What is IVDD in French Bulldogs? See How To Maintain Your Dog’s Health And Prevent Spine Problems

🦴 Updated on July 4th, 2023


IVDD stands for intervertebral disc disease. The condition occurs when there is a change in the structure of the discs between vertebrae (bones in the french bulldog spine), causing them to rupture. 

The discs are cartilage and gelatinous material that act as shock absorbers between each vertebra. When they rupture, they press against the spinal cord, causing pain and paralysis.

How Common is IVDD in French Bulldogs?

IVDD is a prevalent health concern among Frenchies. According to a report released in 2017, it is estimated that 2% of all dogs tend to get IVDD. It’s safe to anticipate that in Frenchies, the number will be higher.

The study looked at 533 Frenchies who had neurological issues; 45.5 percent of them had Hansen type I intervertebral disk herniation (IVDH).

The IVDD condition is likely in French Bulldogs due to several factors.

What Causes French Bulldog IVDD?

Several factors increase your French Bulldog’s risk of developing IVDD:

Age: Frenchies typically develop IVDD between 3 and 6 years old, but it can occur at any age after one year.

Their intervertebral disks may become more brittle and less elastic as they get older. This can cause them to bulge or rupture under pressure from the animal’s weight or activity level.

Genetics: French bulldogs have a genetic predisposition toward IVDD because of their unique anatomy. Their shortened limbs make them more vulnerable to spinal cord injuries than other dogs with longer legs and tails

Their short stature means that they have short necks and short backs. When they jump or strain while lifting their heads and backs up high, there’s more stress on their spines than in other dogs with longer legs.

Trauma: Frenchies also suffer from IVDD after a traumatic event such as a car accident or fall from a high place. 

Those who are not injured during these events may still develop IVDD later. It may occur due to pre-existing conditions that you did not discover during the trauma.

However, trauma is not a very common cause of IVDD because this dog breed is not very hyperactive.

Yes, Frenchies are at risk of getting IVDD, but how can you tell whether your pet has it?

Common French Bulldog IVDD Symptoms

Depending on how severe the damage is, IVDD French Bulldogs may show various symptoms, including:

  • Back pain
  • Limping or weakness in one or both hind legs
  • Inability to jump up onto furniture or into the car without assistance.
  • Paralysis
  • Shifting weight from one side to another
  • Unusual walking pattern (such as dragging a leg)
  • Crying when trying to move from one place to another
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

IVDD Diagnosis

If your Frenchie has any of the above symptoms, it is important to visit a veterinary for diagnosis.

The first step in diagnosing IVDD is a thorough physical exam. The vet will palpate the spine and take diagnostic French Bulldog x-rays to evaluate for any abnormalities.

If the veterinarian sees that IVDD is present, the vet will recommend an MRI scan further to evaluate the condition of your pet’s spine. 

An MRI scan is more expensive than an x-ray and requires sedation or anesthesia, but it provides more detailed images of your pet’s spine than x-rays (similar to CT scans).

IVDD Categorization

IVDD symptoms are divided into five categories. The classification aids vets in selecting the best treatment option.

The following are the stages of IVDD.

1st stage — mild to moderate back pain.

2nd stage — severe back pain.

3rd stage — severe back pain and loss of mobility in the hind legs.

4th stage — severe back pain and loss of mobility in the hind legs with signs of diminished reflexes and sensory deficits (e.g., numbness).

5th stage — paraplegia with no sensory perception below the level of injury.

IVDD Treatment

Two types of treatments are available for IVDD in french bulldogs non-surgical and surgical treatments.

Non-surgical Treatment

The goal of non-surgical treatment is to reduce the pain and inflammation in the joint.

Laser therapy helps in reducing inflammation and pain associated with IVDD. The laser light helps to stimulate healing by increasing blood flow to the affected area.

Strict cage rest is another option for treating IVDD in French Bulldogs. You should not allow your dog to move around freely until fully recovered from its symptoms.

You can also use a leash to control the dog when it wants to move around too much or go outside for potty breaks.

Anti-inflammatory medications reduce pain and swelling caused by IVDD in Frenchies. The vet administers these drugs orally or through injection, depending on what works best for your pet.

Surgical Treatments

If your Frenchie has severe IVDD symptoms, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on its spinal cord. The vet performs the procedure under general anesthesia and does not require muscle cutting or bone removal. 

The veterinarian makes a small incision over the affected disc space and then uses a small instrument known as a burr to remove the damaged tissue. This procedure allows for better motion of the vertebrae above and below the affected area, which helps relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

After that, it will take your dog 1 to 4 weeks for French Bulldog IVDD surgery recovery.

How Much Does a French Bulldog IVDD Surgery Cost?

The cost of a French Bulldog IVDD surgery can vary widely. It depends on whether the dog has already had neurological testing and whether you need other additional procedures.

Without the costs of the neurological testing, which range from $1000 to $3000, the total is roughly $9000.

The total cost of the tests and surgery will be about $12000.

What Are the Chances of the IVDD Reoccurrence?

The chances of the IVDD reoccurrence in French bulldogs are not very clear. However, 19% of dogs showed signs of recurrence in a past study. 96% of the cases had undergone surgery, but the problem reappeared three years later.

Some factors can contribute to the risk of developing this disease again, such as lifestyle.

Tips on How To Prevent IVDD in French Bulldogs

Keep your Frenchie on a leash outside of their crate or kennel to make sure they cannot jump off furniture or stairs.

Make sure your Frenchie gets plenty of exercise every day and take them on walks regularly so they can stretch out. It helps prevent french bulldog spine problems and back complications.

Additionally, exercise with caution. Do not overexert the dog or let it jump from heights, as this can cause trauma to the spine.

Feed your dog a healthy diet that consists mainly of high-quality dog food. It will keep your Frenchie healthy and prevent obesity, another cause of IVDD in French Bulldogs.

Watch for signs of pain. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort, take it to the vet immediately.

Wrapping Things Up

In the end, if you have a French Bulldog with back pain, do not panic. There might be some other underlying health issue at play. A vet visit will likely be in order. Also, there are things you can do to alleviate your dog’s symptoms, like medication and physical therapy. 

In the meantime, minimize taxing activities like jumping and running. Make sure your dog rests as much as possible.

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Picture of Sarah Alward | Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Sarah Alward | Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Our resident DVM helps review every article to ensure we always provide scientifically accurate, up-to-date information. She’s proud to help provide pet parents everywhere with the info they need to keep their pets safe, healthy, and comfortable.