The distinctive features that make French Bulldogs a popular breed predispose these lovable furbabies to several health issues.
If you’re considering adding a Frenchie to your family, it’s helpful to research their genetically-linked health issues. You’ll want to know what to anticipate concerning chronic conditions and medical expenses. That way, you’ll be ready to decide if one of these lovable pups is right for your situation and plan accordingly.
Before you throw in the towel, remember that just because a breed is more prone to certain diseases doesn’t mean your pup will experience all of the issues below. They have a higher risk for these conditions than the average breed. Every dog is bound to have something that affects their health.
The most common health issues in French Bulldogs include Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome(BOAS), skin infections and dermatitis, eye issues, ear infections, and digestive issues.
In this article, we’ll look at 9 common health issues of Frenchies(this is not an exhaustive list), how they vary across the life cycle, and how French Bulldog health compares with other dog breeds. We’ll finish with a description of health signs you need to be aware of and provide you with some tips for healthcare and prevention.
Common health problems
Years of breeding to develop the French Bulldog’s distinctive traits have also resulted in genetic predispositions to certain health issues. Below, we’ll look at common health problems identified by the Royal Veterinary College in a survey of 2228 French Bulldogs (out of 445,557 dogs) receiving veterinary care in 2013.
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome(BOAS)
A popular feature of the French Bulldog is its flat face. However, breeding for this anatomical structure sets the breed up for changes in the airway and throat known as BOAS. Dogs with the syndrome tend to have a narrow windpipe and nostrils as well as an elongated soft palate. These features make breathing more difficult.
Flat-faced breeds like Frenchies, Pugs, and English Bulldogs are predisposed to BOAS. Their short skull and snout set them up for issues like exercise intolerance and snoring.
While French Bulldogs are born with the anatomy, symptoms of BOAS usually become more evident as dogs age. Signs include:
- Noisy breathing/snoring
- Exercise intolerance
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale gums
If your Frenchie’s structural abnormalities are minor, and the symptoms are mild, you can usually manage the condition medically. If the anatomy is pronounced, surgical correction may be needed. Dogs with BOAS that don’t receive the appropriate treatment can experience respiratory distress, worsening symptoms, and eventual collapse.
Preventative measures for French Bulldogs with BOAS include limiting time outdoors when it’s hot and humid, helping your Frenchie reach and maintain a healthy weight, and limiting your dog’s exercise/exertion.
Treatment options for BOAS include
- trimming the soft palate
- surgically widening the nostrils
- removing everted laryngeal saccules
French Bulldogs are known and loved for their skinfolds. Unfortunately, this trait encourages moisture build-up and bacterial or yeast growth. Before long, Frenchies develop skin fold dermatitis and other skin infections.
Skin fold dermatitis and similar infections are common among French Bulldogs, Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, Spaniels, English Bulldogs, Pugs, and other brachycephalic breeds. Any breed that has characteristic wrinkly skin can develop inflammation sound the folds.
The skin conditions that affect French Bulldogs can appear at any age. Allergies and obesity may be contributing factors to the disease.
With skin folds, two layers of skin contact and rub against each other. The friction causes irritation and inflammation. When combined with a lack of air circulation and trapped moisture, the skin pockets become breeding grounds for yeast or bacteria and resulting infections. The condition may affect the face, neck, vulva, or tail folds.
Symptoms of skin fold dermatitis include:
- Red, inflamed skin that begins inside the folds
- Sore, inflamed skin
- Stinky or yeasty-smelling skin
- Yellow or white discharge
- Scratching, rubbing, or licking affected areas
- Urinary tract infection(if the vulva is involved)
Without treatment, skin fold dermatitis and other skin infections can cause open sores, skin ulcers, and systemic infection.
The best way to avoid skin gold dermatitis is with regular grooming and daily inspection of your Frenchie’s skin folds. Keep the area clean and dry and be on the alert for signs of redness or irritation.
You may be able to treat mild cases of dermatitis by wiping the affected folds with medicated wipes. More advanced conditions require medicated shampoos or antimicrobial drugs.
French Bulldogs are genetically predisposed to develop allergies from environmental or food triggers. They’re not alone. Allergies are common across all breeds and ages of dogs.
While puppies may develop allergies, the condition often manifests between about 3 and 6 years.
When your dog contacts a food or environmental allergen, the body reacts by releasing histamine, a substance that causes an inflammatory response. Depending on the trigger your Frenchie encounters, he may develop skin or digestive symptoms.
