8 Bichon Frise Common Health Issues [+Signs and Prevention]

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bichon frise dressed like a doctor

Affectionate, friendly, and playful, Bichon Frises are generally healthy dogs, but they can suffer from certain conditions.

It helps to understand potential health issues your Bichon may face before they happen. That way, you can take preventative measures and prepare financially to care for your furbaby if he has any problems.

Just because Bichon Frises have predispositions for some health problems, it doesn’t mean your special pal will develop any of them. Most dogs will have at least one condition at some point in their lives. The list below gives you the most likely problems for the breed.

The most common Bichon Frise health issues include allergies, eye conditions, dental disease, orthopedic issues, bladder/kidney stones, ear infections, and endocrine disorders.

In this article, we’ll look at 8 of the most common health issues of Bichon Frises, how they vary across the life cycle, and how your Bichon’s health compares with other dog breeds. Finally, I’ll describe health signs you need to be aware of and give you tips for healthcare and prevention.

Common health problems

Bichon Frises are generally healthy dogs that tend to live long, full lives. However, they are prone to develop certain common health conditions.


Bichon Frises are notorious for various allergies. These beloved pups can suffer from food or skin allergies.

Dog breeds that suffer from allergies include Bichons, Boxers, Beagles, French Bulldogs, and German Shepherds. 

Allergies can manifest at any age, but they’re more likely in adults. In Bichon Frises, symptoms often start around 1-3 years and grow worse with age.

For some dogs, trigger substances cause the body to release histamine. This allergic response causes inflammation, which may affect the skin or digestive system.

Signs of allergies can include:

  • Extreme itchiness
  • Licking or biting the paws/tail
  • Constant licking or scratching
  • Skin rashes
  • Patches of hair loss
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

There’s no cure for allergies, and without treatment, the symptoms can get worse over time. Talk to your vet about preventative methods and treatments to keep your furbaby’s condition in check. If your Bichon’s signs ever include hives, swelling around the face/eyes, or sudden itching, take her to the emergency clinic immediately.

Preventing allergies in your Bichon Frise can be challenging. Make every effort to avoid trigger substances. If your furbaby has food sensitivities, talk to your vet about feeding a specialized diet.

Depending on the severity of your dog’s allergy symptoms, treatment may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, including steroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Allergy testing and immunotherapy
  • Hypoallergenic diet

Eye Conditions

Bichon Frises are genetically prone to develop certain eye conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma, and entropion.

Small dog breeds like the Bichon are particularly prone to developing certain eye conditions.  Other dogs that suffer from cataracts, glaucoma, or entropion include Beagles, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, French Bulldogs, Siberian Huskies, and Pugs.

Entropion is a condition that exists from birth. On the other hand, cataracts and glaucoma take time to develop and usually manifest in adult dogs. 

Dogs develop cataracts when the lens hardens and becomes cloudy.  With glaucoma,  the aqueous liquids fail to drain properly, which causes a buildup of pressure in the eye. When dogs have entropion, the eyelid rolls inward and causes corneal irritation.

Signs of these eye conditions may include:

  • Milky spots in the eye (early cataracts)
  • Cloudiness in the eye (later cataracts)
  • Watery, red eyes
  • Squinting/blinking
  • Light sensitivity
  • Bulging eyes
  • tearing

If these conditions go untreated, they can cause further eye damage, including corneal ulceration and blindness.

Because the eye conditions are genetically linked, your first prevention line is selecting Bichon Frises from reputable breeders. Additionally, s; schedule regular health checkups for your furbaby and feed her high-quality food that includes omega fatty acids to support eye health. 

Entropion and cataracts can both be surgically corrected. Medical treatment for glaucoma includes pain medications and drugs that help to reduce fluid production and promote drainage in the eye. Severe cases are treated surgically.

Dental Disease

Bichon Frises are commonly known for periodontal disease, including gingivitis and cavities.

Dental disease is common in dogs with smaller mouths and crowded teeth. Susceptible breeds include Bichons, Pugs, Collies, Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and Dachshunds.

According to Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, dental disease occurs in 80-90% of dogs over three years old. Naturally, Bichons are more likely to develop periodontal disease in their adult years.

Signs of dental disease in your Bichon Frise include:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Facial swelling
  • Reddened gums
  • Mouth pain
  • Dropping food or difficulty chewing
  • Lumps or bumps in the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Loose teeth or cavities

The best way to prevent dental disease in your Bichon is to practice good oral hygiene. Brush your dog’s teeth and schedule regular dental cleanings. Avoid feeding your pooch table scraps, and consider kibble or treats that help to scrape plaque from the teeth.

Depending on the severity of your Bichon Frise’s periodontal disease, treatment may include:

  • Dental cleanings for minor dental disease
  • Deep teeth cleaning below the gumline for more advanced disease
  • Antibiotic gel application in the gingival pockets
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Surgical restoration and/or tooth extraction

Orthopedic Issues

Common orthopedic issues that Bichon Frises may have include hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. 

