7 Most Common French Bulldog Health Problems

French Bulldog Health Problems - Dawgtor - Top Frenchie

Isn’t it true – the world has fallen head-over-heels in love with the cuddly, compact and seriously cute French Bulldog!

But how healthy is the French Bulldog breed? Is there anything you need to know about the most common French Bulldog health problems before you adopt a Frenchie?

French Bulldog Breed Red-Flagged for Poor Health Outlook

French Bulldogs are undeniably captivating canine companions. 

But increasingly, researchers and veterinarians warn that the Frenchie’s flat face, narrowed nostrils, shortened (brachycephalic) muzzle and top-heavy structure can mean lifelong health issues for these precious pups. 

Here at Top Frenchie, we want you to be informed before you shop or adopt. After reading this article, you will know the signs of several common French Bulldog health problems and possible solutions for each.

Are French bulldogs prone to health problems?

French Bulldogs are prone to health problems. The following is a list of commonly reported French Bulldog health problems can help you plan and prepare mentally, emotionally and financially to care for your sweet Frenchie throughout life.

1.     French Bulldog BOAS

BOAS, or Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, is a chronic respiratory disorder genetically linked to the Frenchie’s conformation, or appearance. 

Sadly, nearly all of other the French Bulldog health problems you are about to learn about here can be linked back to BOAS at some level. 

Commonly reported BOAS symptoms include snoring, noisy breathing, sleep apnea, sneezing, heat intolerance, difficulty chewing and swallowing, problems with digestion, blue gums and limited ability to play and exercise.

There are two potential solutions to treat BOAS. The first solution is to make modifications to your Frenchie’s diet and daily schedule to reduce the risk of serious symptoms. The second solution is a surgical intervention that can help your dog breathe more easily.

2.     French Bulldog Cleft Palate.

Cleft lip and cleft palate risk is a significant heritable risk in French Bulldogs today. 

Affected Frenchies are usually easy to identify at birth due to facial  and oral abnormalities. 

Surgery is the only viable option in most cases.

3.     French Bulldog Eye Problems.

Three of the most commonly reported French Bulldog eye problems include cherry eye, pink eye and ulcers of the cornea. 

Cherry eye.

Cherry eye is caused when a tiny gland inside the dog’s special protective third eyelid (“nictitating membrane”) prolapses or pops out, swells up, turns red and starts to cover a portion of the eyeball. 

Cherry eye typically requires surgery to repair the non-functioning prolapsed gland, which supplies up to half of all moisture to the eyeball.

French Bulldog with Cherry Eye
What Cherry eye might look like.

Pink eye.

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, can look similar to cherry eye. But the cause is different. Pink eye is usually caused by bacterial or viral infection. 

Typically, a combination of oral and topical medications can resolve this common condition.

Corneal ulcers.

Frenchie eye ulcers are often caused by genetic abnormalities in eyelid (entropion) or eyelash (distichiasis) growth. 

Most corneal ulcers can be successfully resolved with topical medications.

4.     French Bulldog Ear Problems

French bulldogs are said to have “bat shaped” ears, which are great for hearing (and cuteness!) but not quite so great for overall ear health. 

The Frenchie’s wide open, erect ears often seem to attract dirt and detritus. This in turn can lead to otitis externa, or external ear canal infections

If you see your French Bulldog rubbing or scratching at their ears, or if you smell a strange odor or see ear discharge, these are all common signs of otitis externa.

Once infection has set in, medication is the usual treatment. Regular ear cleanings can reduce the risk that your dog will develop otitis externa.

5.     French Bulldog Skin Problems

French Bulldogs are particularly prone to skin problems. To date, the most frequently reported Frenchie skin issues include skin fold dermatitis, lip fold dermatitis and hotspots.

French Bulldog Health Problem - Irritated Skin

Skin fold and lip fold dermatitis.

Skin fold dermatitis, or intertrigo, can occur in the facial skin, lip skin and tail pocket areas. 

The moist cavities created by these skin folds function like a welcome mat for enterprising bacteria, fungi and parasites. 

A typical course of treatment includes careful cleaning and sanitizing of the affected area followed by application of medicated shampoos and/or topical medications.

Hotspots.

Hotspots, or pyotraumatic dermatitis, is another very common skin issue that plagues Frenchies. Hotspots begin as small lesions that worsen as your dog licks, bites or scratches at them. 

Successful treatment requires preventing your Frenchie from licking or biting at the affected area….a feat usually only accomplished by fitting your dog with an Elizabethan collar. 

Medicated shampoos and topical or oral medications can then do their job to resolve the infection.

6.     French Bulldog Allergies

French Bulldogs are particularly vulnerable to both environmental and food allergies

Your veterinarian will be your best resource to determine the right course of treatment, since symptoms of Frenchie skin disorders and allergies can often overlap in a confusing way.

Environmental allergies.

If your French Bulldog develops environmental allergies, you may see symptoms like itchy ears and paws, itchy skin, hives and hotpots, discharge from ears or eyes, sneezing and seasonal symptoms fluctuation.

