Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs are common to the breed.

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

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

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

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs is a congenital (born) 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.

Bulldogs 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 rutine radiographs .

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

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs WEDGE VERTEBRAE:

Bully vertebral malformations are due to abnormal development of their “vertebral body” that mature into a wedge shape body instead of the normal elongated vertebral body. Occasionally, this bulldog malformed wedged vertebrae will compress the spinal cord, depends on location and severity the compressed spine could result in pain and a wide range of neurological problems.

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs SCREW TAIL:Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs hemivertebrae

The corkscrew tail common to English bulldog, French bulldog and other brachycephalic breeds like Boston terrier is also due to vertebral malformation. 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. crockscrew) are often associated with bully tail skin folds moist dermatitis. This bully skin-fold condition can lead to an infected painfull tail that could be prevented and must be managed  diligently with daily antiseptic & antifungal wipes like Dr. Kraemer’s V4B Bully Antiseptic Extra Large Mediated SkinFolds Wipes

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs WEDGE COMPRESSION:

The most common area for bulldog hemivertebrae malformations are around the 8th thoracic vertebrae (the upper back) and on the occasion that 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
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Hind leg muscle atrophy

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs RULE OF THUMB:

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

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs Tips & Warnings:

Warning BREEDING: 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 compress spinal cord and the associated pain and neurological deficits.

Warning DIAGNOSIS: 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 times the diagnosis of a bulldog and French bulldog hemivertebrae is an incidental finding.

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs TREATMENT:

  1. REST & CONFINEMENT: Acute cases can often benefit and improve with rest and confinement.
  2. WEIGHT MANAGEMENT: weight control is critical for all back problems.
  3. SUPPLEMENTS: 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

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

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