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

english bulldog limping

English Bulldogs make for fantastic pets, but they can come with a range of health issues due to the way in which they have been bred. One of the more common problems can be them limping on the back leg or front paws or showing signs of lameness.

Some limping happens after sleeping and it will gradually wear off. With some limping you won’t even think your English Bulldog is in pain.

When the limping doesn’t quickly clear up within minutes but instead lasts for a few days, it’s could be attributed to a soft tissue injury. It could be something like a sprain in your English Bulldog’s leg joints and tendons and which might clear up inside of week when combined with vet-prescribed pain killers.

Whatever the scenario though, if you see your English Bulldog limping it’s worrying enough to want to know more and that’s what this guide is all about.

Why? Because there will be times when your English Bulldog’s limping is something far more serious than just a strain. No matter what the situation, you should always call your own vet for professional advice if your English Bulldog suddenly starts limping.

Why is my English Bulldog limping?

Some of the more common reasons why your English Bulldog has started limping will be strains to a tendon, ligament, or muscle – this is the soft tissue injury I referred to earlier and will happen after your English Bulldog has been exerting himself; the limping will start suddenly afterwards.

Most vets can quickly diagnose this type of injury and will probably give you some canine pain killers to help alleviate your English Bulldog’s discomfort.

Given time to recuperate, rest, and stop jumping and running, your English Bulldog should be better in just a few days. That means no walkies or indoor play!

If you haven’t yet called your own vet, here are some checks you can make which might indicate why your English Bulldog is limping:

  • 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 English Bulldog is lethargic and not eating.
  • Check for any visible signs of swelling.

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

Handy Hint: I’ve published all the signs you look for to check that your English Bulldog is happy and loves you!

When you should call a vet about your limping English Bulldog

If there’s nothing obvious around the paw or leg, and you still don’t know why your English Bulldog is limping, then call your vet and book an appointment in.

This is particular important if your English Bulldog wakes up from sleeping with a limp and shows no sign of the limp going inside of 30 minutes. Anything longer than and I would suggest it’s not a limp due to the way they have slept, but instead something different.

Here’s a list of reasons given by vets for why your English Bulldog has a limping back leg or starts limping on the front paws only.

English Bulldog limping after waking up
Your English Bulldog might start limping after sleeping, laying down and just waking up. (Image via https://pixabay.com/photos/english-bulldog-bully-dog-english-2705136/)

English Bulldog limping back leg: common causes

From my own research and talking to a vet friend of mine, here are the most common causes of limping. Keep scrolling down for the more serious English Bulldog lameness symptoms.

  • Over-exertion: Your English Bulldog could be limping after some particularly excessive exercise. English Bulldogs get worn out very easily and will be exhausted after heavy exercise of just a few minutes. The limping could be due to utter exhaustion so give them water and time to recover.
  • Injured claws: Your English Bulldog might have broken a claw. This injury can be extremely painful, especially if the tear in the claw gets to the nerve ending.
  • Wound to the paw or insect sting: Your English Bulldog might have a splinter in his paw making him limp. It could be an open wound, a stone, chewing gum, or even a insect bite or sting so do a thorough check.
  • Strain or muscle injury: Your English Bulldog might have strained a leg, joint, or muscle whilst playing or even just going about his day to day business.

English Bulldog limping on back leg: more serious conditions

One would hope that your English Bulldog’s limping back or front legs will quickly get better themselves. But there are more serious health conditions that limping legs are sometimes attributed to.