Treatment requires identifying the trigger for the allergic response. Allergy medications or shots can then provide relief.

Food allergies. 

Because Frenchies suffer from both food allergies and environmental allergies, and symptoms are similar, it can be tough at first to tell one from the other. 

However, food allergies typically affect the GI tract as well, which means (even more) farting, vomiting, diarrhea or all of the above.

Diagnosing and treating food allergies typically requires following a limited ingredient diet until the problem foods are identified and eliminated.

7.     French Bulldog Back, Tail and Joint Problems

Frenchies are bred for a certain conformation, or appearance. Their short legs, shortened trunks and screw tails can create a number of structural problems including spinal, joint and disc complications.

Hip and elbow dysplasia.

The word dysplasia translates to mean “abnormal growth.” 

When a dog is born with the genes for hip and/or elbow dysplasia, this means the ball-and-socket joint will not develop properly. 

Untreated dysplasia can cause limited mobility, joint degeneration, arthritis and disabling pain.

Mild cases of dysplasia can often be successfully treated with medication and physical therapy. Severe cases always require surgery.

Patellar luxation.

Patellar luxation is sometimes nicknamed “trick kneecap.” This genetic condition causes the knee to slip out of socket, creating weakness, lameness and pain. 

Veterinary orthopedists generally recognize five degrees of the condition.

Mild cases may not require any treatment. Moderate cases can respond well to medications and physical therapy. Severe cases always require surgical intervention. 

Intervertebal disc disease.

IVDD, or intervertebral disc disease, is a known genetic issue for short-legged dog breeds like the French Bulldog. 

With IVDD, the soft discs between the spinal vertebra begin to bulge, slip out of place and often rupture, damaging the vertebra and causing pain and limited mobility.

X-rays combined with MRI scans are often required for an accurate diagnosis. Treatment ranges from rest and medication to surgery. It is important to know that IVDD can be managed but never cured.

Hemivertebrae.

Hemivertebrae is a genetic deformity causing malformed spinal vertebrae. 

Symptoms include pain, urinary and fecal incontinence and progressive loss of hind leg mobility.

Mild cases may respond well to physical therapy, acupuncture and medication, including steroids. Moderate to severe cases will require surgical correction. 

Wholistic Tips to Ensure a Healthy Frenchie

French Bulldogs sure can have some health challenges. But while Frenchies do seem prone to a greater number of health problems than some dog breeds, we want you to know you can also do a lot to help your dog live the healthiest, happiest life. 

Do your homework before you shop for or adopt a Frenchie.

The number one preventative measure you can take to ensure a healthy Frenchie is to do your homework before making a commitment to a French Bulldog puppy or rescue dog.

This starts with knowing what heritable (genetic) health issues to watch for in the breed. 

The Canine Health Information Center, CHIC, makes this easy. CHIC keeps a database of all known breed-specific heritable health issues for which pre-screening tests exist.

As of time of publication, the CHIC list for the French Bulldog breed includes the following heritable health issues: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, autoimmune thyroiditis, tracheal hypoplasia, eye issues and cardiac issues. 

Any reputable Frenchie breeder should be able to provide you with the CHIC test results for your puppy’s parents. Alternately, you can order testing through your veterinarian before you adopt a French Bulldog.

Put a “healthy Frenchie” plan in place.

Once you get your new canine family member home, you can also reduce the risk of many common French Bulldog health problems by taking these additional steps:

–       Monitor daily caloric intake from food and treats to keep your Frenchie lean.

–       Feed an allergy-friendly, nutrient-rich, fresh food diet that is easy to chew and swallow.

–       Limit exposure to heat and environmental allergens.

–       Schedule regular “well pup” veterinary visits.

–       Stay on top of tooth brushing and ear cleaning.

–       Consider investing in pet insurance to limit your financial exposure.

When to See a Veterinarian

Whether your Frenchie comes to you as a puppy or as an adult dog, taking a proactive approach to veterinary exams will serve you both well. 

As soon as you bring your French Bulldog home to stay, be sure to schedule an initial veterinary consultation to identify any health problems and establish a baseline of health. 

At this time, talk with your veterinarian and develop a game plan for regular teeth cleaning, bloodwork and physical “well pup” exams. Then follow all of these recommendations to the letter. This is the best way to catch developing health issues while they are still minor.

Any time you see changes in your Frenchie’s eating or elimination habits or notice new or unusual behaviors or symptoms, don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian for guidance. 

You can also use this article as a guide to catch early warning signs of common French Bulldog health problems.

Managing the Most Common French Bulldog Health Problems (In Summary)

In many parts of the world today, the only purebred dog breed more popular than the French Bulldog is the famously friendly Labrador Retriever. 

So clearly, lovers of the breed are not put off by the Frenchie’s tendency towards worrisome genetic health problems!

And yet each year far too many French Bulldog paw-rents also face the heart-wrenching decision to relinquish their pup because they can’t afford mounting veterinary bills.

The information in this article gives you a point of reference to adopt the healthiest French Bulldog and take a proactive approach to managing your dog’s long-term health and care needs. 

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