Why is My French Bulldog Limping? 16 Causes and Solutions

French Bulldogs are special dogs in so many ways, and unfortunately, not all of these are good things. One of the many ways they are different is that they are more prone to more health issues than most other dogs.

An issue that is quite common with Frenchies and will happen at least once in the lifetime of most French Bulldogs is limping. Your French Bulldog limping is something worth your attention but should not make you panic. Let’s answer the basic questions first.

So, why is my French Bulldog Limping? Your French Bulldog is limping due to over-exertion, injuries, strain, or insect bites most probably, and other less-common causes for French Bulldog limping include hip or elbow dysplasia, broken or damaged claws, paws, or bones arthritis, Lyme disease, or bone cancer.

The good news is that in the large majority of cases, the cause for your Frenchie’s limping whether it’s on the front or back legs or both, is something insignificant and temporary and with rest and sometimes meds your Frenchies will recover within a few days and will walk normally again.

So, while it’s not something you should worry about, it is still something worth your attention and you should be ready and well-aware of what you need to do to evaluate how serious it is and when you really should rush them to the vet.

The better news is that I’ll cover all of this here, you just need to make a cup of coffee (or tea), sit back, maybe take some notes, and keep reading…

Why is Your French Bulldog Limping on the Backlegs?

French bulldog walking to answer why is my french bulldog limping

There are literally dozens of reasons why your French Bulldog may be hurting in the back legs, but it’s quite hard to figure this out if you look at all the reasons, and luckily we don’t need to do that, and instead, we only need to look at the most common reasons why your French Bulldog may be limping.

To make this simple, we are going to split it into two parts; limping in the front legs or paws, and limping in the back legs or paws, and we’ll start with the latter since it’s more common.

Most Common Causes of French Bulldog’s Back Leg Limping

Here are the most common causes for your french bulldog’s limping on the back leg:

  • Over-exertion: Your French Bulldog may have been a little bit too active recently or doing activities that put a little too much strain on their legs. Frenchies are not very athletic and even just 20 minutes of exercise can get them exhausted and cause their legs to start acting out and limp.
  • Claw injuries: Your Frenchies’ claws can get torn and torn split, and if they are injued near the nerve ending, it can be very painful to them and it can lead to limping as your dog will find walking simply too difficult with the pain. The same can happen to Frenchies with overly long or in-grown claws.
  • Strain Injuries: Although Frenchies are not particularly athletic, they love to play and sometimes they play a little too roughly, which can lead to leg injuries including ligament strains and tendon damage.
  • Insect Stings: Insect stings on the paws or legs can be painful and can cause your Frenchie to start limping. If you see your dog chewing or licking their legs, this could probably be due to a sting.
  • Wounds: Your Frenchie could also be limping because of a wound. Try to inspect their legs if they’ll let you, and if they don’t, you may want to get them to the vet. Wounds and injuries can make French Bulldogs suddenly aggressive, and the more aggressive your Frenchie is about you touching their leg, the more pain they are in, so it’s definitely wise to take them to the vet and let the professionals handle it.
  • Foreign Objects: Gum, cigarette butts, and other small foreign objects may get stuck to your Frenchie’s paws and irritate them, causing them to slightly limp. They will also try to bite and chew on the area to get whatever is there out, but if it’s not causing them much pain, they will let you inspect and take it out.

Less Common – But More Serious Causes to French Bulldog’s Backlegs Limping

If the limping is not diagnosed easily, it’s probably one of the less common reasons. Unfortunately, these ones are more serious and only your vet will be able to diagnose and pinpoint which cause is it.

Let’s quickly go through these less common but more serious causes to your Frenchie’s back legs limping:

