French Bulldog Health Problems | Symptoms, Treatments & Tips

Intelligent, playful, and charming, the French Bulldog could easily be touted as one of the most popular dog breeds on the planet. These bulldog minis even have a cute name to go with their personality: Frenchies. In 2018, the UK named the French Bulldog as the most popular dog breed, and the United States named the breed as the fourth-most popular registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Jump to a Section: Background | Breed Details | Health Issues

Reading Time: 12 minutes
Updated: Mar. 26, 2020
French bulldog with health issue

With an even temperament, gentle personality, and telltale appearance with a small body, smooshed face, and large bat-like ears, it's no wonder Frenchies have made their way into hearts and homes across the planet. These dogs eagerly adapt whether they are placed in a home with children or older adults, so they can be found strutting alongside people from all walks of life. However, Frenchies are unfortunately prone to a long list of health problems that any prospective owner should know about before bringing this small dog into their home.

History and Background of French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs have a history that reaches all the way back to the 1800s in England. Toy bulldogs gained notoriety around the time of the Industrial Revolution among lace-makers. But when people in the lace-making trade relocated to the northern parts of the French countryside, they carried the mini bulldogs with them and they were crossed with other "ratter" breeds like terriers and Pugs. The result was a small dog with a bulldog's appearance except for those telltale bat ears.

The breed was originally called Bouledogue Français, and this was such a trademark French breed that the dogs can be found depicted in Parisian paintings of the time period. However, around the end of the 19th century, the breed had made its way to both America and Europe, and the dog breed was later recognized under its English designation of French Bulldog. They weren't officially recognized as a sub-breed of the classic English bulldog until 1905.

  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years on average
  • Weight: Less than 28 pounds
  • Height: Between 11 and 13 inches
  • Breed type: Non-sporting group
  • Personality and Temperament: Playful, intelligent, adaptable
  • Colors: Fawn, White, Brindle, Brindle & White, Tan 

French Bulldog Health Issues

French Bulldogs have what is referred to as a front-heavy body shape; they have a squared head and pronounced chest with a slimmer build from the shoulders back. These dogs also have flat faces, so the collaboration of the front-heaviness and flat face can mean more health concerns than other breeds. The AKC offers a specific list of testing recommendations for breeders to monitor the health of their stock, which includes eye exams and echocardiograms.

Hip DysplasiaPatellar Luxation | Eye IssuesCongenital Heart DiseaseAutoimmune ThyroiditisBrachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome (BAOS)DeafnessAllergies | Spinal Issues | IVDD


1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is commonly associated with larger dog breeds, but it can affect small to medium size dogs, including Frenchies, just the same. This condition is characterized by abnormalities in the hips that can lead to full joint dysfunction over time. Genetics play a major role in the development of hip dysplasia, but improper weight management and how much a dog exercises can be factors in the development of the condition.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia

  • Lowered activity levels
  • Changes in range of motion
  • Enlargement of the upper shoulders
  • Lacking muscle mass around the back thighs
  • Signs of pain when walking or running
  • Obvious signs of hip joint stiffness, such as skipping or favoring certain legs

Treatment Options

Proper diagnosis for hip dysplasia in a French Bulldog will require a vet exam and possibly x-rays. If the dog does have hip dysplasia typical treatments can involve lifestyle change recommendations, medications for pain and inflammation, and surgery in the most severe cases. Hip replacement is a possibility in canines, but this is the most extensive and expensive treatment route with costs climbing to as much as $6,000 or more.

Tips for Frenchie Owners

  • Feed your dog an appropriate diet rich in calcium and other minerals to support a healthy skeletal system
  • Make sure your Frenchie is getting exercise to prevent obesity
  • Stay away from fatty foods and table scraps
  • Make sure a new puppy is screened for hip health before you buy

2. Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is the dislocation of the small bone (the patella) that serves the purpose of shielding the stifle joint (the knee) of the hind legs. Luxation can be caused due to injury in dogs, but with Frenchies, the issue can also come from congenital defects and this is actually most common. If your dog is dealing with patellar luxation, they may feel pain when the incident occurs, but they rarely show any discomfort beyond the initial incident.

Symptoms

  • Abnormal movement of the hind legs
  • Apparent lameness of the hind legs
  • Skipping as walking or running
  • Bow-legged stance or knocked-knee stance

Treatment Options

Smaller breed dogs like Frenchies typically don't require surgical correction for patellar luxation unless the condition is extreme. It is, however, imperative to seek the vet's assessment of the condition as soon as it is noticed. During surgery, the patella is synthetically fastened to the bone to help prevent shifting. This kind of surgery can cost between $1,000 and $3,000 per knee. If surgery is required, about 90 percent of owners say their dogs do progress well after surgery, but recurring issues are common.

