What to Feed French Bulldogs With Allergies (Ultimate Guide)

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French Bulldogs are truly one of those rare dog breeds who can get along with anyone. Friend to royals and peasants, celebrities, and all the rest of us, it seems these perfect little pups are beloved by all.

How we wish this was the case with Frenchies and the foods they can tolerate well! 

French Bulldogs have a long and well-documented history of food-based allergies and food intolerances. 

As a French Bulldog pawrent, how can you make sure you pick a food that won’t aggravate your pup’s food intolerances or food allergies?

After reading this guide you’ll be able to understand what to feed your French Bulldog With Allergies, your Frenchie’s unique dietary needs, and how to meet them!

What should I feed my Frenchie if they have allergies?

French Bulldogs Love Food
Frenchies LOVE food

French Bulldogs are “foodies” to their core, which means these pups are typically game to eat it all, whether it particularly agrees with them or not. This means it falls to you, the pawrent, to understand your Frenchie’s unique dietary needs and how to meet them.

Generally speaking, these tips will help you figure out what to feed your french bulldog if they have allergies:

1.     Consider a limited ingredient or novel protein diet.

The best place to start is with what veterinarians call a “limited ingredient diet.” 

The concept of the limited ingredient diet, or LID, is simple. You only feed your Frenchie a small number of foods at any one time. And limit the diet to one ingredient from each food group at a time. 

This way, if your dog has a reaction to what they are eating, this makes it much easier to figure out which food group and which specific food may be causing the problem.

Limited ingredient diets also share certain other characteristics in common, regardless of whether the L.I.D. food you are feeding is a commercial dog food or a hybrid or homemade dog food diet.

2.     Incorporate fresh, whole foods into the diet.

Your Frenchie’s diet should consist of high-quality, human-grade, whole-food ingredients, preferably organic if available. 

And as we mentioned in the previous section here, try to feed only one protein source at a time, and preferably a “wild” protein source such as venison and other wild game meats. 

Steer clear of commercial protein sources like poultry, fish or beef that may be loaded down with antibiotics or raised on low-quality feed. Also avoid fillers, preservatives, dyes, protein or animal by-products or ingredients you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce.  

3.     Avoid common allergens such as grain, corn, and soy.

If you want to try feeding grains to your Frenchie, stick to one grain at a time, use organic where available and do your best to avoid large-scale commercial grains like rice or corn in favor of boutique grains such as millet or quinoa. 

You can also consider sourcing your dog’s carbs from alternate grain-free sources like squash or pumpkin.

4.     Choose a high-quality, hypoallergenic diet that is complete and balanced.

French Bulldogs need different levels of vitamins, minerals and nutrients at different ages and life stages. Puppies, pregnant moms and senior Frenchies may also need special dietary adjustments that reflect their changing nutrient intake needs.

The only way to know for sure you are feeding a complete and balanced diet to your Frenchie is to work closely with your canine veterinarian. Your dog’s vet can help you pinpoint your dog’s daily caloric and nutrient needs and ensure these needs are being met in full.

How do I find out what my French Bulldog is allergic to?

French Bulldogs With Allergies Diagnosis

So now that we have covered the underlying genetic (heritable) and structural triggers for food allergies and intolerances in French Bulldogs, it is time to take a look at the next steps.

There are a number of things you can do to find out what your French Bulldog is allergic to, such as:

1.     Consult with a veterinarian.

The smartest initial step is to reach out to your canine veterinarian. While there are no pre-breeding genetic tests that can identify heritable food allergies in Frenchies as of yet, there are definitely available tests to help identify emerging allergies or intolerances to food.

Your canine veterinarian can also help you determine whether the health symptoms you are seeing actually stem from food allergies, intolerances, or a different source.

2.     Conduct an elimination diet.

We are going to talk more a lot more about the elimination diet, or limited ingredient diet, in the next section to follow.

For now, just know this is a good way to figure out which food ingredient may be triggering your dog’s allergy symptoms. It is also a good way to find out if the symptoms your Frenchie is exhibiting come from food ingredients at all or from a different source.

3.     Use food trial and error method.

The food trial and error method, also called the elimination-challenge diet trial (ECDT), includes a limited ingredient diet protocol.

Conducted by your dog’s veterinarian or a veterinary allergy specialist, the full ECDT process includes four distinct steps or phases and can take several months. 

The goal is to identify the root cause of your dog’s allergy symptoms. Is it an actual food allergy or rather a food intolerance or something else altogether?

Elimination phase.

Phase one is elimination, which is where the limited-ingredient diet comes into play. 

Challenge phase.

Phase two is the challenge when you go back to your dog’s prior diet to see if symptoms reappear.

Confirmation phase.

Phase three is a return to the limited ingredient diet to confirm a link between symptoms and the former diet. 

Identification phase.

And phase four is the testing or identification phase when both diets are combined strategically to identify the exact trigger for your dog’s symptoms.