  • Elbow or hip dysplasia: As your Frenchie grows older, they are going to be more prone to elbow or hip dysplasia and it will make it more difficult for them to walk in general and will cause them to limp when they walk.
  • Torn ligaments: ligament damage may occur after your Frenchie gets their legs or paws twisted, and it can be very painful. Thankfully, it’s easily treated (by your vet)
  • Bone Cancer: Although it’s more common in larger dogs, French Bulldogs can still get bone cancer.
  • Arhritis: Your Frenchie will get more prone to arthritis as they get older. If your dog gets arthritis, it will start off slowly and gradually as the inflammation of the legs and joints takes some time to spread. If you notice the limping starting lightly but getting more and more noticeable, it could be arthritis.
  • Fractures, breaks, or dislocations: Frenchies tend to fall over more easily than most dogs, and if the fall is serious, such as from a high distance, on a solid ground, or down the stairs, they can dislocate, fracture, or even break a part of their leg.
  • Lyme disease: Lyme disease is tricky in dogs as the limping never show right away, but instead shows months after being infected. Thankfully, your vet can diagnose it and treat it with antibiotics.
  • Dislocated Kneecaps: Also called Luxating Patella, this is a common injury in French Bulldogs that can lead to limping.
  • ACL tears: ACL tears often affect the hind legs and will see your French Bulldog holding one leg up. It requires surgery to be treated and it takes about two months after the surgery for your French Bulldog to start walking again.
  • Valley Fever: Valley fever is a fungal disease that can make your Frenchie limp.
  • Neurological disorders: Neurological disorders can happen if your dog sustains an injury to their spine where a disc will touch against their nerves which could lead to your Frenchie’s lameness.

We’ve briefly touched on injuries due to falls, and you should know that falling is a serious risk for Frenchies, which is why Frenchies have such a difficult time with stairs. You can learn about how dangerous stairs are on French Bulldogs here and how to train them to climb up and down stairs more safely and easily here.

Now that we’ve covered limping in their back legs, which is where it’s much more common for limping to occur, we will cover limping on their front legs or paws, where it’s rarer for the limping to occur.

Why is Your French Bulldog limping on the front leg?

Whilst most of the reasons listed above for the limping in the back legs can also be the cause for the limping on the front legs, there are a couple of conditions that are isolated to the front legs or paws.

The most common are:

  • Elbow dyplasia: Elbow dysplasia is common in French Bulldogs. It’s often caused by abnormalities in the elbow joints on the front legs when cartilage fuses to bone and results in an out-of-line elbow joint. Your Frenchie will experience a lot of pain and swelling when this happens.

What to do when your French Bulldog is limping?

So you notice your Frenchie’s limping and you get to google and finally come here, now what? The next step to treating the limp is to actually find out what is causing it, right?

Inspect them

Once your Frenchie settles down and sits down or lays somewhere, go and inspect them as long as they allow it. Check their legs and their paws closely (and maybe use your phone’s flash if the lighting is not good enough).

Check for what? Basically, anything that may cause them pain, here are some examples:

  • Rash
  • Injuries
  • Bruises
  • Swelling
  • Twisting or signs of it
  • Broken nails
  • Gum or something else stuck to them
  • Insect bites

If you can’t easily determine what is the cause of their limping, it’s time to visit the vet.

Take them to the vet

The next step is to simply take them to the vet. You should do that when your Frenchie lets you check them out and you find nothing or when they don’t let you and become aggressive because they are in pain. Your vet will be able to see what you can’t see, especially if you regularly take your dog for check-ups as your vet will be familiar with them.

But what will your vet do?

How vets diagnose limping and lameness

Your vet has a process they will go through every time to find out what is the cause for their limping or lameness. Here is how (usually) it will go:

  • Check their paws
  • Check their legs
  • Handle and manipulate the area to find the discomfort the spot
  • Lightly massage and push on their legs to see where it hurts exactly

If the physical examination is not enough, your vet will ask for a test or more to reach a diagnosis, these may be a blood test, x-ray, MRI scan, or a Fluoroscopy.

Once your vet has the results, they will be able to make a diagnosis and recommend a treatment. This treatment will almost always include rest, and sometimes it will require limited on-leash walks, massages, and medications.

It goes without saying that you should never give your dog pain meds on your own, even if you see that your dog is in pain and you read on the internet that certain medications can help. If your vet sees that your dog does need something to relieve the pain, they are going to write them a prescription in the proper dose for their breed, age, and health.

French Bulldogs Leg Health Problems

French Bulldogs are prone to many health problems, but they are not as prone to leg issues as some larger breeds are.

According to the same study cited earlier, male french bulldogs tend to be more prone to health issues than female French Bulldogs, and if you look closely at the numbers, you can see that male Frenchies are more prone to leg problems than their female counterparts as well.

