Health - Spinal System
The French Bulldog was selectively bred from dwarf examples of the English Bulldog. This fact, when combined with the intentional selection of shorter specimens in the breeding programs of today and yesterday have combined to give us both today’s short backed dog, and the plethora of spinal issues plaguing this breed.
Another possible correlation is the breed standard’s prized short and low set tail, which sometimes manifests as a non-existent, telescoped or screw tail.
Hemivertebrae is a defect present at birth and genetically based, although the genetic structure appears to be a complex (multiple genes involved) interaction. Commonly referred to as “butterfly” vertebrae, hemivertebrae has its highest incidence in brachycephalic (short muzzled), screw-tailed dog breeds. In fact the screw-tail is actually an example of a hemivertebrae formation. This malformation may be pleasing when located in the tail but can have serious repercussions when located elsewhere in the spine.
Hemivertebrae are the result of the left and right halves of a vertebrae failing to fully fuse during fetal development. The resulting vertebrae resembles a butterfly when viewed from above. Each half of the hemivertebral body often grow unequally, creating a wedge-shaped (viewed vertically) body. The presence of a wedge vertebrae can cause a dorsal curvature (kyphosis) or a lateral curvature (scoliosis). Deformations in the backbone can compress the spinal cord and/or its blood supply, with serious ramifications.
Symptoms indicative of hemivertebrae will be dependent upon the number of malformed discs and the locations of these discs. The best way to be assured of proper spinal formation is through x-ray evaluation by a veterinarian familiar with spinal formation of the French Bulldog.