Tips for Frenchie Owners

  • Make sure to monitor your pet's weight; excess stress can increase the likelihood of patellar luxation
  • Help avoid trauma to the knees by discouraging jumps from great heights or avoiding excessive exercise

3. Cataracts and Other Eye Issues

Brachycephalic dog breeds (which literally means shortened head) like the French Bulldog are more prone to issues with their eyes than most other breeds. Unfortunately, Frenchies can be prone to a list of eye problems, such as:

Cataracts - Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the dog's eye, and this is a progressive condition that can lead to blindness.

Entropian - Characterized by eyelids being rolled inward toward the eye instead of outward. The condition can cause extreme eye irritation due to hair brushing against the eye.

Cherry eye - Cherry eye occurs when the gland that produces tears for the dog's third eyelid dislocates or seems to pop out. The condition is most often related to congenital issues.

Distichiasis - This is a hereditary disorder that commonly affects French Bulldogs and involves eyelash growth from unusual points on the eyelid. Left uncorrected, distichiasis can cause severe eye irritation.

Conjunctivitis - French Bulldogs may be more prone to conjunctivitis or "pink eye." The illness can be related to allergies, which also commonly affect the breed.

Symptoms of Eye Problems

  • Red, swollen, or irritated eyes
  • Squinting
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Pawing at the eyes
  • Obvious changes in vision
  • Obvious changes in the appearance of the eyes

Treatment Options

Treatment options for French Bulldog eye conditions will naturally vary according to the condition in question. Any time you notice something out of place with the dog's eye appearance or how they see, they should be taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist for an assessment. Something like conjunctivitis can usually be treated with medication, but problems that are more congenial in nature may require surgery. Costs of treatment can range depending on the condition. Something like cataract surgery can cost as much as $1,000 to $5,000 per eye, but something more simple like pink eye would only require the costs of a vet visit and medication.

Tips for Frenchie Owners

  • Make sure you obtain your Frenchie from a reputable breeder; eye conditions are often hereditary
  • It is best to make eye care a routine part of usual veterinary wellness visits, including cleaning under the skin folds around the eyes
  • Limit exposure to direct sunlight and allergens to protect your Frenchie's eyes

4. Congenital Heart Disease

Heart murmurs and general heart disease are common among French Bulldogs. Heart murmurs can be screened for when the dog is still a puppy, which is why it is important to work with a breeder who follows AKC health screening recommendations. However, general heart or valve disease is something that tends to develop later in life and can usually be contributed to either a poor diet or lack of exercise, and symptoms can vary.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

  • Coughing
  • Fainting or unexpected collapsing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Behavioral changes

Treatment Options

If a heart murmur is discovered early on, especially if it is mild, it is possible that the condition will actually repair itself with growth and a healthy lifestyle. If the heart murmur is not congenital but caused by a different health condition, there may be treatment options available that can help. Heart disease in an older French Bulldog can come along with substantial healthcare costs, but some dogs can have their quality of life improved through simple medication regimens. Something as simple as an echocardiogram can cost between $300 and $500, which is an indicator of how much a Frenchie owner can spend just to get a condition properly diagnosed.

Tips for Frenchie Owners

  • Regular well-pet visits are important for monitoring for heart conditions
  • Treatment for heart disease can be expensive, but pet insurance may help
  • A healthy diet and active lifestyle can help encourage a healthy heart
  • Work with a reputable breeder who has properly screened puppies for heart defects

5. Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Autoimmune thyroiditis is a condition that the AKC recommends breeders screen for because it is a common condition among French Bulldogs. This condition causes the dog's immune system to actually attack the thyroid gland, which serves a host of important roles for the canine body. Autoimmune thyroiditis can be a hereditary condition, but it can also be related to other underlying health problems, and the symptoms of the condition are generally related to inadequate or excessive levels of thyroid hormones.

Symptoms

  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Changes in weight that cannot be explained
  • Skeletal abnormalities
  • Digestive problems
  • Infertility
  • Changes in skin or coat
  • Mental dullness

Treatment Options

Thankfully, thyroid issues are treatable in canines. Typically, replacement hormone medications are used to help with the dog's offset thyroid functions due to the condition. Initial testing for thyroid issues can run from $50 and $150. In general, treatment for thyroid problems will require several vet visits and careful monitoring until the dog reaches a medication dose that is most stable. You can expect monthly medication expenses for thyroid-related issues to range from $20 to $50 range.

Tips for Frenchie Owners

  • Never disregard changes that could be obvious signs of thyroid problems
  • Work closely with your vet and be patient; achieving a stable medication dose can take a while
  • It is imperative to achieve a proper diagnosis to ensure the condition is not caused by a different disorder

6. Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome

Also sometimes referred to as BAOS (Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome, or Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome). As already noted, Frenchies are a brachycephalic breed. Their telltale flattened faces that make these pups so adorable comes along with drawbacks for the dog's health, specifically when it comes to breathing problems. Due to an elongated soft palate and constricted nostrils, Frenchies can snort and snore quite a bit, which is really cute and harmless most of the time. However, brachycephalic respiratory syndrome can cause a lot of undesirable and dangerous symptoms.