Here is the breakdown of the study:

Fine-level disorderCount% of Prevalence in Males % of Prevalence in Females
Otitis externa31214.4%13.7%
Nails overlong693.6%2.6%
Skin fold dermatitis663.3%2.6%
Anal sac impaction642.7%3.1%
Upper respiratory tract (URT) infection613.3%2.1%
Prolapsed nictitans gland572.7%2.4%
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS)543.4%1.4%
Heart murmur492.7%1.7%
Infectious canine tracheobronchitis472.0%2.2%
Upper respiratory tract (URT) disorder472.7%1.4%
Patellar luxation462.3%1.9%
Ulcerative keratitis462.5%1.7%
Claw injury442.6%1.3%
Atopic dermatitis442.3%1.7%
Ear discharge422.2%1.6%
Stenotic nares372.4%0.9%

Notice the three bolded rows in the table and how these three causes, which often cause leg injuries or are closely associated with them, are more prevalent in males compared to females?

Are Male or Female French Bulldogs More Prone to Leg Injuries?

A 2018 study on French Bulldogs’ disorders and demography in the UK found out that male French Bulldogs are more prone to health issues in generals than female French Bulldogs, and the study suggests that the reasons could be the difference in bodyweight as males tend to be heavier than their female counterparts.

According to the study, which you will find cited in the “resources” section at the end of the article:

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

The study could not find a specific reason why males were less healthy than females, but it suggests that it may be the bodyweight difference that is behind it, as males tend to be heavier than their female counterparts, which can make them more prone to those health issues.

According to the study:

The current study data do not provide a strong rationale to explain the disorder prevalence differences between males and females but these may be associated with differing body sizes (13.7 kg in males versus 11.5 kg in females) or hormonal profiles between the sexes 

So, yes, male French Bulldogs are more prone to leg issues than their female counterparts, but the risks are not that significant to make it a decision-making factor if you are getting a new dog soon, and these risks can be mitigated if you take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries and protect your Frenchie.

Let’s see how you can do that.

How to protect your French Bulldog from Leg Injuries?

There are simple steps everyone can make to help minimize the risk of injury in their French Bulldogs. Here are some of them:

  • Don’t over-exercise your French Bulldog
  • Don’t encourage them to jump too high.
  • Never let them run up or down the stairs
  • Don’t walk them on hot surfaces. Touch the surface, if it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for them.
  • Cut their nails regularly and don’t let them get too long
  • Always clean their paws or wash them after they walk in snow, mud, or dirt to wash off any chemicals or debris that may get stuck to their paws and hurt them.

Overall, just keep an eye on your dog and follow the basic safety practices with them and they should be fine. French Bulldogs can be gentler than other dogs, so you should always keep that in mind.

Related Questions

Can I treat my dogs’ limping at home?

You can treat your dog’s limping at home by giving your dog rest and applying ice packs to the area for 15 minutes daily if the limping is caused by a sprain or a bruise, or with warm water and antibiotic ointments if it’s caused by swelling, but the best thing that can help your dog limping is to get them to the vet and have them checked out to find the exact cause of their limping.

What to do if my french Bulldog is limping?

You should inspect their legs and paws to see if you can find the cause of their limping which is probably going to be a wound, injury, or insect bite. If you can’t see anything or your Frenchie won’t let you handle them or get close to their legs, you should take them to the vet to have them checked out.

Your vet will do a physical exam and maybe order an x-ray or other tests to determine the exact cause of the limping and then will decide on the best course of action to take which will include rest but may also include pain medications.

Why do French Bulldogs lick their paws so much?

Your French Bulldog is licking their paws because it itches, feels painful, or something is stuck on them that they are trying to get out. The most common causes of excessive itching in Frenchies are food and skin allergies, but excessive chewing and licking can actually make it worse.

A very common sign of food and skin allergies will be rashes which can show up on any part of their body including their legs and paws. You can learn about the causes, treatments, and prevention methods of rashes in French Bulldogs here to know exactly what to expect and what you should do when you spot them.

Helpful Resources

Demography and disorders of the French Bulldog population under primary veterinary care in the UK in 2013

Hip dysplasia in dogs

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Vet-Reviewed post.
This article was edited and reviewed by a vet for the accuracy of the information provided, but it doesn’t and wasn’t meant to replace your own vet.

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