Pure breed French Bulldogs have genetic conditions like every other purebred canine. As many know, Frenchies have problems with heat, heat stress, breathing, and sensitive tummies. What a lot of parents aren’t aware of is a less obvious problem; abnormalities in the spine. 

blue frenchie sitting on cushion

A French Bulldogs flat face, muscular yet chunky body, and their stout stature are what attracts us to them but are most likely what causes their spinal abnormalities. French Bulldogs are small breeds, and small breeds are also considered to have dwarfism or chondrodysplasia. Chondrodysplasia literally means abnormal growth of cartilage and results in disproportionate dwarfism. Several other breeds have this including: Dachshunds and Basset Hounds. 

Dwarfism may cause the vertebrae to become abnormally shaped, known as hemivertebrae. These vertebrae tend to not align correctly with their neighboring bones in the spine, similar in appearance (in an x-ray) to scoliosis in humans. Hemivertebrae is easily undetected. Your French Bulldog could have this condition it’s whole life and you’d never know. However, hemivertebrae can cause very serious and life-threatening complications such as paralysis. 

Why does paralysis occur from a misshapen in the vertebrae? 

It is because having a condition such as hemivertebrae can lead to premature degeneration of a French Bulldogs intervertebral discs – small discs found between each vertebra that act as shock absorbers. If the intervertebral start to degenerate, they can harden, rupture, or protrude into the spinal cord causing severe pain and potential paralysis. 

Pied french bulldog laying down in houston

Symptoms of degeneration include; stiff neck, lameness in the front or back legs, loss of bladder control, and constipation. Depending on the severity, treatment ranges from anti- inflammatory prescription drugs to a surgical procedure. Breed surveys indicate that 95% of French Bulldogs have some sort of abnormality in their spines, so it’s safe to assume your Frenchie does. 

Preventative Measures: 

French Bulldogs are known to have sudden bursts of play. It’s important that they do but monitoring their movement and how long they are active can help in preventing severe conditions from arising. 

Do not let your Frenchie run up and down the stairs back and forth like an athlete in training. 

Jumping off of your bed, forced jumping exercises, or jumping out of excitement to grab a treat, can speed up issues. Especially while young – up to 18 months – keep jumping to an absolute minimum. 

Your Frenchie can stay fit via short walks, versus uncontrolled sprinting. Short controlled WALKS will keep your Frenchie in shape and help the supporting spine muscles do their job properly.

Rough house play that has your Frenchie twisting and turning or even prolonged activities like frisbee or fetch can increase injury risks. 

Keep your French Bulldogs weight under control. Excessive weight can cause pressure and pain on their spine. 

“Tug-o-war” is okay to engage in under the right circumstances. When your Frenchie plays this game with other dogs, one of them will always give in.  When we as parents play with our Frenchie, we are the ones who decide to give in. It’s important to recognize how long you let the game go on with you and even another dog. It can lead to spinal injuries. 

A harness is your Frenchie’s best friend. Harnesses spread the pressure out over a large area of their body. A collar can place stress on the spine right at the neck region. 

fawn french bulldog looking down

Diets that are rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids assist in preventing inflammation and degeneration. They have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can be found in tuna or sardines. Feed you Frenchie these types of food a couple times a week. 

Consider hemp infused treats for your Frenchie. Hemp and CBD oil provide relief in joint pain and spinal issues. It is a well-known anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxer. Personally, I give my Frenchie Healthy Treatz and she has shown great improvement. 

Always always always remember to support your French Bulldogs spine when holding him / her. Teach any children in your household – living with you or visiting – the proper way to hold them. 

Head tilting, lameness, or crying when you pick up your Frenchie can be a sign of a serious condition. Take your French Bulldog to a vet that knows the breed well, so the issue can be properly addressed.