If you are looking to purchase a French Bulldog or already own one it is important to know some of the most common health issues concerning the breed. Frenchies are known for their short muzzles and pigtails, and these characteristics can bring certain health issues that we should be aware of. This should guide you on what to look for if you are concerned your dog might be affected by one of these conditions. See my post about French Bulldog Characteristics to learn more about the breed.
French Bulldog Health Issues
A study conducted by the Royal Veterinary College in London revealed that at least 72% out of all the French Bulldogs that were studied at least one had a noted health problem. And the most common French Bulldog problems over a year period were ear infections, diarrhea, and conjunctivitis. Skin problems overall were the most common group of health issues, due to the wrinkles and skin folds we all love so much! I plan to make an entire post dedicated to that in a couple of days.
According to the American Veterinarian, gender also seems to play an important role in the susceptibility of French bulldogs to developing health problems. Males were more likely to be diagnosed with 8 of the 26 most common breed-associated conditions, whereas no issues were more common in females.
French Bulldog health issues are actually not as common as with most of the bully breeds. Many French Bulldog health conditions are often genetic, meaning they are related to the breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions that concern Frenchies have a significant rate of impact. This does not, however, mean that your French Bulldog will have any of these problems. This is just a general list of some of the most common conditions associated with the breed.
One of the most common is Brachycephalic Syndrome, and this affects the short-nosed breeds like the Pug, Frenchie, English, Boston, Boxer, and mastiff. Brachycephalic means short or broad-headed in Latin. The short muzzles of a Bulldog can have an undesirable effect on the neck and head and it’s relation to the soft tissues and other structures. This condition affects our short-nosed breeds, they have the same amount of tissue in their nose and throats but there is no place for it to go. As a result, the soft part at the back of the roof of the mouth is too long. It hangs down and can restrict airways to make it hard for them to breath.
Sometimes the nostrils are too small or the windpipe is narrow and undersized. This all leads to an obstructed airway, which in turn affects their breathing. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs include stenotic nares, elongated soft palate, hypoplastic trachea, and everted saccules, according to Dr. Kraemer a leading Bulldog Vet. They can have one of these issues or multiple issues at once. That will all depend on how much the syndrome will affect their overall ability to breathe correctly.
*picture of stenotic nares*
Smushy Face Syndrome
Signs of respiratory distress include noisy breathing, decreased exercise, and heavy snorting or snoring. Those are all common signs your dog may have the brachycephalic syndrome. The diagnosis of stenotic nares in Frenchies is usually done visually. It can be determined by your vet with a physical exam and radiographic findings. Almost half of the French Bulldogs have significant breathing problems.
It’s important we pay close attention any time our pet is exercising or going outdoors in the hot or cold weather, which can all have a negative effect. This is one of the most common French Bulldog health issues. Sometimes it gets overlooked because people think it’s normal, it shouldn’t be.
Intervertebral Disk Disease(IVDD)
The French Bulldog Club conducted a survey in which one out of four French Bulldogs had bone or joint problems. IVDD is a back problem in French Bulldogs and is caused when the jelly-like cushion between one or more vertebrae slips or ruptures, causing the disc to press on the spinal cord.
Signs of Intervertebral Disk Disease are the dog being unable to jump up, go upstairs, is reluctant to move around, has a hunched back, crying or whining, refuses to eat or go potty. And he is likely in severe pain. He may be dragging his back feet, or be suddenly paralyzed and unable to use his back legs.
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms it is severe and requires an emergency trip to your vet. For less severe cases medication and rest may be all he needs to resolve the issue.
Weight control is key to preventing this problem in your French Bulldog. It is important to keep them on a healthy diet and only feed what is recommended for their weight. The use of ramps or stairs to high spaces like a bed or couch from puppy hood will decrease the chance and prevent your dog from putting a lifetime of stress on his back jumping on and off furniture.
Hemivertebrae is a spinal deformity that French Bulldogs are born with more often than any of the other canines. When severe may lead to spinal cord damage or disability. This condition is when one or more vertebrae are abnormally shaped or misaligned causing spinal cord compression. Symptoms of this condition are similar to those from IVDD. Your dog could also have trouble with bowel movements and urinary incontinence.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD is common in Frenchies. It is an immune system disorder in which the intestinal lining becomes overrun with immune system cells called lymphocytes and plasmacytes. The stomach or lining becomes thickened affecting his ability to absorb nutrients properly.
The same way Inflammatory Bowel Disease may affect a human can also affect our dog and symptoms are pretty much the same. Signs of IBD are upset tummy not explained by more common reasons, chronic diarrhea and vomiting. Change of diet, stress, or internal parasites may make the condition worse. Diagnostic tests, which may include an intestinal biopsy, will be needed. Lifetime medications and special diets are usually required to keep their pain and discomfort under control.
Eye Problems in French Bulldogs
For your dog to be able to function normally it is very important that we keep a watch on their overall eye health. Your vet will always check the eyes and look for any causes of concern at each visit. However, as a responsible pet owner, it’s important to monitor our dog’s health properly and we should get them to a vet at the first sign of eye distress or any concern.
Symptoms can include but are not limited to red swollen eyes, itchy eyes, watery eyes, discharge or rubbing due to pain. In order to prevent any more serious issues later, we should consult with our vet anytime any of these symptoms exist. With that said French Bulldogs may inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions that could possibly lead to blindness if not properly treated.
