BlueHaven French Bulldogs

Common Neurological Conditions in French Bulldogs

By NIcole McCray

French Bulldogs are excellent pets, but it is vital to know that they can be affected by various neurological conditions. It can be challenging to understand when something may be array with our dogs, and as responsible dog owners, we need to be aware of what to look out for and when to reach out to our veterinarian for help.

Neurological issues can show up in a manner of different ways. Below, we will explore four of the common neurological conditions that French Bulldogs can contract, their signs and symptoms, and how you can assist them in being treated for these conditions.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

The number one neurological disorder that affects French Bulldogs is called Intervertebral Disc Disease, or IVDD. It is also referred to by vets as a herniated, slipped, or ruptured disc in the spine. 

It is a severe condition, and French Bulldogs are an unfortunate breed genetically predisposed to it since the French Bulldog is a dwarf breed with short legs. 

What Happens with IVDD?

The cushioning discs within the vertebrae in your Frenchie’s spine become inflamed and will bulge out or burst into the spinal cord space. They then press on nerves within the spinal cord and cause damage to the nerves, a fair amount of pain, and even cause your dog to become numb or paralyzed.

IVDD can gradually occur over time, so you probably won’t notice it right away. However, there are some cases in which you might see it happen more suddenly, such as if your French Bulldog has a fall or jumps and ruptures a disc in its spine. However, it is typically a degenerative process.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of IVDD?

The signs to look for when your Frenchie is suffering from IVDD include:

  • Your dog won’t jump or has trouble jumping
  • Whimpering or crying out in pain when jumping or walking
  • Pain or weakness in rear legs
  • Difficulty sitting up on hind legs, falling over
  • Muscle spasms in the back or neck
  • Reduced activity level
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Reduced appetite

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms within your Frenchie, you must contact your veterinarian and get your pet examined as soon as possible.

Brain Tumors

Brain Tumors in your Frenchie come from tissue in the brain or membranes, as a mass. They can be secondary, where the tumors have spread from another part of the body and metastasized, going to the brain and affecting the nervous system. Brain tumors are diagnosed with a CT scan or MRI by your vet. 

Signs and Symptoms of Brain Tumors

Multiple tell-tale signs within your French Bulldog indicate it has a brain tumor, though the characteristics can start suddenly or come on gradually. Some of the most common symptoms you will see include:

  • Seizures – epilepsy occurs more often in younger dogs, so when you see an older or more senior dog starts to have seizures, it is a sure sign that a brain tumor is present
  • Circling/disorientation
  • Blindness
  • Head tilt / walking sideways
  • Changes in personality – suddenly becoming more aggressive

You may also notice your Frenchie shaking its head often, having a decreased appetite, or acting as if it is in pain. If you suspect your dog is suffering from a brain tumor, ask your vet to have your dog undergo a CT or MRI scan to check its brain.

Encephalitis

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and French Bulldogs’ genetic makeup can affect whether or not they contract the condition, as well as the location where they live. There are two types of encephalitis – infectious and non-infectious. It is a severe disease that is life-threatening.

Infectious encephalitis is bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal. Non-infectious encephalitis stems from an unknown origin and results from an immune disease. With the contagious type, dogs can find themselves with inflammation in their brains from a tick bite since Lyme disease can result in encephalitis.

What are the Signs of Encephalitis? 

Encephalitis can occur independently, but it could also be a symptom of other diseases that affect the brain or spinal cord. Young and middle-aged French Bulldogs are more at risk for encephalitis. Some of the signs you need to watch out for include:

  • Fever
  • Tremors or Seizures
  • Loss of coordination (head tilt, disorientation)
  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Depression
  • Reduced activity level or appetite

The Bond Vet neurologist explains how to give your dog the best chance for recovery from encephalitis with immediate multiple blood tests, X-rays, and a spinal tap or MRI/CT scan for early encephalitis treatment.

Vertebral Malformations

The vertebral malformation is the last common neurological condition with French Bulldogs. The bulldog skeleton column has discs and vertebrae. Malformations are congenital as it is a dwarf breed, so dogs are born with this spinal condition.

The lower back is the most common area where you will see these malformations in a Frenchie. This is because wedging happens, which compresses the spinal cord. 

What are the Signs of Malformation?

You may notice as your puppy grows that these malformations are present. Most commonly, you

will see the following:

  • Wobbling of the back end of your dog
  • A hump in your dog’s back
  • Weakness in rear limbs
  • Incontinence
  • Hind leg muscle atrophy

Treatment for Neurological Conditions

Taking your French Bulldog to the vet and getting a proper diagnosis is necessary. Once you have received a diagnosis for a condition, there are things you can do to work with your vet for treatment.

Common treatments for these neurological conditions include anti-inflammatory supplements or injections such as steroids, antibiotics to treat infections, anticonvulsants for seizures, etc. With brain tumors or IVDD, the possibility of surgery exists, performed by an experienced surgeon. Radiation and chemotherapy can help reduce or eliminate tumors.

If you want to prevent such problems with your dog, there are a few things you can work on at home.  Weight control can be important for any spinal problems or as a prevention tactic to combat neurological issues, so discuss your Frenchie’s diet with your veterinarian. Keep your dog healthy and on a well-balanced diet. Ensure it gets plenty of exercise each day and monitor its activity to ensure you don’t detect any issues.

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