Luxating patellas and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease are most commonly seen in small and toy breeds, including Bichon Frises, Yorkies, Manchester Terriers, and Shih Tzus. Hip dysplasia can occur in Bichons, French Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus, but it is more common in large and giant breed dogs.

Bichons that suffer from these hip dysplasia and luxating patellas are born with an anatomical abnormality. With luxating patellas, the kneecap shifts out of position because the ligament is not properly attached to the shinbone. Dogs with hip dysplasia have shallow hip sockets. With Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, the ball of the femur doesn’t get enough blood and starts to deteriorate.

Signs of orthopedic issues in your Bichon Frise include:

  • Intermittent limping or skipping (luxating patella)
  • Holding one hind leg off the ground (luxating patella)
  • Cracking/popping sound when bending the affected knee (luxating patella)
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty rising
  • Difficulty or reluctance when climbing stairs, getting in the car, or getting on furniture
  • Chronic pain
  • Sensitivity to touch around the hip joint
  • Swaying gait
  • Rear leg lameness/limping (Legg-Calve-Perthes disease)

If you leave any of these conditions untreated, they will continue to deteriorate. Repeated joint irritation creates an inflammatory response and degeneration. Over time, your dog will become increasingly painful and lose mobility. 

The best prevention for hip dysplasia and luxating patellas includes supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin and preventing obesity. Additionally, you should choose your puppy from a reputable breeder and a family line that has no history of any of these orthopedic conditions.

Treatment for the above orthopedic conditions may include anti-inflammatory medications, joint fluid supplements, restricted activity, joint supplements, and physical therapy.  In some cases, surgical correction is the treatment of choice.

Bladder/kidney Stones

Bichon Frises have a genetic predisposition for developing bladder and kidney stones. 

Toy and small breeds, including Bichons, Miniature Poodles, Maltese, Chihuahuas, and Lhasa apsos, are prone to suffer from stones in the urinary tract. 

Bladder and kidney stones are more common in adult dogs. They usually appear in dogs between 5 and 12 years of age.

Signs of urinary tract stones include:

  • Inability, straining, or reluctance to pee
  • Excessive urination/loss of bladder control
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy or discolored urine
  • Lethargy/inactivity
  • Abdominal pain

When urinary tract stones are left untreated, they can cause bladder irritation and infections, blockages, and death.

It’s hard to completely prevent bladder or kidney stones, but some things may help reduce the risk. Talk with your veterinarian about a balanced diet that encourages urinary health and encourages your dog to drink water. You should also observe your pooch’s urination habits and watch for signs of trouble.

Urinary tract stones in your Bichon will usually be removed surgically. Other methods of treatment include dietary management, laser treatment, and expelling the stones with liquid.

Ear Infections

Between their furry ears and predisposition to allergies, Bichon Frises tend to develop ear infections.

Breeds with floppy or furry ears, like Bichons, Beagles, Springer Spaniels, and Shih Tzus, are more prone to ear infections than other dogs. 

There is no age specificity for ear infections in your Bichon Frise. They can occur at any time.

Because Bichons have furry ears, the hairs tend to trap dirt and moisture inside the canal. Bacteria or yeast can start to grow in this environment and cause infections.

Common signs of an ear infection include:

  • Excessive ear scratching 
  • Reddened ears
  • Head shaking
  • Tilting the head to the side of the infection
  • Dark discharge
  • Painful ears
  • A foul odor coming from the ear

Untreated ear infections usually fester and grow worse. Over time, they can cause balance issues, neurological problems, pain, ruptured eardrums, and loss of hearing.

To help prevent ear infections in your Bichon Frise, pluck the hair from her ears periodically. This will allow more airflow and help to reduce wax buildup. Additionally, clean your pup’s ears once a week to remove dirt, wax, and moisture.

To treat an ear infection in your Bichon Frise, your veterinarian will generally prescribe a topical antibiotic. If needed, he will also give your dog anti-nausea medications. In severe cases, he may drain the infection.

Endocrine Disorders

Bichon Frises are prone to certain endocrine disorders, particularly diabetes, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease.

Dog breeds with a genetic predisposition for diabetes include Bichons, Terriers, Keeshond, Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Samoyeds. While Bichon Frises and Beagles can develop hypothyroidism, it’s more common in medium and large-breed dogs. Cushing’s disease most commonly affects Bichons, Miniature Schnauzers, Lhasa apsos, and various Terrier breeds. 

All three of these endocrine disorders usually develop in middle-aged dogs.

Endocrine disorders affect different glands that secrete hormones to help regulate body functions. In diabetes, insulin production is deficient, while in hypothyroidism, the body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. On the other hand, dogs with Cushing’s disease have too much cortisol production in the body.

