French Bulldog Blog

IVDD In French Bulldogs: Reasons and Best Treatment Options

ivdd in french bulldogs

French Bulldogs, known for their distinctive bat ears, compact build, and charismatic personalities, have become a beloved breed across the globe. However, they’re prone to health issues and IVDD is one of them. IVDD in french bulldogs represents a significant concern for their owners. To help your pet, it demands a deeper understanding of its implications, diagnosis, and management strategies.  Our blog post will help you know everything about IVDD in Frenchies.

ivdd french bulldogs

What is IVDD in French bulldogs?

Intervertebral Disc Disease occurs when the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spine either herniate or degenerate, leading to compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots. This compression can result in pain, nerve damage, and in severe cases, paralysis. The analogy of the spine being a series of interconnected bouncy castles with water balloons (the discs) in between, illustrates the delicate balance of structure and function that, when disrupted, leads to IVDD.

Why Are French Bulldogs at Risk to suffer from IVDD?

The predisposition of French Bulldogs to IVDD can be attributed to a combination of genetic, conformational, and lifestyle factors:

– Genetics: Certain genetic factors make French Bulldogs more susceptible to IVDD, indicating that the condition can be inherited.

– Conformation: The breed’s distinctive physical structure contributes to their risk. Their compact and muscular build places additional stress on their vertebral columns.

– Lifestyle: The sedentary lifestyle of many domestic French Bulldogs, combined with their propensity for obesity, further exacerbates the risk of IVDD.

Causes of IVDD in French Bulldogs

IVDD occurs when the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. French Bulldogs, with their compact build and unique skeletal structure, are predisposed to this condition due to genetic factors that affect the development of their spinal discs.

french bulldog ivdd

Identifying Symptoms of IVDD in French bulldogs

The symptoms of IVDD can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and paralysis. Signs to watch for include reluctance to move, yelping in pain when touched, a hunched back, and difficulties with walking or jumping.

Early detection of IVDD in French Bulldogs hinges on recognizing the symptoms, which can range from subtle to overt:


– Unexplained vocalizations of pain

– A noticeable hunch in their back

– Reluctance or inability to jump or climb

– Changes in behavior, such as increased lethargy


The process of diagnosing IVDD involves a comprehensive examination by a veterinarian, including a thorough neurological assessment and imaging studies such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans. These diagnostic tools help in pinpointing the affected discs and assessing the severity of the condition.

Treatment options of IVDD in Frenchies

Treatment for IVDD in French Bulldogs varies from conservative management to surgical intervention, based on the severity of the condition:

– Conservative Treatment of IVDD in Frenchies: 

This approach includes strict rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. It’s akin to a rehabilitation program tailored to spinal health. Allowing your pooch to sleep on a cozy French bulldog bed is extremely important. The best option is to buy a dog bed padded with memory foam. It will shape according to your pet’s body and give your dog the essential rest and back support.

frenchie space shop classy french bulldog pajamas

– Surgical Treatment of IVDD in Frenchies: 

If the form is more severe, a surgery may be needed to remove the damaged material of the disc and relieve the pressure on spinal cord.

The two most common surgical procedures for treating IVDD are:

Hemilaminectomy: This is the most frequent surgery for IVDD in the thoracolumbar (mid to lower back) spine. The surgeon takes off a part of the vertebra (the lamina) in order to get to the herniated disc material that is compressing the spinal cord. This decompression alleviates tension and permits the spinal cord to start healing.

Ventral Slot Surgery: Mainly indicated for IVDD in the neck region, this procedure entails the incision of the ventral side of the neck for the removal of the herniated disc material. Similar to a hemilaminectomy, it is done to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord.

ivdd in frenchies

What does stages of IVDD in French Bulldogs look like?

This condition progresses through distinct stages, each requiring specific approaches for management and treatment. Understanding these stages helps in providing the right care at the right time.

Stage 1: Mild IVDD

During the acute phase of IVDD, a French Bulldog may show signs of a mild discomfort, particularly when being held or moved. They may be wary about leaping or any other quick reactions that they used to make without trouble. 

Such symptoms are usually of low intensity, and the dog may spend more time sleeping. In this phase, treatment usually consists of rest and restricted activity which will relieve the spine. The veterinarian can prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs in order to decrease pain and swelling. This stage requires the dog to be watched closely to prevent the condition from becoming worse.

Stage 2: Moderate IVDD

In the moderate form of IVDD, the symptoms become more severe. Dogs tend to demonstrate exorbitant pain that is obvious in vocalizations, heavy breathing, or inability to find a comforting resting position. Ambulation problems, unwillingness to rise up, and decreased activity are typical.

Management at this phase may still be conservative and include rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain control. In certain cases, physiotherapy and controlled workouts may be advised to preserve the strength of the muscles without overloading the spine.

