Fixing French Bulldog Back Problems (Vet Advice)

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So you know how much we admire French Bulldogs for their endearing personality and unique body types, right?

They stand out because of their small size, muscular frame, short neck, and broad chest. But did you know that this adorable appearance can put them at risk for back problems, like Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)?

If you ever get one of these cuties, early detection and treatment are crucial for your Frenchie. You’ll want to ensure they live active & contented lives, trust me. It also prevents them from getting painful complications like nerve damage and paralysis.

In this article, I’ll explain the details of a Frenchie’s spine and why your Frenchie could be more prone to back problems compared to, say, your neighbor’s Labrador.

Understanding French Bulldog’s Spine

A French bulldog’s spine resembles a long, flexible rod made up of tiny bones known as vertebrae. They’re piled on top of each other, and they guard this really important bundle of nerves called the spinal cord.

French Bulldog Back Anatomy - Top Frenchie
French Bulldog Back Anatomy (source: French Bull Dog Club of America)

The reason why Frenchies, like the one you’ve been thinking about adopting, are more susceptible to back issues.

Breed-Specific Body Structure

French bulldogs’ unique body structure makes them more susceptible to back issues as compared to other breeds of dogs. Here’s why:

  • Compact body: French Bulldogs, as you’ve seen, have this relatively short spine, a broad chest, and a compact, muscular build. Due to its petite size, the spine may face more stress, increasing its vulnerability to injuries.
  • Screw Tail: Have you noticed that distinctive short or “screw” tail on French Bulldogs? This tail is often associated with spinal issues – like hemivertebrae, which can cause back problems.
  • Weight Distribution: You might have observed that French Bulldogs carry more weight towards their front, mainly because of their muscular chest and wide head. This weight distribution can strain their spine, especially around the chest area.

Common Back Problems in French Bulldogs

Now, let’s dive a bit into the common back problems your Frenchie could face:

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

It’s this condition where the discs between the vertebrae erode or shift out of place. Trust me, the difficulty in walking and pain from IVDD can seriously dampen your Frenchie’s spirit.

Hemivertebrae

This is a congenital condition leading to abnormal vertebrae development. The misshapen vertebrae can push against the spinal cord, causing pain, neurological issues, and even paralysis. Hemivertebrae can have mild to severe negative influence on its quality of life based upon the severity of deformity.

Hip Dysplasia

It’s a genetic condition affecting the development of the hip joint. Though we commonly link it to the hip, it can also impact the lower back. If your Frenchie gets this, they might face pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving. You’d want to look out for this, especially if you want your pup to run, play, and walk without any discomfort.

Recognizing the symptoms

Behavioural Changes in Frenchies - Symptom of Back Problems - Top Frenchie
Behavioural changes in Frenchies may be a symptom of back Problems

So if you’re thinking of getting a Frenchie, or even if you’ve got one already, it’s super important to recognize if they’re facing any back issues. Trust me, catching those early signs can make a world of difference for your little buddy. Let me run you through the symptoms:

Reduced Activity: You know how active French Bulldogs can be, right? If yours starts slowing down, like showing less interest in playtime or walks, you might want to take note. It could be a sign of a back problem. Like, if one day your Frenchie is all excited and the next, they’re super lethargic – you’ll wanna watch out.

Difficult Walking: This one’s pretty noticeable. Say you’re walking your Frenchie and you notice they’re having a hard time standing up or they’re taking baby steps. Or if they’re kinda limping & their walk seems shaky, that could be a red flag.

Abnormal Posture: Now, this one’s a bit tricky but stay with me. If your Frenchie starts arching their back a lot or seems to hold it firmly, like trying to find a comfortable position but can’t, that’s concerning. And if they start to get a rounded or hunched look? That’s another tell-tale sign.

Incontinence: I know it sounds a bit embarrassing, but if your Frenchie can’t control their bladder and you find random pee spots, or if they’re struggling with their bowel motions, it’s a serious indicator.

Keep in mind, not every Frenchie will show all these symptoms right away. Maybe at first, it’s just the reduced activity & walking difficulties. But if left unchecked, these might evolve into posture issues & incontinence. So, just, you know, keep an eye out and give them all the love & care they need. 

Behavioral Changes

Besides those physical signs we talked about before, there are also some behavioral changes you really need to be on the lookout for with your Frenchie. Trust me, knowing these will help you big time:

Anxiety

Now, if your Frenchie is having back troubles, they might get a bit anxious. You might see them getting easily upset, panting more than usual, or pacing back and forth. And if they’re constantly looking to you for some comfort, that could be them trying to tell you they’re in pain. So, heads up on that.

Restlessness

Ever seen a Frenchie that just can’t seem to settle down? If they’re moving around a lot, changing positions, and seem like they can’t get comfy, that could be due to back issues.

Reduced Appetite

This is a big one. If your Frenchie starts turning up their nose at their usual kibble or isn’t as tempted by treats, it might mean they’re hurting. And remember how they love their food? So, if they’re skipping meals, that’s a sign.

Oh, and here’s a pro tip for you – try to know what’s “normal” for your Frenchie. Like, get a feel for their usual energy & what they eat daily. If you notice changes, it’s easier to tell if something’s off.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

Once you have identified the symptoms or behavioral changes in your Frenchie, the next step is to visit your vet. Your vet may perform radiography to diagnose back issues and recommend treatment which can be surgical or non-surgical.

Veterinary Diagnosis

Veterinary diagnoses for back problems in French Bulldogs include:

Physical Examination

Your vet will probably start with a thorough check-up. They’ll look over your Frenchie’s spine, see if there’s any discomfort or anything unusual. Checking out their flexibility, muscle tone & stuff will give them a good idea of what might be wrong.