Common signs of allergies in French Bulldogs include:
- Extreme itchiness
- Swelling around the face
- Red, inflamed skin
- Constant licking or scratching
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Chronic ear infections
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Allergic reactions tend to grow worse over time and with repeated exposure. If your dog shows signs of allergies, you need to talk to your veterinarian about prevention and treatment. Any time you see symptoms like sudden itching, hives, and swelling around the face, take your dog to the emergency clinic immediately.
The best way to prevent allergic reactions in dogs is to avoid the trigger substances. This is difficult with environmental stimuli, but with food issues, you can try specialized dog food.
For chronic allergies, your veterinarian may prescribe allergy medications or antihistamines and treat any secondary skin infections.
Due to their predisposition to allergies and unique bat-like ear shape, Frenchies are prone to develop middle ear infections. The large pinna and narrow ear canal trap dirt and impede the normal protective functions of ear wax.
Like humans, ear infections in French Bulldogs can start when your furbaby is a few weeks old. The condition can plague your pooch throughout his lifetime.
Normally, the ear produces wax to capture dust and other debris and remove it from the ear canal. Frenchies’ narrow canals impede the outward flow of wax so that gunk builds up and causes infections.
Common symptoms of ear infections in French Bulldogs include:
- Scratching the ear
- Shaking the head
- Redness in the ear flap and canal
- A foul odor
- Yellow or black discharge
- Thickened ear canals
When ear infections aren’t treated promptly, the canal may thicken and narrow further. Festering infections can also cause neurological and balance issues, pain, eardrum rupture, and deafness.
To prevent ear infections, clean your dog’s ears at least once every other week. Talk to your veterinarian about antimicrobial ear rinse recommendations.
Usually, your veterinarian will treat an ear infection with an appropriate topical medication.
The French Bulldog’s large, bulging eyes and short muzzle predispose this breed to eye problems. Some conditions that commonly affect Frenchies include cherry eye, dry eye, entropion, and corneal ulcers.
Brachycephalic breeds like Frenchies, Boxers, English Bulldogs, and Pugs are genetically predisposed to conditions of the eyelids including cherry eye(protruding third eyelid) and entropion(eyelid rolls inward). They also tend to have inadequate tear production, which causes dry eye. These conditions can lead to corneal ulcers.
The eyelid conditions listed above may be present at birth. Dry eye and corneal ulcers can appear at any age but may be more prevalent as your dog matures.
When dogs have entropion, the hair lining the eyelid rubs against their eyes causing irritation and corneal ulceration. In cherry eye, the ligaments that hold the tear gland in place break down, so the tissue pops out and swells possibly resulting in dry eyes and corneal ulceration. When cherry eye or a lack of adequate tear production causes dry eyes, the cornea may also ulcerate.
Symptoms of these eye conditions include:
- Light sensitivity
- Blinking or holding the eye shut
- Yellow or green eye discharge
- Eye redness
- pinkish/red mass in the corner of the eye(cherry eye)
- tearing(except dry eye)
If these conditions don’t receive treatment, they can cause corneal ulceration and damage to the eye. Dogs may suffer permanent sight impairment.
Because most of the conditions above are genetic, you won’t be able to prevent them. Corneal ulceration may be preventable by treating other predisposing conditions.
Entropion and cherry eye can be corrected with surgery. Treatment for dogs with dry eyes usually involves tear-replacing eye drops while corneal ulcers are treated with topical antibiotics, pain medications, and surgical grafts(if needed).
In French Bulldogs, there’s a genetic predisposition to developing cataracts. With this condition, the eye lens hardens and becomes cloudy.
While any dog can develop cataracts, breeds like Frenchies, ‘Siberian Huskies, American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, and Yorkshire Terriers are more prone to hereditary cataracts. When the condition is hereditary, it usually manifests between 1 and 5 years of age.
When lenses harden in your Frenchie’s eyes, they become cloudy and can interfere with the passage of light and images through the eye to the retina. Small cataracts may minimally affect your dog’s vision, but larger ones may eventually cause blindness.
Cataracts in French Bulldogs are characterized by a change in the clarity or color of one or both eyes. You may notice a white spot in the pupil or more general cloudiness.
It’s difficult to prevent hereditary cataracts, but you can promote healthy eyes and vision by feeding your furbaby quality food that’s rich in omega fatty acids. Additionally, limit your dog’s exposure to UV rays by keeping him in the shade when outdoors.
Without treatment, cataracts will progress and can cause inflammation and glaucoma within the eye. Surgical removal of the lens is the only treatment for the condition.
Frenchies are notorious for developing diarrhea and issues with their gastrointestinal tracts. They have a genetic predisposition to food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease(IBD), and colitis.