Stage 3: Severe IVDD

The serious stage IVDD represents a turning point in the condition when an animal starts to suffer from partial paralysis and major loss of sensitivity in its limbs. During this stage, dogs may lose bladder and bowel control, signaling an acute compression of the spinal cord. They require urgent veterinary care, and vets may advise surgical intervention to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and prevent further damage. After surgery, the dog requires intensive rehabilitation, including physical therapy and sometimes acupuncture or hydrotherapy, to ensure complete recovery.

french bulldog with ivdd

Stage 4: Very Severe IVDD

The dogs lose control of their legs and exhibit paralysis, retaining the sensation to a certain extent in one or more limbs. Sensation is a good sign which means that a complete severance of the spinal cord has not occurred. The options of treatment are few and usually based on the surgical decompression of the spinal cord that is then followed by extensive rehabilitation. The aim of therapy in acute stage is to recover as much functionality as possible and to minimize pain and discomfort.

Stage 5: Critical IVDD

Stage-4 IVDD is characterized by total paralysis with loss of sensations in the limbs. This phase is the final and most extreme form of the ailment, where there is no hope of restoring full mobility. In this stage, management is based on the dog’s quality of life, which includes managing the pain, preventing pressure sores and keeping the dog clean to prevent infections. 

Modification to the home environment with additions like ramps or special bedding and assistive equipment like wheelchairs are often needed to facilitate mobility and let the dog have a good life even with handicaps.

How to prevent your French bulldog from IVDD?

While it’s impossible to entirely prevent IVDD in predisposed breeds like French Bulldogs, certain measures can mitigate the risk:

– Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce spinal stress is the thing that you should always keep in mind. Rewarding your Frenchie with too many snacks can lead to gaining weight. So, in case you want to find a healthier option, then you can try rewarding him/her with fresh fruits and veggies.

– Limiting activities that could harm the spine, such as jumping from heights. Allowing your Frenchie to jump from the stairs or to often go upstairs and downstairs is not a good idea. Besides to IVDD, Frenchies are also prone to hip dysplasia, so restricting them from using the stairs would be a good idea to consider. In case you don’t know how to do it, you can install a simple dog ramp.

– Regular, moderate exercise to strengthen musculature is also important for your Frenchie. Note that French bulldogs are prone to obesity, so lack of activity can lead to losing muscle mass and weak back muscles. Therefore, our advice is to take your furry friend to regular strolls (at least 30 mins, two times a day). Exercise represent an important part of your French bulldog’s well-being.

Living with IVDD

A diagnosis of IVDD is not a life sentence. With appropriate care and adjustments, French Bulldogs with IVDD can enjoy a quality of life. It involves managing their condition through a combination of medical treatment, lifestyle modifications, and supportive care.

frenchie sitting

Genetic Selection and Breeding Processes

Discussing Genetic Screening and Breeding Practices in the context of IVDD in French Bulldogs is actually considering how we can attempt to avoid this condition from the get-go. Think of yourself choosing suitable ingredients to make your meal come out perfect. Similarly, genetic screening is like selecting the healthiest French Bulldogs for breeding. It’s a way of looking into their genetic cookbook to assess the possibility of transmitting the IVDD tendency to their puppies.

Breeders could utilize genetic tests to identify which dogs might suffer from or pass on IVDD. With healthy back parents selected, they are able to decrease the incidence of IVDD for generations to come in Frenchies.

Responsible breeding is the key to prevent Fenchies from suffering from IVDD. This means breeders should concentrate on the health and happiness of French Bulldogs rather than their appearance or pedigree. Adopting health as the main factor in breeding selections will be helping in eliminating the line of IVDD in French Bulldogs over time. It’s a combined effort to give these lovely pups the best chance of life.

How much does IVDD surgery cost for a French Bulldog?

The complexity of the IVDD in frenchies can influence the cost. For instance, simple decompression operation may be at the low end of the cost spectrum while complex surgeries that involve multiple discs and need special equipment may be more expensive.

Geographical Location: Veterinary care costs can differ a lot from one area to another. Part of the increased cost of living in urban areas is higher veterinary costs.

Veterinary Clinic or Hospital: The veterinary neurologists in specialty hospitals or clinics are board-certified. Therefore, the cost of their services may be higher because of their specialized knowledge. Nevertheless, such institutions usually have more sophisticated tools and a more refined care.

Additional Costs: The surgery estimate might be only the first estimate. Additional costs may apply for pre-surgical exams, imaging (MRI, CT scans), post-operative care (medications, physical therapy, follow-up visits), and complications.

dermatitis in french bulldogs

Pet owners should discuss all possible costs with their veterinarian. This ensures they get a custom, accurate estimate for their dog’s specific situation. Some pet insurance plans may cover part of the IVDD surgery expenses. Therefore, checking your policy is worthwhile if you have one. Additionally, many veterinary hospitals offer payment plans. They also work with third-party financing companies to help break up the treatment cost.

Deciding on surgery for IVDD in frenchies is a major choice. It comes with a significant cost that needs careful consideration. Discuss the potential benefits, risks, and long-term care requirements with your vet.

Dealing with IVDD in French Bulldogs: Wrapping Up

While IVDD presents a notable challenge for French Bulldogs and their owners, understanding the disease, its early signs, and treatment options empowers owners to provide the best care possible. Through diligent care, lifestyle adjustments, and a commitment to their well-being, French Bulldogs with IVDD can lead fulfilling lives. This journey underscores the deep bond between pets and their owners, rooted in love, resilience, and mutual care.

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