Signs of the various conditions include:


  • Increased drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic/recurring infections
  • Cloudy eyes


  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Skin darkening
  • Thin, brittle hair and bald patches
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Vulnerability to skin and ear infections

Cushing’s Disease

  • Increased thirst/urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Potbelly appearance
  • Thin skin
  • Poor hair coat
  • Panting
  • Lethargy

If you fail to seek treatment for your Bichon Frise’s endocrine disorder, the lack of or excess hormones places a strain on the body. As a result, your furbaby could have a shortened life span and reduced quality of life.

The best prevention of endocrine disorders is selection of a puppy from a reputable breeder. You want to ensure there’s no history of these conditions in the family line. 

Treatment for diabetes and hypothyroidism includes hormone replacements and dietary/weight management. Cushing’s treatment varies depending on the underlying cause of the disease but may include surgical removal of a tumor, radiation therapy, or medical management.

Bichon Frise Health issues across the lifecycle

You can see health issues in your Bichon at any stage of life. However, certain congenital conditions like entropion appear from birth, while others like cataracts and endocrine disorders surface later in life.

Bichon Frise Puppy Health Issues

Your Bichon can suffer from certain congenital conditions that may cause health issues in the puppy years. For example, entropion is present at birth, so signs of irritation surface early. Dogs are also born with anatomical abnormalities that set up orthopedic issues later in life.

Adult Bichon Frise Health Issues

Various conditions affect Bichons in their adult years. Allergies and dental diseases usually take time to develop and manifest, so they surface around 1-3 years of age. 

Endocrine disorders most commonly affect dogs in their mid-life. Finally, kidney and bladder stones usually start to become a problem when Bichons are adults.

Senior Bichon Frise Health Issues

As your Bichon Frise ages, symptoms of degenerative conditions will appear. Orthopedic issues that lead to painful arthritis and lameness usually become obvious in the senior years.

Other health issues that are more common in senior Bichons are certain eye conditions like cataracts and glaucoma. 

Bichon Frise Health Issues and Average Lifespan

Bichon Frises are generally healthy dogs with an average lifespan of 12-15 years. 

While these adorable pups usually enjoy long, happy lives, they are susceptible to certain health issues that can impact their longevity or quality of life. If your furbaby suffers from severe hip dysplasia or an endocrine disorder like Cushing’s disease, he may have a shorter life.

Bichon Frise Health Issues VS Other Dog Breeds

Bichons are a generally healthy dog breed. Their life span is longer on average than larger breeds of dogs but comparable to other small to medium breeds. However, your Bichon Frise tends to be healthier than most brachycephalic breeds. 

Health Signs Bichon Frise Parents Should Beware Of

Although Bichons tend to be healthy, they can suffer from certain conditions. Knowing the common signs of various health issues can help you recognize issues and seek treatment quickly.

  • Red/inflamed skin 
  • Excess itching/scratching 
  • Hives/facial swelling – severe allergic reaction(emergency!)
  • Itchy/watery eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty eating/dropping food
  • Hair loss
  • Excess weight gain – may signal hypothyroidism
  • Limping
  • Difficulty walking/rising
  • Straining to pee
  • Blood in the urine
  • Increased drinking/peeing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Head shaking/tilting
  • Dark ear discharge
  • Poor hair coat 
  • Potbelly
  • Thinning skin

Bichon Frise Health Care Tips and Prevention

With proper health care and preventative measures, you can help your Bichon Frise enjoy a long, healthy life.

  • Schedule annual health checks and routine vaccinations for your Bichon.  
  • Maintain a healthy weight – most Bichons weigh between 12 and 18 pounds.
  • Feed a balanced diet with a proper blend of essential nutrients.
  • Give your dog supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and vitamin E to encourage healthy joints and skin.
  • Use an orthopedic bed with supportive memory foam to help ease the pain of degenerative arthritis and other orthopedic conditions.
  • Select a reputable breeder with a reputation for breeding dogs with good genetics. Ask questions about the parents’ health backgrounds.
  • Bathe your Bichon regularly.
  • Check and clean your furbaby’s ears every week to remove trapped debris.
  • Brush your dog’s coat a few times a week to remove loose hair and dead skin and stimulate circulation to the skin.

The Final Woof

Playful, social, and lovable, Bichon Frises are generally healthy dogs, but they can develop certain conditions. That’s why you want to know how to recognize various issues and what to expect if your furbaby has any problems. Some of the most common issues your Bichon may have include allergies, eye conditions, dental disease, and orthopedic issues.

Bichons usually live long, happy lives, but you should know common signs of trouble just in case. That way, you’ll be able to recognize trouble and seek prompt treatment. You can also practice prevention and regular health care to maximize your furbaby’s quality of life. 

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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