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.

The Bulldog 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 allow range of motion.

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs 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 includeV

  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.

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. Depending 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 bulldogs, French bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds like Boston terriers, 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. 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

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 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

Vertebral Malformation Back Problem in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs 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 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 compressed 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 time, 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 from 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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