In addition to Frenchies, other breeds including Yorkshire Terriers, Wheaten Terriers, English Bulldogs, and Boxers are more likely to develop IBD and have chronic diarrhea.
While diarrhea can develop at any age for French Bulldogs, it often manifests in puppies less than a year old. Once your dog develops conditions like IBD and food allergies, he will need life-long treatment and management.
IBD can be triggered by food sensitivities or allergies, and it leads to chronic inflammation in the intestines. The inflammation can interfere with the absorption of nutrients and fluid resulting in diarrhea.
Common symptoms of IBD and other digestive conditions in Frenchies include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
IBD requires ongoing treatment and management. If you ignore this condition, the inflammation causes the digestive tract walls to thicken. Over time, your Frenchie won’t be able to absorb nutrients or digest food properly.
While it’s difficult to prevent genetically-linked digestive conditions in French Bulldogs, you can take measures to promote gut health. Give your pup prebiotic fiber and probiotics and consult your vet about a specialized diet to support digestion.
Treatment for digestive issues may include antibiotics to address any underlying infections, anti-inflammatory medications, and immunosuppressive drugs.
French Bulldogs have a genetic predisposition for hip and elbow dysplasia. The dogs are born with shallow joint sockets that cause loose connections and eventual degenerative arthritis.
Although hip dysplasia and the resulting degenerative joint disease can occur in any breed, it is more common in large and giant dogs as well as the French Bulldog.
Dogs are born with a skeletal structure that causes hip dysplasia, but the symptoms usually surface when dogs are older. The repetitive movement in the loose joint creates chronic inflammation and degeneration.
When your Frenchie is born with a shallow hip socket, the ball moves too freely and irritates the cartilage, causing inflammation. Over time, the inflammation breaks down healthy cartilage leading to degeneration and pain.
Symptoms of hip dysplasia and degenerative joint disease include:
- 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
Hip dysplasia is a progressive disease. Without treatment or medical management, your dog will lose mobility and become more painful over time.
The best way to prevent degenerative arthritis from hip dysplasia in your Frenchie includes joint supplementation with Glucosamine and Chondroitin, weight management, and purchasing your puppy from a breeder that screens for the condition.
Depending on your dog’s condition, there are surgical strategies to treat hip dysplasia. Many veterinarians and owners opt for medical management, which includes physical therapy, weight reduction, restricted activity, joint supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs, and joint fluid modifiers.
Anal sac impaction
French Bulldogs have a high likelihood of developing anal sac disease than some breeds. Other conditions like chronic soft stools and skin allergies/infections interfere with normal gland expression which can lead to impacted sacs.
This disease occurs more frequently in small breeds like Frenchies than in most large-breed dogs. The predisposition may be due at least in part to the small anatomy and narrower ducts.
It is more likely for your Frenchie to develop anal sac disease as an adult. Once the body is mature, the narrow ducts allow for fluid collection and thickening.
Normally, dogs express the fluid from their anal sacs when they poop. But if the stool is too soft, or there’s inflammation, the liquid won’t evacuate properly. As it collects in the glands, it thickens or dries out causing impaction.
Signs of anal gland impaction include:
- Licking or biting at the anus
- Fishy odor
- Straining/pain during defecation
- Brown spotting of bedding
If impacted anal glands aren’t treated, they can become infected and abscess or rupture. This is painful and may result in damage to the anus and rectum.
Key prevention measures to avoid anal gland impactions include adding fiber to your dog’s diet, helping your dog reach and maintain a healthy weight, exercising your dog, and increasing your Frenchie’s water intake.
Treatments for anal gland impaction include manual expression of the glands, applying warm compresses around the anus, and treating underlying conditions like skin infections and allergies.
French Bulldog health issues across the lifecycle
Many health issues common in Frenchies including BOAS and allergies manifest in adulthood. However, some diseases like ear infections and diarrhea start during the puppy stage.
French Bulldog Puppy health issues
As puppies, French Bulldogs may develop ear infections because of their unique ear shape and predisposition to allergic skin conditions. Food sensitivities can also predispose juvenile French Bulldogs to digestive disturbances and diarrhea. Finally, puppies may be born with distichiasis.
Adult French Bulldog health issues
Although genetically linked, many of the conditions that French Bulldogs experience take time to develop and manifest. For example, BOAS and dry eye symptoms usually surface in adulthood. Corneal ulcers, likewise, usually develop after a condition like dry eye or distichiasis causes chronic irritation. Anal sac impaction is also more likely to happen in adult Frenchies.