Do Frenchies need special diets?

There are no specific guidelines for feeding Frenchies, However, French Bulldogs inherit some special dietary challenges due to their genetics. 

Frenchies are less well able to cope with genetic or environmental food allergies, food intolerances or food sensitivities than other dog breeds. 

However, this doesn’t mean your dog’s basic daily vitamin, mineral, and nutrient needs will change. 

For example, your Frenchie still needs to eat complete and balanced daily meals formulated for their vitamin, mineral, and nutrient needs based on age and life stage. And your dog still needs to drink plenty of fresh water every day. 

But you may need to take more care in choosing foods less likely to trigger allergies or intolerances. You may also need to alter how you serve your dog’s meals to optimize digestion. 

What Causes Allergies And Food Sensitivities In French Bulldogs?

French Bulldogs can struggle with food sensitivities, intolerances and food allergies more than many other dog breeds. This is based in part on their unique physiognomy, or physical structure, and part on their genetics.

As a whole, there are three main known causes of French Bulldog food allergies and sensitivities.

1.     Grasping and chewing food.

The French Bulldog’s short skull and wide, flat face means a wide, flat upper and lower jaw that gets very crowded once the adult teeth grow in. Often, the teeth will overlap or even stack two or three teeth deep, causing issues with grasping and chewing food to pre-digest it.

TIP: If you feed your French Bulldog kibble, this may mean choosing a larger size kibble of a different shape that your Frenchie can more easily grab, bite and chew. Feeding smaller meals more frequently can also help.

2.     Breathing while eating and drinking.

With a short skull dog like the Frenchie, their flattened face shape also means the nares (nostrils) and interior respiratory passages are shortened, flattened and sometimes folded in on themselves. 

This condition is called stenotic nares. Luckily, there is a surgery to correct this to some extent if your dog’s case is severe.

In addition, short-skulled breeds like the French Bulldog very frequently inherit other congenital malformations in the soft palate, tongue base, tonsils, larynx, trachea, pharynx and esophagus.

All of this conspires to make regulating breath flow much more difficult for these dogs when they eat and drink.

TIP: Using a shallow slow feeder bowl can help your dog slow down and breathe between bites.

3.     Genetic or heritable allergies and intolerances.

It is true the French Bulldog’s brachycephalic muzzle shape can definitely make eating and digesting meals much more challenging for your dog. However, it is not the only known trigger for a Frenchie’s food allergies and intolerances.

While researchers still don’t fully understand why Frenchies are more likely than many other dog breeds to inherit food allergies, the higher incidence is well documented.

If your French Bulldog has inherited a genetic intolerance or sensitivity to certain foods, there are certain strategies you can follow to identify the problem food and eliminate it from your dog’s diet

We will talk more about how to identify a food allergy and eliminate the problem food next.

How do you know if your French Bulldog has food allergies?

Most French Bulldog parents discover their dog has a food allergy or intolerance based on observing certain health symptoms.

There are four most commonly observed symptom sets that may indicate your Frenchie is developing food allergies or food intolerances.

1.     Itching and scratching.

When dogs have an adverse reaction such as a food allergy, often the first symptom is going to show up on the skin.

Your French Bulldog may begin to rub at their ears, bite at their paws, rub their bodies against a surface, “scoot” their bottoms along the ground or some combination thereof. 

2.     Swelling or redness of skin.

Another very common sign of food allergies or sensitivities in French Bulldogs is when the skin starts to get red or swell

Since itching and scratching often leads to redness and swelling, it can be a little harder to tell these two sets of symptoms apart.

3.     Vomiting or diarrhea.

Because of both the French Bulldog’s unique anatomy and their known predisposition to food intolerances and allergies, vomiting and diarrhea (as well as flatulence and reflux) are very common food allergy symptoms.

4.     Sneezing or coughing.

Sneezing or coughing in French Bulldogs is yet another common symptom set to see when your dog encounters a food that they are allergic to or intolerant to. 

Here, it is important to distinguish between allergic sneezing and reverse sneezing, which is caused by the anatomical abnormalities of the Frenchie’s respiratory system.

In contrast, allergic sneezing is triggered by the immune system. It is a histamine response the body produces when it encounters a substance it doesn’t like or can’t process. 

This histamine response can include sneezing or coughing as well as (but not limited to) the other symptoms mentioned here.

Conclusion

As you already know, caring for your French Bulldog can be a lot of work! This is especially the case when your pup develops “mystery” health symptoms that may be related to food and you have a steep learning curve to figure out the cause and then the remedy. 

Luckily, Frenchies are very cute and so worth the work involved. You can ease your own stress and worry by strictly monitoring what your dog eats and working closely with your canine veterinarian to be sure problem foods are identified and removed from your dog’s diet.

Dr. Majid Tanveer

Veterinary advice reviewed by Dr. Majid Tanveer (Licensed Veterinarian & Doctor of Veterinary Medicine)

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