain and/or clinical problems.


Bully vertebral malformations are due to abnormal development of their “vertebral body” that matures into a wedge shape 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.Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs hemivertebrae

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 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


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 screw tail hemivertebra can also select 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 and 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.

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs Supplument


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.