07 Jun The 10 Most Common French Bulldog Health Problems
Frenchies are one of the most adored breeds in the world. Their playful and affectionate nature, and quirky antics have seen this breed become the third most popular dog breed in Australia!
Whether you already own a Frenchie, or you’re thinking about bringing one into your home, it is important to be aware of the genetic problems brought about by the selective breeding of the Frenchie for their adorable flat face, small pointed ears and stocky appearance.
Do French Bulldogs have health problems?
French Bulldogs will often suffer from spinal problems (such as Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD) when they are over the age 2 -3 years old. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome and allergies are also some of the more common health problems that French Bulldogs experience. Many of these issues persist throughout their lifetime, significantly impacting their quality of life and leading to extensive veterinary expenses.
The most common French Bulldog health problems include:
Similar to humans, all dog breeds are susceptible to allergies. Unfortunately, Frenchies are genetically more susceptible to chronic allergies including food and environmental allergies.
Symptoms of allergies in your Frenchies include:
- Excessive itching or licking, especially of the paws.
- Development of red/raw patches of skin or paws.
- Watery eyes, ear infections or sneezing.
- Diarrhoea, bloody or smelly stools, vomiting, abdominal pain, weight loss, inappetence or lethargy.
If you suspect your Frenchie has an allergy, veterinary advice should be sought to diagnose the allergen. This will then allow for appropriate management strategy (dietary, environmental or medication) to be put in place to improve their quality of life.
Skin Fold Dermatitis
The adorable wrinkles or skin folds in a Frenchie’s face is what contributes to their desirable appearance; however this cute attribute is also what can cause one of the most common Frenchie issue, Skin Fold Dermatitis. As the name suggests, this form of dermatitis can occur in other folded areas of skin, including the armpits, neck and vulva.
Signs of skin fold dermatitis that owners can look out for include:
- Excessive scratching, biting and itching around folded areas of skin.
- Development of redness and sores around affected skin.
Bacterial skin infections otherwise known as ‘pyodermas’ is another common skin problem Frenchies’ suffer from, also arising from their desirable skin folds. Pyoderma’s occur when a cut or scratch becomes infected. Luckily, pyodermas are very easily treated with topical or oral antibiotics from your veterinarian.
Similar to skin fold dermatitis, signs of pyoderma include:
- Itching around the wounded area.
- Development of redness, loss of hair, crusting or pussy discharge from the wounded area.
The best way to prevent skin fold dermatitis and pyoderma is regular and careful cleaning and drying of skin folds with pet approved products.
The highly desirable flat face of the Frenchie often means they have smaller ear canals. These narrow canals mean Frenchies lose the ability to naturally clean their ears resulting in their canals remaining warm and wet. This provides an environment that promotes yeast and bacteria growth, leading to ear infections or otitis externa.
Symptoms of ear infections include:
- Excessive scratching of the ear or head shaking.
- Redness or scratches inside the ears.
- Excess wax when cleaning the ears.
Keeping your Frenchies ears clean and moisture free is the best way to prevent ear infections. Your veterinarian will be able to show you the best way to clean and dry your Frenchies ears with pet approved products.
Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye) and Corneal Ulcers
The flat face appearance of the Frenchie makes them more susceptible to conjunctivitis. Also known as pinkeye, conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, other irritants or a condition known as dry eye. Additionally, the large, prominent eyes of a Frenchie mean their eyes are more prone to scratches and ulcers.
Signs to watch out for that can indicate conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers in your Frenchie include:
- Red or swollen eyes or discharge from the eyes.
- Pawing at the eyes, blinking or squinting.
Ensuring your Frenchies eyes are kept clean and avoiding irritants getting in their eyes such as dust or sand will help prevent these eye conditions.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS)
Every Frenchie suffers some degree of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS) due to their lovable squashed faces. Their short snouts mean the soft palate is too long in length, causing wind pipe obstruction. Another component of BAS is stenotic or narrow nostrils, resulting in a degraded ability to breathe through their nose.
Signs of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS) include:
- Sleep apnoea, snoring and noisy breathing.
- Retching, regurgitation and vomiting.
- Exercise intolerance and intolerance to heat.
Maintaining your Frenchie at a healthy weight is one way of minimising the effects of BAS however, surgery is the best of improving a Frenchies quality of life. Surgical correction involves shortening of the soft palate and widening of the nostrils to help increase air flow to the lungs.
Did you know flat faced dogs, including the French Bulldog, are twice as likely to suffer from heat stroke?
Their long soft palate and stenotic nares make breathing difficult for these brachycephalics, in turn affecting their ability to cool themselves down. This results in flat faced breeds overheating quickly and suffering from heat stress, potentially culminating in heatstroke.
In hot or humid weather, your Frenchie should be kept in a cool or air-conditioned space to avoid them overheating. Signs your Frenchie may be suffering from heat stress or heatstroke includes:
- Excessive panting.
- Blue or bright red gums.
- Vomiting, diarrhoea or convulsions.
If your Frenchie starts showing any of the above signs they should be immediately moved to a cooler area and cool (not cold) water should be run over their body, especially the back of their head and neck. Veterinary assistance should also be sought as soon as possible.
Like many small dog breeds, Frenchies have a genetic predisposition to luxating patella’s. This occurs when the knee cap or patella is dislocated from its groove at the front of the stifle (knee) joint.
Signs that your Frenchie may suffer from patella luxation include:
- Occasional skipping or abnormal hindlimb movement.
- Sudden or hindlimb lameness.
Surgery to deepen the groove the patella sits in is an extremely effective way of treating this condition. If left untreated, patella luxation can lead to osteoarthritis due to repeated damage of the patella to the inside lining of the joint.
Hip Dysplasia is another genetic condition Frenchies are prone to and results in the ball and socket hip joint not developing properly. This leads to joint deterioration as the hip joint rubs and grinds as opposed to sliding smoothly. Environmental factors such as obesity as well as excessive growth and exercise also contribute to the progression of Hip Dysplasia.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia include:
- Bunny hopping, decreased activity or difficulty standing up.
- Hip pain or sensitivity.
- Inability to climb stairs. or jump up.
Avoiding over exercising and over eating when your Frenchie is a young pup as well as maintaining a healthy diet and weight will assist in preventing the progression of Hip Dysplasia.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a condition that occurs when the discs between the vertebrae acutely or progressively bulge into the spinal cord space, causing pain, nerve damage and paralysis. Frenchie’s short stocky legs mean they are genetically predisposed to this condition.
Signs that your Frenchie is suffering from Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) include:
- Dragging or knuckling of the paws, reluctance to move.
- Arched or hunched posture, crying out when touched or picked up.
- Sudden paralysis.
- Loss of bladder/bowel control.
Keeping your Frenchie at a healthy weight as well as preventing jumping on and off furniture slows the progression of Intervertebral Disc Disease. If your Frenchie shows signs of paralysis they must be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
The selection of an ethical and reputable Frenchie breeder will greatly reduce the risks of your French Bulldog suffering from major health issues; however, the highly desirable flat faced appearance of the Frenchie means not all health problems can be eliminated. Investing in pet health insurance should be considered while your Frenchie is still young to combat the often misunderstood and/or underestimated side effects of selective breeding in your beloved Frenchie.
Need Veterinary care for your Frenchie? At Southern Cross, we are here to help. Book an appointment to see one of our Vets with an interest in French Bulldogs.
Dr Jen (BVSC) Born and bred in Sydney, Jen made the move to Townsville to study a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at James Cook University. Jen has returned home to join the Southern Cross Team and fulfil her childhood dream of helping Sydney’s four legged furry friends.