French Bulldogs are perhaps one of the best companion breeds known to man. Despite getting off to a slow start, this breed has become incredibly popular because you cannot help but love them. However, they do come with some inherent health issues.
What are some health issues and limitations French Bulldogs have? A reduced capacity to breathe and shed heat via panting due to a short snout is common to all French Bulldogs. This is manifested as lack of ability to be active for long periods, overheating quickly, snoring, labored breathing, and other related issues. Beyond this, the breed is prone to issues with Hip Dysplasia.
There are other health related issues like Cherry Eye, Deafness or Allergies that can pop up. Testing and knowledge of the parents health are helpful here. While there is no way to make the Frenchie into an easy and low-maintenance breed, there are ways to make their care easier. Read on, and we will attempt to arm you with as much knowledge as possible so that these issues do not challenge you any more than necessary.
Rare or “Fad” Colors And Health Issues:
Colors outside of the breed standard, such as Blue, Chocolate, or Pure Black with no trace of brindle, are noted to have possible health issues associated with them. You should take care to be sure to do all your research if you’re considering these.
Common Health Issues For Brachycephalic Dogs (Including Frenchies)
Many of the French Bulldog’s unique health issues come from a condition called brachycephaly. Brachycephalic dogs have a short snout (AKA the “pug nose”), and this means that their airways are much smaller than those of a normal dog.
This phenomenon is the result of the Frenchies’ history. When you take a large dog and breed it down to a small dog while also reducing the length of the snout, you get a disproportionate dog. This is why they cannot swim, and this is why their nasal passages are too large for their snout. Since they are crammed into a snout that is a little bit too small, it is easy for these airways to become constricted.
Brachycephaly causes or contributes to the following health conditions:
- Reduced ability to breathe
- Inability to shed heat through panting, leading to overheating problems
- An elongated palate that can sometimes block the esophagus
- Nostrils that collapse inward when the dog tries to inhale, forcing them to breathe much harder
- Loose tissue from the airway being pulled into the windpipe (everted laryngeal saccules)
- Narrow windpipe (Trachea)
- Problems with the Larynx
Unfortunately, the Frenchie pays a high price for that cute little pug nose. These problems are shared by Pugs, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and all other dogs with this type of snout profile.
Problem One: Airways
The airways of a pug-nosed dog will almost always suffer from some degree of obstruction. This fact has been confirmed by many scientific studies, all of which show a breathing pattern that is consistent with obstruction. In some cases, this problem can become so serious that it requires corrective surgery.
Problem Two: Panting
Most people know that dogs pant in the heat so that they can cool themselves. The heavy breathing allows them to cycle hot and cold air in such a way that it allows them to regulate their body temperature to some extent. Of course, there are limits to this ability, and those limits are going to be a lot lower when your respiratory system is compromised. As a result, French Bulldogs are far more prone to overheating than other dogs.
Problem Three: Palate
As if there weren’t enough things obstructing the airways of the Frenchie, they can even be choked by their palate. If you don’t know what a palate is, it’s that little dangling thing in the back of your throat. Dogs have them too, although their palates are shaped a little differently from our own.
Sometimes, this palate can become enlarged in brachycephalic breeds, and it can eventually grow to the point that it obstructs the windpipe. When this problem gets out of hand, it will normally require surgery to correct. This will, of course, be an essential surgery since the dog’s survival is at stake.
Problem Four: Nostrils
There isn’t much to say about this problem that isn’t obvious. Deformed nostrils that collapse inward will force the dog to breathe far more heavily, resulting in greater exertion during normal activities. This condition is technically referred to as stenosis of the nares. It can be corrected with surgical trimming of the nostril flaps, which is a relatively mild surgery.
Problem Five: Windpipe
Sometimes, excess tissue within the airway will be pulled into the windpipe, making those air passages even more narrow. Thankfully, this problem does not occur in the average French Bulldog. If you are lucky, you may never have to deal with this issue. It usually requires surgical correction.
Sometimes, a narrowing of the windpipe can develop in brachycephalic dogs. If this problem is bad enough, it can cause a total collapse of the Trachea (windpipe), preventing the dog from breathing at all.
Problem Six: Larynx
The Larynx, or voice box, is situated right in the middle of all these organs that we have been discussing. Paralysis (full or temporary) of the Larynx can sometimes be an inherited condition.
A Word About Hip Dysplasia
The French Bulldog is particularly prone to hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia results when the hip and its socket no longer fit together perfectly. The result is a loss of mobility and a lot of pain and discomfort. No one wants to watch their little dog hobbling around and grimacing in pain, and so this issue can be very hard on dog owners as well.
It is a good idea to supplement your dog’s diet with regular doses of Chondroitin and Glucosamine. Both of these substances can help to limit the risk of hip dysplasia over time. These supplements have also been shown to help prevent arthritis.
Good Questions To Ask Breeders
Good breeding is often the difference between a Frenchie that is riddled with health problems and a Frenchie that is normal. Because of the unique vulnerabilities of this breed, there isn’t much margin for error in the body proportions of this dog.
You should always ask about the dog’s parents. Try to figure out if the parents have any chronic health problems. However, you should not necessarily trust the breeder to tell you the truth. Ask to meet the mother and father of the dog in person, as photographs do not always tell the whole story. The health of the parents is a key determining factor in the health of their pups.
Instead of directly asking the breeder about any health problems, just bring up the well-known fact that the French Bulldog is prone to several health conditions. This will make the breeder feel more comfortable discussing any issues that they have dealt with in the past. You should also ask if you can inspect the dogs’ living area. A breeder who doesn’t offer much information might very well be hiding something.
Prevention is usually the best medicine. Here is a quick guide to preventative measures that can be employed in order to limit the most common health problems of this breed:
- Overheating Issues: Keep the dog in the house during the summertime, give them constant access to water, and limit their physical activity if they begin breathing too heavily.
- Hip Dysplasia: Regular supplementation with Chondroitin and Glucosamine can help to maintain the health of the joints, including the hip. Fish oil is another good supplement for this purpose.
- Windpipe/Larynx Issues: Try not to let the dog bark too much. Figure out ways to soothe your dog when necessary, as excessive barking can aggravate both of these organs.
- All Breathing Issues: Vigilance is your only weapon here. If your dog cannot breathe, it is obviously a death sentence, so don’t let the problem progress to that point.
Do French Bulldogs Overheat easily?
Yes, French Bulldogs overheat easily. When the weather gets hot, it is best to limit the amount of time that your Frenchie spends outside. This breed is not able to thermoregulate (control their body temperature) in the same way that other dogs can, so bear that in mind. Also, try not to let them exert themselves too much because this can also trigger overheating.
Read our full article on Frenchie overheating and prevention, here.
Do French Bulldogs have any common behavioral problems?
Like all bulldog breeds, the Frenchie is a rambunctious and stubborn dog. There is a strange dichotomy in the behavior of Bulldog breeds: They are loyal and loving to an extreme degree, but they don’t always listen as easily as other dogs. However, the answer to this problem is a firm but gentle hand. In other words, you need to know how to put the dog in line when necessary, but without doing anything harmful or abusive.
It’s a good thing that the French Bulldog is such a loveable creature because they are not the easiest of pets. Most Frenchie owners would probably say that they are worth the extra trouble, but will caution other dog owners about the issues involved.
It is certainly not our purpose to talk you out of getting the breed of your choice. However, it is important that you go into the situation with a good understanding of all the factors that must be considered.