X-rays

 These are super useful. They show the bones and joints in detail and can help spot stuff like slipped discs or bone issues. But keep in mind, x-rays provide a two-dimensional image and are helpful for bone-related issues hence your vet may recommend CT scans to examine soft tissues.

CT-scan

CT-scan: These give a more detailed, 3D image. It lets vets see the bones, discs, and even the soft tissues clearly. So things like disc herniation or spinal issues? A CT can catch that.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Now, if your vet recommends an MRI, it’s mainly for the soft tissues. It’s super good for spotting issues with muscles or ligaments.

Regular vet check ups are important to detect early issues with back problems.

Importance of Regular Vet Checkups in Early Detection

The most crucial factor in the early diagnosis of back issues in French Bulldogs is routine veterinarian examinations. Regular checkups offer the chance for a thorough examination and preventative treatment that can aid in identifying any problems before they worsen. Here is why regular vet checkups are a must for French Bulldogs:

  • Back problems can develop gradually and go undiagnosed until they are quite advanced. Frequent examinations enable vets to evaluate the condition of your French Bulldog’s back and identify any anomalies at an early stage when treatment choices are more effective.
  • Veterinarians might offer preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of back issues in French Bulldogs. They may provide tips on how to keep a healthy weight, suggest workout plans, and demonstrate good posture.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Common non-surgical treatments include physical therapy, pain management, and lifestyle adjustments. Below is the overview of these non-surgical treatments:

  • Physical Therapy – This is all about helping your Frenchie move better, be more flexible, and get those spine-supporting muscles nice & strong.
  • Pain Management – Sometimes, the poor things can be in pain, so your vet might prescribe some meds to help with that.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments – You know, like making sure they’re not overweight, giving them a comfy bed, and maybe cutting back on some of those more intense play sessions.

Surgical Treatments

The surgical techniques of vertebral stabilization and decompression surgery are frequently used to address back issues in French Bulldogs. Below is a detailed breakdown of these procedures:

Decompression Surgery – Sounds technical, right? But it’s mainly about easing any pressure on the spinal cord. Maybe removing a wonky disc or cutting out a bit of bone that’s causing trouble. It helps big time with pain and getting them back to their playful selves.

Vertebral Stabilization – This one’s about keeping things in place. Using stuff like plates or screws, the vet will try to stabilize any shaky parts of the spine. Helps prevent further issues & keeps the spine from moving in weird ways.

Post-surgery, there’s a bunch of things you’ll need to be on top of:

  • Postoperative Care- After the surgery, you’ve got to be super vigilant. There’ll be some meds to give, and you’ll probably have to keep your Frenchie on the down-low for a bit.
  • Physical Rehab- Think of it as gym time for your pup. Some exercises to help them regain strength & mobility.
  • Follow-up Exams- The vet will want to see how things are healing up, monitor their health, and maybe tweak the recovery plan a bit.

Preventive Measures & Maintenance

As the saying goes, Prevention is better than cure. It is better to take preventive measures to avoid your Frenchie from feeling pain, discomfort, and lameness. Moreover, it also saves your pocket from costly treatments. Following are the preventive measure to  avoid back issues in Frenchie:

Healthy Weight Management

An increased body weight will put more strain on the back which will lead to back problems. By maintaining a healthy weight for your Frenchie, you can reduce the risk of injuries, disc problems, and other spinal diseases.

Following are the tips to maintain a healthy weight:

  • Give your French Bulldog a nutritious, well-balanced food that doesn’t include too many calories. 
  • Only provide the right quantity of food. Avoid overeating or free-feeding, since these behaviors might result in weight gain.
  • Don’t offer too many treats. Use tiny portions of their usual diet as rewards or pick goodies with fewer calories.
  • Play interactive games, and go on daily walks. Avoid high-impact workouts that might hurt your Frenchie back, though.
  • Keep an eye on the weight and overall health of your French Bulldog.

Regular Exercise & Safe Play

Regular Exercise & Weight Management to prevent French Bulldog Back Problems - Top Frenchie
Regular Exercise & Weight Management to prevent French Bulldog Back Problems

Maintaining the health of the French Bulldogs’ spines needs regular, moderate exercise. The importance of exercise is explained in detail here:

  • It aids in the development of strong muscles, especially the back muscles thus preventing back injuries.
  • It helps in weight management, protecting the spine from undue strain.
  • It promotes joint flexibility and mobility.

Apart from exercise, playing games is also great for the physical and mental stimulation of your Frenchie.

  • Play interactive activities with your dog using toys that promote movement, such as tug-of-war with mild pulling, and puzzle toys.
  • Swimming supports the entire body and is an excellent low-impact workout. 
  • Play activities using scent, such as hiding treats or toys for your Frenchie to discover.

Ergonomic Living Spaces

For the well-being of French Bulldogs, a dog-friendly environment that reduces back strain is crucial. On how to do this, consider the following advice:

  • Provide pet ramps or steps to assist your French Bulldog in navigating high surfaces, such as going into and out of vehicles or furniture.
  • Use area rugs or non-slip mats to avoid slipping, especially in places where they spend a lot of time.
  • Get an orthopedic bed to make your Frenchie feel relaxed and cozy.
  • Use a back leash to distribute the weight evenly and avoid stress on the back.

Wrapping Up

Early detection of back problems, treatment, and prevention are important in protecting the health of our beloved French Bulldogs. Keep an eye out for changes in their behavior, movement, or posture. Don’t discourage the indicators of pain, such as decreased activity, trouble walking, or reduced appetite.

Consultation with a veterinarian at the first sign of a back problem can make a big difference in the result. In other words, it can make or break a Frenchie.

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