Bulldog Skeletal/Orthopedic Conditions


Pateller Luxation

The knee cap (patella) normally fits into a groove in the thigh bone (femur). The patella slides up and down in this groove as the leg bends and straightens. Patellar luxation means that the knee cap has slipped out of the groove. There are several reasons why this happens, including malformation of the groove. Luxation may happen only occasionally, or may happen continuously. The knee cap may pop back into the groove on its own, or your veterinarian may need to push it back into place. Your bulldog will be lame when the patella is out of place. Over time your bulldog may develop other degenerative joint changes, such as osteoarthritis.


Hip Dysplasia

The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint: the “ball” (the top part of the thigh bone or femur) fits into a “socket” formed by the pelvis. If there is a loose fit between these bones, and the ligaments which help to hold them together are loose, the ball may slide part way out of the socket (subluxate). With time, as this occurs repeatedly, other degenerative changes in the joint occur (also called osteoarthritis) and your bulldog will become painful, lame and weak in the hind end. This disease is progressive; that is, it gets worse with time.


Elbow Dysplasia

The term elbow dysplasia refers to several conditions that affect the elbow joint: osteochondrosis of the medial humeral condyle, fragmented medial coronoid process, ununited anconeal process, and incongruent elbow. More than one of these conditions may be present, and this disease often affects both front legs. An affected bulldog shows forelimb lameness and elbow pain. These conditions may actually be different manifestations of a single disease process, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) . OCD is abnormal maturation of cartilage (the specialized connective tissue from which bone develops). While this in an inherited defect, environmental factors such as diet, activity, and trauma also have a role in the development and progression of the disease.

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD): A fragment of cartilage peels away from the bone, within the joint.

Osteochondrosis of medial humeral condyle: OCD develops on the elbow end of the humerus (the long bone in the front leg above the elbow).

Fragmented medial coronoid process and ununited anconeal process: The coronoid and anconeal processes are small bones which fuse with the main part of the ulna as the animal matures. (The ulna and the radius are the two bones which make up the front leg between wrist and elbow). These terms describe the condition where those processes either break off from the ulna, or fail to fuse normally.

Incongruent elbow: The bones which form the elbow joint grow at different rates and do not fit together properly



This is a condition where there is abnormal bony development of one or more of the vertebrae – the bones that make up the spinal column. The main part of each vertebra should look like a spool when seen from the side. A hemivertebra looks like a wedge or triangle. Hemivertebra can occur in bulldogs that have other kinds of vertebral malformations as well. Whether the condition causes problems for the bulldog depends on what part of the spinal column is affected, and whether there is compression of the spinal cord


Spina Bifida

Normally, the spinal cord is surrounded and protected by the vertebrae of the spinal column. In spina bifida, there is defective fusion of the vertebral arches during embryonic development, so that the vertebrae are incomplete. The abnormalities range from only nonfusion of a small part of one or a few vertebrae, to most of the vertebral arch being absent on several adjacent vertebrae with protrusion of the spinal cord and/or its lining (meninges) through the defect. In the first case the bulldog will have no medical problems, but with more severe defects there will be clinical signs associated with the area of the spinal cord that is affected. Spina bifida may occur anywhere in the spinal column but is seen most often in the lower back region (caudal lumbar spine).

Both genetic and environmental factors (toxins, nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy) can produce spina bifida.


HOD and Panosteitis

HOD is a disease of young, rapidly growing dogs. It usually strikes puppies between the ages of 3 to 6 months. It is primarily a disease of large or giant breeds of dogs, although there can be exceptions to this rule. As with most of the young, large breed bone disorders, it affects males more commonly than females.

Dogs that are stricken with HOD often show symptoms of mild to moderate painful swelling of the growth plates in the leg bones. It most commonly affects the ends of the radius, ulna, (long bones from the elbow to the wrist) and tibia (long bone from the knee to the hock). The dogs may show lameness and a reluctance to move. They may be lethargic and refuse to eat. A fever may come and go rising as high as 106 degrees. The disease usually affects both legs at the same time. The symptoms may wax and wane and resolve on their own or if the fever is very high for long periods and the bony involvement severe, the dogs may suffer permanent structural damage or even die.

Panosteitis is a spontaneously occurring lameness that usually occurs in large breed dogs. Panosteitis is an inflammation involving various layers of the bones of young, growing dogs. This condition occurs spontaneously and ultimately resolves on its own.

The exact cause of panosteitis is unknown, but the disease tends to occur in large and giant breed dogs between five to 12 months of age. Males are more commonly affected than females. In females, the problem can be associated with coming into heat for the first time. Panosteitis can cause severe lameness in more than one leg and can tend to move around, making it seem as if the lameness is shifting from leg to leg. The degree of pain may be such that the dog develops a fever, stops eating and starts to lose weight. An anti-inflammatory may be prescribed to help with pain.

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