Senior French Bulldog health issues
Some chronic conditions can worsen as your French Bulldog ages. Although your furbaby may first develop cataracts between 1 and 5 years of age, the lens hardening and cloudiness progress and may cause vision loss or blindness by the senior years.
Degenerative joint disease caused by hip dysplasia and other congenital conditions progresses over time. You will usually notice symptoms when your furbaby is older.
French Bulldog health issues and average lifespan
The American Kennel Club estimates French Bulldogs will live an average of 10-12 years.
Their unique physical makeup and genetics predispose them to health issues that can impact their quality of life and potentially shorten their lifespan.
When French Bulldogs suffer from BOAS, the condition can place stress on the body and affect your pup’s quality of life. Degenerative joint disease may also reduce your furbaby’s quality of life and lead to early euthanasia.
French Bulldog health issues VS other breeds
According to a survey of dogs receiving care in the UK in 2016, French Bulldogs had a higher likelihood of developing several conditions than the wider population. Several of the predispositions are tied to years of selective breeding used to develop the trademark flat face and other conformational distinctive.
Of 43 conditions reviewed, Frenchies were more likely to develop 20 than other breeds. Based on the results of the study, the Royal Veterinary College stated that the breed is not a typical dog in terms of health. There is no comparison with the health status of other breeds.
Health signs French Bulldogs should be aware of
Because Frenchies are at risk for various health conditions, you should know what signs to watch for. Below, we’ll briefly touch on the major symptoms of common conditions.
- Difficulty breathing or snuffling/snoring sounds is a common sign of BOAS.
- Dogs with BOAS can also develop exercise intolerance and are more prone to heat exhaustion.
- Red or inflamed skin can indicate allergies or skin infections.
- When your dog stinks or has a yeasty odor, he may have skin fold dermatitis, another skin condition, or an ear infection.
- Excessive itching or licking may point to allergies.
- If your dog is shaking his head or scratching continually, he may have an ear infection.
- Infected ears may also appear thickened or crusty.
- Dogs with eye conditions may be light-sensitive and blink or squint.
- Redness, discharge, or tearing of the eye may indicate an eye condition.
- A small red mass in the corner of the eye could be cherry eye.
- A white spot or cloudiness in the pupil may point to a cataract.
- Vomiting and diarrhea can point to digestive issues or food allergies.
- Lethargy or depression can occur in several conditions.
- Dogs with orthopedic conditions may have a stiff or wobbly gait, be unwilling to move, or show signs of pain when touched.
- Scooting and a fishy odor suggest your dog may have an anal sac impaction.
French Bulldog healthcare tips and prevention
Although French Bulldogs come with health risks, they can be lovable companions. If you decide this breed is right for you, there are some ways to help your Frenchie enjoy a full life.
Select a reputable breeder
When you look for a breeder, select one that has a good reputation for breeding dogs with good genetics. He should be able to tell you about the stud’s and bitch’s health histories.
Schedule routine health checks
If your Frenchie is healthy, you should take her to the vet at least once a year for an exam and routine health care. More frequent visits may be needed when your pooch has a health condition.
Maintain a healthy weight
Pay close attention to your bulldog’s diet. Some conditions like BOAS and degenerative joint disease are worse when dogs are overweight. If your pooch has food sensitivities, you should also adjust the diet to avoid triggers.
Feed a balanced diet
In addition to feeding your dog food that helps him reach and maintain a healthy weight, choose a diet that provides the proper balance of essential nutrients.
Consult with your veterinarian about appropriate supplements to encourage healthy digestion, joints, and skin. You may want to give your dog glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamin E, and probiotics.
Use an orthopedic bed
If your furbaby suffers from an orthopedic condition, invest in an orthopedic bed with supportive memory foam. These beds help ease your pup’s aches and pains.
Groom your Frenchie
Use regular grooming practices to encourage healthy skin. Due to their short hair, you only need to brush your French Bulldog about once a week. We recommend you use a grooming mitt. During your weekly session, you should also check and clean your furbaby’s ears and skin folds to remove trapped debris.
The Final Woof
The breeding that developed the distinctive conformation of French Bulldogs also created genetic predispositions to several health conditions. If you’re planning on adding a Frenchie to your home, you need to be prepared. Common diseases that affect the breed include BOAS, skin issues, eye issues, and digestive issues.
Fortunately, just because Frenchies are at a higher risk for certain conditions, it doesn’t mean your puppy will develop any of them. It’s best to be prepared and know what to do if you see signs of disease. There are also some things you can do to help support your pup’s health and reduce the risk of serious issues.