French Bulldog 101: 9 Common Health Issues & How to Prevent Them
Updated May 12, 2023.
If the French Bulldog is one of your favorite breeds, you're not alone. These flat-faced cuties are incredibly popular and for a good reason. They're not only cute looking, but they're also affectionate, adaptable to most environments, and great with children.
However, it's crucial to keep in mind that Frenchies tend to suffer from breed-related health problems. Unfortunately, many health issues begin to impact the breed as early as age 2 or 3, leading to unexpected veterinary expenses. These health conditions can significantly affect a pet's quality of life, causing financial strain on owners.
Here are the most common health issues associated with this breed.
9 Most common French Bulldog health issues
- Ear infections
- Skin problems
- IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease)
- Collapsed Trachea
- Degenerative Myelopathy and Panting
1. Ear Infections
French bulldogs are susceptible to ear infections due to their narrow ear canals and large ears. The good news is that most ear infections clear up with antibiotics. Unfortunately, in severe cases, the eardrum can rupture.
Common signs of ear infections include excessive ear scratching, redness or swelling of the ears, discharge, and excess wax when cleaning the ears.
Keeping your French bulldog's ears clean and dry will help prevent ear infections.
2. Skin Problems
Due to their short hair and folded skin around the muzzle, French Bulldogs are prone to skin problems. The combination of chafing, heat, and moisture can lead to dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin, in areas such as the paws, ears, muzzle, belly, and groin. Affected areas often become pink, and your dog may start licking or scratching at them.
In addition, French Bulldogs are also susceptible to pyoderma, a bacterial skin infection, often occurring in skin folds around the armpits, neck, and vulva. Symptoms include redness and sores on your dog, as well as itching, biting, and scratching of the affected area.
To prevent skin problems in your French Bulldog, it's crucial to maintain proper hygiene. Thoroughly brush your dog at least three times a week and use organic, hypoallergenic shampoo during baths to help control itchiness.
Stomach upsets are common in French Bulldogs, as they are genetically predisposed to food allergies, which can cause digestive problems. It's crucial to monitor your dog's diet since this breed is also sensitive to viruses and parasites. Signs of digestive issues include wet, runny stools, blood in the stools, weight loss, and fever.
To prevent diarrhea in your French Bulldog, consult with your vet to determine the appropriate preventive measures. They may suggest probiotics, changes in your dog's diet, or medication. For example, when your dog experiences an upset stomach, feeding them plain rice, a simple protein like plain chicken, and potatoes or carrots can help.
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a common health issue in French Bulldogs. It can be caused by allergies, irritants, or a condition called "dry eye." Due to the sensitivity of their eyes, French Bulldogs are also prone to scratches and ulcers, making it crucial to keep their eyes clean and free from irritants such as dust and sand.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- Red or swollen eyes
- Discharge from the eyes
- Squinting, blinking, or pawing at the eyes
Keep your dog current on vaccinations, particularly those that can cause conjunctivitis, such as canine distemper. If your dog is infected, keep them away from other dogs. Wearing an Elizabethan collar when infected will prevent your dog from pawing its eyes and worsening the condition.
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5. Heat Stroke
French Bulldogs are twice as likely to suffer from heat stroke than other breeds. Due to their flat faces, it's difficult for them to cool themselves, and they can quickly overheat. During hot and humid weather, it's crucial to keep your dog in a cool, air-conditioned area to prevent heat stroke.
Signs of overheating include excessive panting, blue or bright red gums, vomiting, and in severe cases, convulsions.
Minimize the risk of overheating by providing access to shade and water. On hot days, you can encourage your dog to play in cool water but never force a reluctant dog.
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that is prevalent in French Bulldogs, causing seizures or "fits." Signs of seizures include paddling of the legs, collapse, tongue chewing, and stiffness. If your dog experiences regular seizures, they could be suffering from epilepsy. This condition is characterized by regular seizures that can result in involuntary convulsions or loss of consciousness.
Epilepsy can't be prevented since the condition is hereditary. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the seizures, and it's essential to seek veterinary care to determine the appropriate treatment plan. However, you can help manage your dog's condition by reducing stress and limiting changes in their environment. Keeping a record of the length and frequency of the seizures can also help your veterinarian determine the most effective treatment.
» Intimidated by these health issues? See why French Bulldogs are so popular
Intervertebral disc disease is common in French Bulldogs, where the jelly-like cushioning between their vertebrae becomes brittle, making them more likely to slip or rupture. This results in pressure on the spinal cord, which can cause pain and mobility issues. The first signs of IVDD can include unwillingness to walk, shaking or trembling, difficulty urinating, and pain in the neck or back.
Other symptoms of IVDD can include:
- Walking wobbly
- Holding head low
- Inability to walk on all four legs
Maintaining a healthy diet and weight control is crucial, as obesity can put additional pressure on the spine. Additionally, using a harness instead of a collar is recommended since collars can make it difficult for them to breathe and predispose them to IVDD. Finally, try reducing jumping and other activities that put a strain on the spine.
8. Collapsed Trachea
Tracheal collapse is a chronic and progressive disease that can become serious in French Bulldogs. Due to their flat face, they are more prone to high levels of airway resistance, which can strain the respiratory system over time and lead to a collapsed trachea. The condition also has a genetic component, with small-breed dogs being more frequently affected.
- Coughing when the dog is picked up
- Difficulty breathing
You can lessen the risk by maintaining your dog at a healthy weight, avoiding strenuous activity in warm weather, and using a harness rather than a collar (which puts direct strain on the airway).
9. Degenerative Myelopathy and Panting
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is an inherited neurologic condition that causes weakness and poor nerve function in the hind legs, which affects French Bulldogs more than other breeds. If your dog has DM, their hind legs will become increasingly weak, eventually causing incontinence and paralysis.
Although there is no known cure for DM, maintaining a nutritious diet and providing regular exercise can help prevent obesity, which can worsen the symptoms of DM. Treating concurrent mobility problems such as arthritis or hip dysplasia may also provide relief.
Protecting Your Frenchie's Health
Just because French bulldogs are predisposed to health conditions doesn't mean your dog will necessarily develop any of them. As a responsible pet owner, you can take preventative measures to reduce the risk of health problems in your French Bulldog—like the ones we outlined above. In addition, purchasing a pet insurance policy can help protect your pet's health and minimize the cost of veterinary expenses in case of illness or injury.