French Bulldog health screening

Recommended Breeding Practices for the French Bulldog

  1. In line with the breed standard, it is not recommended to breed from any dog exhibiting severe respiratory distress.
  2. X ray spines for major defects prior to breeding :  defects include hemivertebrae, kinks and distortions of the spine.  Screen for long term stability of the spine.
  3. X ray for hip dysplasia prior to breeding.
  4. X rays should be submitted and scored under the French Bulldog scheme or by a nationally recognised scheme.  For breeding purposes spine and hip x rays should be taken when the dog is over 12 months of age.
  5. X ray and screen puppies spines prior to sale.
  6. DNA test for hereditary cataracts.

Why spine and hip X ray puppies?

We X ray / screen puppies for several reasons:

  • To establish whether the spine and hips are relatively normal.
  • To obtain an idea of the relative quality of the spines and hips between litter mates as an extra selection tool in selecting the best future breeding stock.
  • To eliminate bad backs (and to a lesser extent at this age - hips) from breeding programs and to prevent severe abnormalities from being on-sold to the general public.

French Bulldog Spine and Hip Scheme
Dr Karen Hedberg BVSc

In the French Bulldog we may face two significant structural bone problems – hemivertebrae and hip dysplasia.  

Hemivertebrae - current breed median 14.00 (October 2019)

These are vertebrae that have not developed properly and as a result of being misshapen, can result in instability of the vertebral column (the back). When the back is unstable, pinching of the spinal cord and disc protrusion can occur. Many brachycephalic and/or screw tail breeds have hemivertebrae, with French Bulldogs having a high incidence.

The vast majority of French Bulldogs have at least 2-3 hemivertebrae but do not have significant problems. Hemivertebrae in the lumbar area and the last 2-3 vertebrae of the thoracic area (T10-T13) are more likely to cause problems in later life. 

When screening, what we are looking for is the position of the hemivertebrae and whether they are causing any deviations of the spine, either away from a straight line (head to tail) or severe kinking of the spine resulting in pinching or narrowing of the spinal cord. 

The best way to view the back is with two views, one lateral from the shoulders to the tail, and the other in the anterior/posterior view i.e. of the dog on its back. 

For assessing hemivertebrae, the scoring is as follows:-

   Grade 1  Partially wedged vertebra : score 1
   Grade 2  Fully wedged vertebra : score 2
   Grade 3  Double wedged (butterfly) vertebra : score 3

The advice at this stage is to breed with care any dog with a score of more than 15; however this result should be looked at in regard to the hip result.  When breeding ideally at least one parent should score well under 15.

I would suggest for the present that we only record and note where the hemivertebrae occur and score the animals and record the figures. It is not suggested that we remove these animals from the breeding pool at this stage.  However if a dog records high results in both hip and back, it is not recommended to breed with the animal.

Hip dysplasia - current breed median 12 (October 2019)

Hip dysplasia can be a problem in the breed and we need to screen for this. The most common issues are shallow sockets and loose ligaments.  The best view is an anterior/posterior view i.e. of the dog stretched out on its back with the legs parallel.  

At this stage the breed average for hips is 13.  We have now had well over 180 dogs scored and the vast majority are coming in with total hip scores of under 20.  I would suggest a reasonable cut off point of 30 as the upper limit.  Dogs with hip scores over this would have to have very good conformational virtues and excellent backs to warrant the risk.

Both x-rays can fit on a large plate with the screen divided along the long axis. Half the plate can be of the lateral view of the spine, the other half can be a vertical view of the hips and spine. Dogs should be screened over 12 months of age. 

The two schemes should be considered simultaneously. Significant problems in both areas would be enough to suggest strongly that one should not breed with the animal.



Dr Mariano Makara
PO Box 634
Lane Cove NSW 1595
Tel 0416 051 002
The X-rays required for grading by Dr Makara will be a lateral and ventro-dorsal of the thoracic and lumbar spine (two X-ray plates).  Microchip numbers must be noted on the X-ray.

Fees    $110.00 Hips and Spine

 Download the forms here