Cataracts are common in older French Bulldogs and a common sign cause of blindness. A cataract is when the lens of the eyes become cloudy(milky-like) or opaque. Many dogs can adjust very well to vision loss and can still lead a productive life. However, just because your dog develops a cataract does not mean that they will automatically lose their vision. Mostly depends on the severity of the case.
However, there is also an option for operation for senile cataracts. Senile cataracts can generally be diagnosed by their simultaneous appearance in both eyes. However debated, your veterinarian may find operation fitting for your pet upon the development of cataracts. Surgery can be done to remove the cataract from the lens. This doesn’t guarantee your dog won’t ever go blind and can lead to a lifetime of invasive follow up treatment.
There are a number of reasons your dog could develop cataracts, the most common being genetics, and diabetic dogs are highly susceptible to it as well.
Distichiasis is the condition which extra hairs grow or grow in an abnormal manner on the inside of the eyelids and rub the surface of the eyes. This is one of the most common inherited diseases in dogs and French Bulldogs are highly susceptible more than other breeds in developing this painful condition. If left untreated the hairs may cause corneal ulcers and chronic eye pain. Unfortunately, there is no preventive treatment for Distichiasis at this time, and the symptoms will vary depending on severity. In general, they are consistent with that of corneal ulcers.
Entropion is where the eyelid rolls inward, causing eyelashes to rub against the cornea causing pain and irritation. The severity of the entropion is in direct correlation with the number of wrinkles on the Frenchies face region and the weight of the folds.
This corneal wound in puppies can be detected by placing a fluorescent dye on the cornea and then viewing the wound with ultraviolet light by your veterinarian. In an adult Frenchie, the vet might perform a surgical procedure to remove the narrow segment of skin from under the eyelid with stitches to revert the eyelid to a normal position.
Cherry eye can be seen when the third eyelid prolapses out showing a rosy, oval protrusion. French Bulldogs, English, and American Bulldogs all have three eyelids. Including the top and bottom and then a third passive one. The third one is a pink membrane, originating from the nasal corner of the eye. It is designed to protect the cornea and helps distribute tears over the eyes. It also contains lymphoid tissue suggesting immune protection of the eye.
Unfortunately, the cause of cherry eye in bulldogs is not always known. Could possibly be inherited or in some cases sometimes due to environmental issues causing inflammation of the tissue. In many cases of cherry eye, there is also a chance that the other eye could possibly protrude.
In milder cases, cherry eye can often be massaged back into place. It is advised any time your dog has even a mild condition, you consult with your vet before taking treatment into your own hands.
Because our Frenchies have eyeballs that naturally protrude, they are more susceptible to an eye injury. More than half of all eye problems in our Bulldogs are present with a corneal injury. Even a mild scratch can lead to an expensive problem and could possibly lead to vision loss.
It’s not recommended we as Frenchie owners let our dog’s head hang out the window while driving as this could lead to eye injuries and is a frequent cause.
Skin Problems and Allergies
Just like humans, French Bulldogs are commonly known to have allergies. However, rather than sneezing like us Frenchies often will just have itchy skin. Dog allergies can be caused by a number of things. Often an allergy to a food or an environmental factor, also certain chemicals found in dog products or fleas.
Licking the paws, scratching, and frequent ear infections are among the most common signs your dog may have allergies. It will often develop between the ages of one and three years old but can happen at any point during your dog’s life. Finding the right diet and products for your dog with allergies can have a great impact on improvement.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
This is a very common issue for Frenchies and you may already be familiar with the term. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia is an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly in the puppy growing phase which results in arthritis.
Symptoms of Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are stiffness in the joints, lameness in the legs, and difficulty getting up or mobility issues. The key to maintenance and prevention of arthritis and dysplasia is keeping your dog’s weight healthy. In addition to weight management and proper veterinarian care, you can give your dog joint supplements and the essential fatty acids.
Kidney or Bladder Stones
There are several types of stones that can form in the bladder or kidneys and affect our Bulldogs. Frenchies again are more likely to develop these than most breeds.
The same symptoms as you would see in a human you will notice in your dog. If your baby is having trouble urinating, can’t urinate or there is blood in her urine get her to the vet. Your vet will be able to perform the x-rays needed to determine if she has a stone and it is considered an emergency. Kidney stones can be extremely painful, I had a golf ball sized kidney stone once and would much rather give birth, they are no fun! I couldn’t imagine the pain one would inflict on my dog.
Unfortunatly French Bulldog health issues are common, but with better breeding practices can improve. French Bulldogs are not for the faint of heart as they could potentially rack up some serious vet bills. Or your Frenchie could be perfectly healthy without a single issue, but we never know. I have been fortunate with my two as they really haven’t had any issues outside of regular maintenance and preventative care. Our furry best friends count on us to take the best care of them possible.
Proper weight and diet management can go a long way in the prevention of many illnesses. I highly encourage all pet owners to consider pet insurance, it will save you tons down the road if need emergency care for your dog.
A lot of people don’t have thousands of dollars laying around in the event of a pet getting sick, pet insurance minimizes that worry for us. Your French Bulldog could live its entire life without a single health issue. The unfortunate part is that with our health and the health of our dogs we never know. So it’s important as responsible owners that we are always prepared.