Sprain or Torn Ligament in Limping Bulldog

Hi Jan,

It has been a while since I have written you.  My “grand -puppy” Lucy has grown to be almost two years old.  Her facial folds are so much better since I convinced my son to change her food!  She has not had any injuries since the one I wrote to you about below. Now she has her first real casualty and I have a few questions:

She was in the ER last night with a right hind leg injury ( from jumping off the couch)
She will not put any weight on it. I know from your email that you have had some injuries in your girls.
If it is sprained only, how long does it take to heal? If it is torn, how long is the recovery time?

Need your wisdom.  The ER vets are excellent, but the vet that my son and daughter in law take her to normally is so so in my book. ( Your friends agreed).

The ER vet is guessing that it is a torn ligament and will need surgery.  How do we know? I don’t think that ligaments show up on an x-ray.

I also know that special care has to be taken with the anesthesia in Bulldogs. What questions do we ask the vet?

Anything else we can do in diagnosing this problem?

Gratefully yours,


Hi Marie,

Jumping off the couch is often the final straw for a bulldog’s
malformed knee.  I would guess that she does have a torn
ligament, but here’s the usual test.

Keep her confined to walking only for a week.  That means no
jumping on or off the couch, no running around, no walks – as
little activity as possible.

If she is still limping in a week, it’s a pretty sure sign of a torn
ligament.  It’s important to take care of this injury as additional
injury can occur with movement and this can lead to arthritis.

It’s true that a torn ligament will not show up on an x-ray, but
a malformed knee joint will.  This floating kneecap or luxating
patella that I write about in the book is a common genetic
disorder of the bulldog and results in a torn ACL (anterior
cruciate ligament).

I would wait a week and then if she’s still limping or starts to
limp again, take her to an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation.
Find a good orthopedic surgeon in your area or take her to
a vet school if there’s one near you.  Do not let your regular
vet do this surgery!

The recovery time from surgery on a young dog can be
fast.  Lucy may start putting weight on it right away, but she
will have to be restricted from vigorous activity for at least
three weeks.

As for anesthesia, be sure the surgeon is familiar with bulldogs.
They have very small trachea and esophagus and need to have
smaller breathing tubes that most dogs.

I hope this helps clarify.  Let me know how she’s doing.  I went
through this twice with Vivy and both times she had to have
surgery to correct her malformed knees.  The surgery definitely
improved her quality of life.

your bulldog pal,



  1. May 16th, 2009 | 10:47 am

    hi, i was reading this and just recently my bulldog suffered from a torn ligament.the surgery cost 2000 dollars and we dont have that much money so that was ruled out.i was wondering,how does the torn ligament heal? and can it get worse if he walks around or hops?? please reply asap thank you.

  2. Cassie
    February 17th, 2010 | 11:38 am

    my olde english bulldog just barely tore her acl, and she’s extremely overweight she ways 105 pounds. ACL ligaments don’t heal. we have to give her 3 pills a day for 30 days, and try and get her to lose 1-2 pounds a week plus get a back sling/support for when we walk her. and after all the medicine is gone we have to bring her back to the vet and if arthritis is getting bad in her knee they will do the surgery but because of her weight they can’t do the surgery. 🙁 she’s a year and a half so still young. let’s hope we can do this!

  3. jeremy
    May 19th, 2011 | 11:16 pm

    hello, my bulldog/boxer mix 14month old puppy i noticed started favoring her left hind leg a tiny bit after getting up from naps a couple weeks ago. the last couple of days she has been favoring it much more. i took her to the vet and he says it could be a torn ligament and wants to do an xray. if her ligament was torn wouldn’t there have been more immediate pain? there was no incident where i noticed her in pain. what do you think should be the next step? the vet i go to is constantly trying to upsell something or other so i am growing suspicous of his motives. since i just had my ACL reconstructed a month ago i feel like i know the pain that would be evident in my little angel if her knee was actually severly damaged. thank you

  4. Jan
    May 22nd, 2011 | 7:48 am

    Dogs are very stoic creatures so she may not have indicated any immediate pain. Instinctually dogs know that a weak dog is a detriment to the good of the pack so they often do not show any signs of distress for as long as possible.

    You can do a simple test of her condition by keeping her quiet for a week. That means no running and playing or even taking her for a walk, and especially no jumping up and down from furniture. If she does not show improvement then she probably has a tear.

    Bulldogs are known for knee joint congenital conditions resulting from malformations of the knee joint which can result in strains, tears, and sometimes the necessity of re-forming the joint through surgery. An xray could tell the true story.

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