French Bulldog Limping: Back & Front Legs: Quick Diagnosis or Lameness?


french bulldog limping back leg

Frenchies are a resilient breed, but they are prone to various health issues, some of which can result in limping on the back leg or front paws and lameness. The majority of the time a limp will often be the result of a soft tissue injury such as a sprain in the leg tendon or joint. In most cases these will clear up in a few days and can be helped with pain killers.

However, there are other times when a Frenchie limping can be due to something more serious. In this guide I am going to explain the various causes of limping with some short advice on each one.

Handy Hint: This guidance isn’t designed to be professional advice on what to do if your French Bulldog is limping on his back leg or front paws or appears to be lame. Instead it’s intended to be an overview of what could be the problem, plus some personal experience from myself – a Frenchie owner of 3 years.

It goes without saying that you should always consult with your vet should your French Bulldog suddenly start limping and you have any concerns.

Why is my French Bulldog limping?

The most common reason why your French Bulldog started limping is due to a muscle strain, ligament or tendon damage, and a soft tissue injury. Typically, these injuries will occur after running or jumping where you will see the limping starting suddenly.

In most cases this can be fixed in just a few days, with many vets prescribing a special dog pain killer which is very similar to aspirin.

As long as your Frenchie is given time to recuperate and you limit their off-lead/off-leash activity, he should make a full recovery in a few days.

However, you should always run a few checks first. Vets advise that you:

  • Check for broken toe and claw nails.
  • Check there is no visible bleeding or cuts on the paw.
  • Check for any splinters or foreign objects in the paw.
  • Check to see if your Frenchie is lethargic and not eating.
  • Check for any visible signs of swelling.

When you call your vet, make a note of what you see.

When you should call a vet

If you cannot see any visible and obvious sign why your French Bulldog is limping, for example a splinter, then I would always consult with a vet.

If your French Bulldog who woke up limping or shows no sign of getting better, it could be the sign of something more serious.

Here are just some of the reasons why your French Bulldog has a limping back leg or limping with their front paws.

French Bulldog is lame
Your Frenchie might start limping after laying down or just waking up.

French bulldog limping back leg: common causes

These are the most common causes as described by our own vet. You can continue scrolling for more serious causes of Frenchie lameness.

  • Strain injury: Frenchies love to play, but this can often lead to leg injuries. It can include ligament strains and tendon damage that will often be resolved with pain killers and rest.
  • Paw wounds or insect stings: it’s very easy for dogs to get splinters in their paws or get stung by insects when out walking. You should also check for any foreign objects that could have got stuck in the paw. It’s not unusual to find chewing gum!
  • Broken and damaged claws: claws can get torn and split. If the tears is near to the nerve ending it can be very painful leading to a limp. Similarly, Frenchies who have got claws that haven’t kept short or have in-grown can also start limping suddenly.
  • Over-exertion: the limping could be as simple as your Frenchie has overdone things. Frenchies can get exhausted after just 15 minutes of running so give them an hour or two to cool down (here’s how to cool your Frenchie).

French bulldog limping back leg: more serious conditions

Hopefully the limping back or front legs will right themselves and can be easily diagnosed. However, there are more serious conditions which only your vet will be able to diagnose.

  • Breaks, fractures, and dislocations: Frenchies are busy dogs but due to their genetic make-up can easily dislocate parts of their leg.
  • Torn ligaments: ligament damage will occur after your dog twists and jumps. It can be very painful but can be treated easily by a vet.
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia: both of these are very common in French Bulldogs due to their genetic make-up. Hip dysplasia affects the rear legs, and elbow dysplasia the front legs and paws.
  • Luxating patella: in layman’s terms this means a dislocated kneecap, and again it’s a very common Frenchie injury leading to a limp. It occurs on the back legs and you might see your Frenchie skipping or limping in pain.
  • Inflammatory disease: also known as panosteitis this is common in puppies and results in inflammation on the long bones of the legs. It can cause a shifting lameness, where you see your Frenchie shift weight to limp on either leg.
  • Bone cancer: dog bone cancer is more common in larger dog breeds but can also happen to Frenchies. It can be diagnosed with a blood test.
  • ACL injuries: ACL tears often affect the hind legs and will see your French Bulldog holding a leg up as if lame. It can be treated with surgery, and your dog could be back walking 2 months post-ACL surgery.
  • Arthritis: most common in older French Bulldogs, limping will start off gradually and is an inflammation of the leg joints. The pain can be reduced with medicine and therapy.
  • Lyme disease: this cause is often hard to detect, as your French Bulldog won’t suddenly start limping, but instead months after being exposed to the disease. It can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Valley fever: this is a fungal disease found in the United States and can either make a French Bulldog puppy limp, or an older dog. It is not age specific at all.
  • Neurological disorders: this will often occur after damage to the spine where a disc will touch against the nerves, leading to potential lameness in your Frenchie.

French Bulldog limping on front leg or paws

Whilst most of the above causes of Frenchie lameness and limping can affect both the front and back legs, there are certain conditions which are isolated to the rear or front.

The most common would be elbow dysplasia (front legs) or hip dysplasia (rear legs).

  • Elbow dysplasia (front leg limping): elbow dysplasia is very common in French Bulldogs and is caused by abnormalities in the elbow joints on the front legs. It occurs when cartilage fuses to bone resulting in an out of line elbow joint. Your Frenchie will experience a lot of pain and swelling.
  • Hip dysplasia (rear leg limping): this occurs when the hip joints haven’t formed correctly as a puppy. Your Frenchie will struggle to climb stairs, won’t be able to jump, will walk as if “bunny hopping” and will be in a lot of pain. 