Symptoms

  • Severe intolerance to heat
  • Inability to exercise without getting out of breath
  • Consistently labored breathing
  • Bluish gums
  • Honking cough
  • Excessive panting
  • General breathing issues

Treatment Options

Treatment for brachycephalic respiratory syndrome can vary depending on the severity of the issue. Something like stenotic nares (constricted nostrils) may be surgically treated to open up the nasal passages. Tracheal collapse can also stem from the condition, which can be present at birth or develop later in life. Dogs with brachycephalic respiratory syndrome can also be more prone to having a heat stroke, which can mean you have to be extremely careful about providing shade and avoiding overexertion.

Tips for Frenchie Owners

  • If your dog has been diagnosed, be vigilant about monitoring for symptoms
  • Keep your dog cool and comfortable in shaded areas and in the air conditioner
  • Work closely with the vet to develop a care plan and prevent further problems

7. Deafness

Deafness in French Bulldogs is actually really common, but it can be related to either a genetic defect that is present at birth or it can be an issue that develops with age. Good breeders will screen puppies for deafness before they are sent to their new home using a BAER test. The test can actually be done on puppies that are as young as six weeks. Frenchies that have a mostly white color with black spots and have blue eyes instead of brown can be more at risk. Additionally, Frenchies can be more prone to ear infections due to their large, open ears, and this can create issues with hearing.

Symptoms of Deafness

  • Lack of response to sound or name-calling
  • Not waking due to noise
  • Prolonged or excessive barking

Treatment Options

Deafness due to a hereditary problem or that's permanent unfortunately cannot be treated. However, there can be some cases in which deafness in a Frenchie is a temporary thing. For example, something like an ear infection can cause temporary hearing loss, and this is easily treated with prescribed antibiotics that may be as little as $20 per bottle. For permanent deafness, the owner plays a vital role in improving the quality of life for the dog.

Tips for Frenchie Owners

  • Make sure the dog is never allowed to roam freely; provide them with a safe, contained area at all times
  • Work with your Frenchie to teach hand signals or follow visual commands
  • Consider putting a bell on their collar so you can track them easily

8. Allergies

French bulldogs can have issues with allergies, and some cases can be quite severe. Allergic reactions are caused by an involuntary immune system response. The reaction to an allergen in the environment or in the dog's food can range from something mild and hardly noticeable to something that is going to require immediate vet care. Allergens can be present in the environment, food, or something else, and they can be related to the dog's genetics.

Symptoms of Allergies

  • Dry, irritated, or itchy skin
  • Coughing, sneezing, or wheezing
  • Digestive issues, such as vomiting or diarrhea or excessive gas
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Hives or swelling of the skin

Treatment Options

Thankfully, dog allergies can usually be treated, but the vet will first have to determine the cause of the allergic reaction. Your vet may prescribe allergy medications for your dog, but first, they will likely do a series of tests to determine the source. Your Frenchie may be prescribed antihistamine eye drops, nasal sprays, or oral medications. Skin reactions may also involve the application of a medicated cream. Treatment costs can vary depending on the severity of the dog's condition.

Tips for Frenchie Owners

  • Monitor your pet closely if they are showing signs of allergies; some allergens can create severe reactions
  • Be patient as finding what is causing the allergic reaction can take some time
  • Do your best to eliminate proposed allergens from your pet's environment, food, etc.

Other Spinal Cord Issues in French Bulldogs:

  1. According to Ufaw.org.uk, french bulldogs are also prone to spinal cord relates issues, stating, "[they] commonly have deformities of the bones of the spine. These can lead to pressure on the spinal cord resulting in progressive pain and loss of hind limb function and incontinence.".
  2. IVDD (or Intervertebral Disk Disease) is also a risk for this breed due to their congenital predispositions for spinal/back issues.

Frenchie Puppy

A Worthy Companion with a Few Extra Requirements for French Bulldog Owners

French Bulldogs may have an unfair share of health concerns, but that does not inhibit their popularity. These dogs are ever-curious, perfect companions, and love to give and receive affection. Whether you already own a Frenchie or think you want to, it is important to get to know the health conditions that can be involved. The added attention to their care is usually a worthy trade-off for the rewarding four-legged friend you receive.


Author Sheena HarrisAuthor: Sheena Harris
About Sheena: 
Sheena Harris has 10 years of experience in canine health wellness. Having worked with both veterinarians and breeders across the country to curate content, she has a wealth of insight to share on pet wellness, proper breeding practices, and keeping canine companions happy. Her history in breeding AKC-registered beagles lends a great deal of firsthand insight to her work. She's also been published at dogs.lovetoknow.com.

 

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