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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Vertebral and spinal malformations in small brachycephalic dog breeds: Current knowledge and remaining questions

De Decker, Steven; Rohdin, Cecilia; Gutierrez-Quintana, Rodrigo


Small brachycephalic dog breeds, such as the French bulldog, English bulldog and pug have become increasingly popular. These breeds are predisposed to a variety of vertebral and spinal malformations, including hemivertebra, caudal articular process dysplasia, transitional vertebra, cranial thoracic vertebral canal stenosis, spinal arachnoid diverticulum and meningeal fibrosis. Recent studies have provided new insights into the prevalence, anatomical characteristics, pathophysiology and treatment of these conditions. Thoracic hemivertebra, caudal articular process dysplasia, transitional vertebra, and cranial thoracic vertebral canal stenosis occur commonly in neurologically normal dogs. Although the clinical relevance of these vertebral anomalies has therefore been questioned, severe kyphosis and hemivertebra in pugs have been associated with an increased likelihood of neurological signs. Meningeal fibrosis is characterised by the formation of dense intradural fibrotic adhesions, constricting the spinal cord. This condition has been heavily associated with the pug breed. It is in pugs further common to observe multiple concurrent spinal disorder in association with chronic progressive pelvic limb gait abnormalities. This clinical presentation has been referred to as 'pug dog thoracolumbar myelopathy' and potential genetic risk factors have recently been identified. Despite our increased knowledge, many questions remain currently unanswered. This review discusses our current understanding and controversies surrounding vertebral and spinal malformations in small brachycephalic dog breeds.


Caudal articular process dysplasia; Hemivertebra; Meningeal fibrosis; Spinal arachnoid diverticulum

Published in

Veterinary Journal
2024, Volume: 304, article number: 106095Publisher: ELSEVIER SCI LTD

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