Handy Hint: For more information on hip dysplasia I recommend reading the excellent guide on the PDSA website (visit PDSA). It explains what it is, how to treat it, and when to contact your vet. 

How vets diagnose lameness and limping

The first thing a vet will do is check your Frenchie over. Having been to the vets twice in the last two years with Claude having a limp, the vet will first do a manual check.

The vet will:

  • Examine the paws.
  • Extend the legs to check for discomfort.
  • Massage and manipulating the leg areas to check for swelling.
  • Lightly push down the back to see if the Frenchie resists. 

If these checks don’t result in a diagnosis, your vet could then suggest the following checks: 

  • Blood test.
  • X-ray.
  • Fluoroscopy.
  • MRI scan.
vet x-ray
Sometimes a vet might need to x-ray your Frenchie to diagnose the lameness.

How to avoid leg injuries in Frenchies

To reduce the chances of a leg injury to your Frenchie, here are a few pointers on what not to do:

Are male or female Frenchies more prone to leg injuries?

When I wrote about French Bulldog health issues previously on the website, I heavily referenced a study into the demography and disorders common in this breed. You can view the study here, but the interesting take out was how the two genders differ.

A synopsis of the study said:

“One of the interesting findings from our research is that male French Bulldogs appear to be less healthy than females. Males were more likely to get 8 of the 26 most common health problems while there were no issues that females were more likely to get than males.”

You can see the percentages that each disorder was found in female versus male Frenchies in the table below.

Fine-level disorderCountFemale prevalence %Male prevalence %
Otitis externa31213.7%14.4%
Diarrhoea1677.0%8.1%
Conjunctivitis712.4%3.9%
Nails overlong692.6%3.6%
Skin fold dermatitis662.6%3.3%
Anal sac impaction643.1%2.7%
Upper respiratory tract (URT) infection612.1%3.3%
Pyoderma601.9%3.5%
Prolapsed nictitans gland572.4%2.7%
Pododermatitis552.2%2.7%
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS)541.4%3.4%
Colitis532.1%2.6%
Aggression510.8%3.7%
Heart murmur491.7%2.7%
Vomiting481.4%2.9%
Infectious canine tracheobronchitis472.2%2.0%
Upper respiratory tract (URT) disorder471.4%2.7%
Patellar luxation461.9%2.3%
Ulcerative keratitis461.7%2.5%
Claw injury441.3%2.6%
Atopic dermatitis441.7%2.3%
Gastroenteritis432.0%1.9%
Ear discharge421.6%2.2%
Alopecia411.9%1.8%
Demodicosis371.5%1.8%
Stenotic nares370.9%2.4%

The interesting aspect for me is how problems associated with leg problems and limping are more common in the male of the breed. For example:

  • Nails overlong: affects 2.6% of female Frenchies, 3.6% of male Frenchies.
  • Patellar luxation: affects 1.9% of female Frenchies, 2.3% of male Frenchies.
  • Claw injury: affects 1.3% of female Frenchies, 2.6% of male Frenchies.

Our personal experience

Last week we had quite a scare with Claude our French Bulldog. We noticed that after he woke up in the morning, he wasn’t himself. In fact, we had trouble getting him to get up from laying down and even have any interest in his food which was very unusual.

Once we had persuaded him to stand up, we noticed he was walking with a limping back leg and not walking as he usual does. Obviously, we were very concerned so gave it a few hours to see if it would get better. It didn’t at all, so we took him to the vets for a check-up.

Our vet did a few manual tests on Claude which involved pushing lightly down on his back, checking his tendons and paws, and stretching his legs out.

He quickly ascertained that Claude had hurt his back, possibly whilst jumping. We were given some special doggie pain killers to put in with his food, were advised to only have very short walks on the lead for 5 days, and to monitor him during the recovery period.

Within a few days Claude was completely back to himself and had stopped limping. 

frenchie leg problems
Claude is back to his normal self now and has stopped limping: so we’re back to our normal walking schedule!

Related questions

Should your Frenchie walk if he is limping?

If your Frenchie is limping and you’ve either diagnosed the problem as being a small wound or have been given advice by your vet, then reduce the walks. This is what our own vet said to us after Claude was diagnosed with a back strain.

“Providing you administer the pain killers twice a day, I would still let him walk if he wants to. However, don’t let him off the lead at the park and play with other dogs. Instead take him out for very short walks of just a few minutes, for example if you need to walk to the post box. Whilst the pain killers are working it might mean he over-exerts himself again and exacerbates the injury as he can’t feel the pain at the time. It will then take him longer to recover.”

Can your Frenchie’s nails make him limp?

Toenails (or claws) will often be a very simple to diagnose reason why your Frenchie is limping. If they have gotten too long or become ingrown, it can cause extreme discomfort and potential lameness.

Most Frenchies won’t need their nails clipped if they are active and regularly exercised. However, with older and less mobile dogs, claws can be a problem, leading to limping on the front legs or hind legs.

Conclusion

The bottom line is this; if you are at all worried about your French Bulldog limping on a paw and cannot see any obvious and easily remedied fix, contact your vet.

Disclaimer: I am not a vet but am a Frenchie owner of 3 years. All of the advice in this guide was written after consultation with our own dog’s vet and online research into the causes of limping.

Marc Aaron

I am one of Claude the French Bulldog's human parents. I write about all the things I've learned about owning a Frenchie, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way. Read more about Marc Aaron.

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