French bulldogs, or commonly known as Frenchies, are one of the most popular dogs due to their puppy-like appearance, friendly personalities, and charming demeanours. If you’re considering getting a french bulldog, or you already own one, here is our ultimate guide on everything you need to know about French bulldogs and their common health problems.
French Bulldogs are small dogs that typically weigh between 16 and 28 pounds. They are friendly, affectionate, and loyal too. They make great companions, and love spending time with their owners. Frenchies are also playful and energetic, but they do not require a lot of exercise. They are happy to curl up on the couch next to you and do not need a large yard or a lot of space to be happy.
What are the common health problems suffered by Frenchies?
1. Problems caused by their brachycephalic (flat-faced):
One of the most common problems with French bulldogs are breathing difficulties. The snorting and snoring are often excused as a hallmark of the breed, but it is due to abnormally narrow nostrils, elongated soft palates, and narrow windpipes.
Surgery is usually recommended at the time of desexing to widen the nostrils and remove excess soft palate. Many breeders may denounce the surgery as “unnecessary” and a “money grab” by vets, but it is supported by science and welfare. The individual severity of these issues will be evaluated and the recommendation tailored to each individual dog.
Skin fold dermatitis
The wrinkles on French bulldogs’ faces commonly get infected, leading to inflammation and fur loss.
Eyes and ears infection
Shallow eye sockets can predispose these dogs to scratching their eyes more easily, leading to corneal ulcers or other forms of trauma. Their bat-like ears can trap dirt and moisture, which leads to ear infections.
The shape of their jaws predisposes Frenchies to a higher risk of dental defects and dental disease, such as retained puppy teeth, malocclusion, and tartar accumulation
Higher risk of heat stroke
Their flat faces reduce their ability to pant and vent heat, and brachycephalic dogs can get heat stroke at much lower temperatures than other dogs
2. Other health issues not related to their flat faces:
Allergies and skin problems:
Food and environmental allergies are common in French Bulldogs. This causes itching and redness of the skin. Because of their health complications, it can be challenging and expensive to manage. Some Frenchies need very specific diets containing novel proteins like crocodile and duck.
Although potentially unrelated to food allergies, many Frenchies have a very sensitive digestion and react poorly to new foods, less digestible foods, or even higher than usual levels of fat in their diets. In some situations, this will cause diarrhea and vomiting in some dogs.
Part of the reason why French bulldogs have so many health issues are due to many unscrupulous breeders jumping in on their popularity. This means they may be breeding to enhance characteristics seen as “cute” instead of considering their health factors. For instance, many Frenchies have malformed spines because of the desire for a short-backed, stubby body shape. Some breeders breed poorly screened parents with genetic defects, causing further health complications. Breeding for rare colours like blue merle may sound like a good idea initially, but this coat mutation comes with health risks like deafness.
So what can I do to best care for my French bulldog?
As Frenchies are prone to certain health issues, be realistic about the veterinary care your dog will need. Teach them to be comfortable with examinations, nail trims, opening their mouths, and looking in their ears from a young age. Choose a breeder that prioritises long term health - they will often have waiting lists and you may need to wait for over a year, but it is worth it. It’s important not to fall for a fancy colour or other marketing ploys that disguise breeders that don’t prioritise health.
Another top tip is to get pet insurance from day 1. Pet insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions, so getting insurance after a problem is found won’t be useful. Feed your dog high quality, easily digestible food and limit human food and treats. If you are unsure the amount to feed your dog, please speak to your vet. Be mindful of weather and air quality when planning walks and excursions, to prevent your pet from coming across any environmental factors that may aggravate their breathing problems or allergies.
If you want to compare the best dog foods for French bulldogs, check out Pawsitive Plan to compare across 28 different dog food brands and personalise a meal plan for your fur babies.