  • Breaks, fractures, and dislocations: English Bulldogs are prone to leg injuries due to their genetics and can easily hurt themselves when active.
  • Torn ligaments: Ligament damage will occur after your English Bulldog twists and jumps. It can be very painful but can be treated easily by a vet.
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia: English Bulldogs are prone to these health conditions, being common with brachycephalic breeds. The hip dysplasia can occur in their back leg with elbow dysplasia in the front legs and paws.
  • Luxating patella: This is the medical for a kneecap dislocation. It’s an injury common in English Bulldogs and will often manifest itself at first with a pronounced limp. It occurs on the back legs and you will notice your English Bulldog skipping or limping in pain.
  • Inflammatory disease: Also known as panosteitis, English Bulldog puppies will often have this inflammation on their leg bones. You might see your English Bulldog shifting from leg to leg to balance the weight with this lameness condition.
  • Bone cancer: Canine bone cancer tends to be more of a big dog breed condition but isn’t unheard of in smaller dogs like English Bulldogs. Your vet can check for it with a simple blood test.
  • ACL injuries: ACL tears often affect the back legs and are often first noticed when your English Bulldog starts to lift up a leg. It can be fixed with an operation surgery, and your English Bulldog might even be back and walking inside of 60 days.
  • Arthritis: This condition is most common in older English Bulldogs, where limping is a gradual thing as the joints become more swollen over time. Vets can prescribe therapy and medication for the pain.
  • Lyme’s disease: This limping cause is one of the most difficult to diagnose as your English Bulldog won’t suddenly start limping, but instead will limp many months after being exposed to Lyme’s. It can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Valley fever: This is a fungal disease found in the United States and can either make an English Bulldog puppy limp, or an older dog. It is not related to how old your dog is.
  • 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 English Bulldog.

English Bulldog limping on front leg or paws

Many of the reasons I have already listed for English Bulldog lameness and limping will happen with the back and front legs. But there are some conditions which will only cause limps to one of the other.

For example; elbow dysplasia (front legs) or hip dysplasia (rear legs).

  • Elbow dysplasia (front leg limping): This is very common in English Bulldogs and happens due to bone abnormalities in the elbow joints on the front legs. It happens due to cartilage fusing to the bone resulting in an elbow joint being pushed out of place. It will be very painful to your English Bulldog, with obvious swelling.
  • Hip dysplasia (rear leg limping): This happens when your English Bulldog’s hip joints haven’t formed correctly when they were a puppy. Your English Bulldog probably won’t be able to walk upstairs, jump up, and will probably walk with what looks like a little bunny hop to deal with the pain.

Handy Hint: To keep your Bully free from injury you should not walk them too much. Here are guidelines for daily exercise limits.

How vets diagnose lameness and limping

Once you have booked an appointment in with your vet, they will do a manual check of your English Bulldog using just their hands. They will press and pull to see what the cause could be. The check will go something like this:

  • Examine the paws for obvious signs of injury.
  • Pull the legs stretched out to check for a reaction.
  • Do gentle massage on all four legs.
  • Lightly apply pressure to the spine to see if the English Bulldog puts up resistance. 

If the manual checks don’t offer a conclusion on why your English Bulldog limps, there could be some more in-depth diagnosis test such as:

  • Blood test.
  • X-ray.
  • Fluoroscopy.
  • MRI scan.

How to stop your English Bulldog from getting leg injuries

A lot of limping can be avoided, so here are a few tips on how to avoid those injuries in the first place.

  • Don’t let them walk on sharp, uneven, or surfaces covered in debris.
  • Don’t let them walk on hot surfaces or surfaces that are too cold.
  • Don’t overwork and over-exercise your English Bulldog, particularly in hot weather.
  • Don’t let your English Bulldog jump up too high as it can jar their spine.


English Bulldogs are prone to limping injuries, some more serious than others. If you English Bulldog is limping on a paw or arching their back and you cannot find any obvious reason for doing so, consult your vet. 

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a vet, and this isn’t intended to replace professional advice on what to do if your English Bulldog is limping on his back leg or front paws. Instead it’s an overview of what I have learned as a dog owner when my own was limping, plus what vets have told me. If you are at all concerned, please call your own vet.

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Here are some more health-related English Bulldog articles that all owners of this breed should be aware of.

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-english-bulldog-bulldog-4196554/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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