French Bulldog Genetic Health Problems
Frenchies are notorious for their long list of genetic health problems! Learn about the most common health problems and what you can do to prevent them.
Frenchies are notorious for their long list of genetic health problems! Learn about the most common health problems and what you can do to prevent them.
French Bulldogs are notorious for their long list of genetic health problems.
When many of those interested in owning a Frenchie start to do their research, they find out quickly that this breed is not cheap whatsoever.
Sadly, many French Bulldog owners end up having to give up their dog for adoption when they find themselves unable to pay for the medical bills.
Surprisingly, French Bulldogs are the healthiest of all the “bully” breeds.
Vet bills can quickly add up and those with Frenchies suffering from a chronic illness may struggle to afford these expenses.
This is why we recommend getting your Frenchie from a highly reputable breeder and investing in pet insurance for these reasons.
While many of these health problems are genetic, meaning they can be prevented by selective breeding of only the best dogs. French Bulldogs are commonly bred for their appearance, with a flat, smushed in face and a short, stocky appearance being desirable.
The problem with breeding solely for looks is that it can bring in a host of unwanted characteristics such as breathing difficulties, hip dysplasia, and spinal disorders.
If you are interested in owning a French Bulldog, we implore you to do thorough research so that you understand the possible health problems that your Frenchie could be affected by.
While selective breeding and genetic testing can reduce the chances of these disorders developing, no test can guarantee your French Bulldog will be completely free of disease throughout its life.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common French Bulldog genetic health problems to help you understand what gives Frenchies a bad rep.
Just like us humans can suffer from allergies, our Frenchies can as well! While genetics can increase the risk of your French Bulldog developing an allergy, it’s important to note that they can develop allergies at any point during their lifetime.
Unfortunately, flat-faced breeds such as the French Bulldog, Shih Tzu, and Pug are at a higher risk of developing allergies than non-brachycephalic breeds.
What exactly are allergies? Simply put, they’re a state of over-reactivity of the immune system when exposed to a substance called an allergen. There are many types of allergies, such as food allergies, seasonal allergies, drug allergies, and environmental allergies.
Support your Frenchies immune system with these peanut butter flavored Allergy Support & Probiotic Supplements. Also available in other flavors!
There are allergy supplements available on the market such as this one on Chewy that are designed to stop allergy symptoms without antihistamines.
These work by providing your pet with support it needs for a strong immune system, histamine production, and digestive enzymes.
If your Frenchie is suffering from allergies and you just don’t know why, try switching their food!
Sometimes all you need to do is switch your dog from a beef diet to a salmon diet. Some protein sources are just incompatible with some dogs’ bodies!
Hip dysplasia is a skeletal disorder in which the ball and socket joint of the hip isn’t formed correctly. If left untreated, it can result in limited activity, pain, and the development of hip arthritis.
Hip dysplasia in French Bulldogs is characterized by the following
What are the main causes of hip dysplasia in French Bulldogs?
Some dogs will have a genetic predisposition to hip looseness or laxity which can increase the rate of progression of the disorder. Other environmental factors can contribute to the development and progression of hip dysplasia such as excessive growth, exercise, obesity, and other nutritional factors.
If you are concerned that your French Bulldog may be suffering from hip dysplasia, please consult with your veterinarian for a further evaluation. Your vet will usually perform an x-ray and physical examination to determine the degree and severity of the hip dysplasia.
You know how they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? This is certainly true when it comes to hip dysplasia in French Bulldogs.
Unfortunately Frenchies are prone to joint issues. With these tips, you should be able to prevent or slow down any joint problems.
If your French Bulldog is suffering from hip dysplasia, fortunately, there are a few treatment options.
Physical therapy, weight control, and diet are great non-surgical treatment options for hip dysplasia. Physiotherapy and swimming can help build the muscles around the affected area without putting strain on the joint.
It’s also crucial that you keep your French Bulldog a healthy weight to keep as much pressure off the joint as possible. With the correct diet, you’ll be able to minimize any weight gain by offsetting their diet appropriately to their new activity level during recovery.
In more severe cases, surgery may be required to restore original function and reduce discomfort.
An early diagnosis is important when treating hip dysplasia in order to reduce the amount of damage and arthritis caused by hip dysplasia.
If necessary, there are a few different surgical procedures that your vet may recommend.
The cost of hip dysplasia surgery in French Bulldogs can range from $1,700 - $4,700.
This procedure is usually performed when a puppy is between 10 and 18 weeks old. It requires early diagnosis of hip dysplasia. It consists of closing of a growth plate at the bottom of the pelvis, which has consistently shown positive evidence for providing normal pain free hip function.
This is a surgery option for dogs that are less than 8-10 months of age with hip dysplasia. It consists of cutting the pelvic bone in two or three places to improve the stability of the joint. Recent advancements in medical technology mean that this surgery is even less invasive than before, and usually only requires two cuts in the bone.
If the aforementioned surgical procedures aren’t able to successfully treat the hip dysplasia in your French Bulldog, a total hip replacement is the next option. Your dog must be at least a year old before undergoing this operation. Fortunately, it has shown positive results in providing a pain-free function in dogs with hip dysplasia.
The artificial hip joint provides a more natural range of motion and limb function in French Bulldogs affected by hip dysplasia.
This surgical option is usually the last resort for treating hip dysplasia. It can be done at any age and provide enough comfort without the use of anti-inflammatory pain medication.
This procedure consists of removing the ball of the joint to reduce pain and further damage to the joint cartilage and soft tissues of the joint. This will create a “false joint” that transfers the pressure from the leg to the pelvis.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the tissue that covers the front part of the eyeball. Commonly referred to as pinkeye, conjunctivitis is characterized by symptoms such as swollen eyelids, red “bloodshot” eyes, squinting, and discharge from the eyes.
It can be caused by a variety of things such as allergies, dry eye, or other irritants. In some rare cases, conjunctivitis can be caused by more serious illnesses such as canine distemper.
Treatment differs depending on the cause of conjunctivitis; because there are so many causes of this disease, it’s hard to say what type of treatment may be necessary for your French Bulldog.
An antibiotic ointment or medication may be prescribed to your pet in the event of a bacterial infection.
Many cases are caused by allergies. If this is the case, your vet will likely recommend an elimination diet.
What is an elimination diet? Simply put, it’s a diet that helps to rule out possible dietary causes of health problems. The diet will be cut back to a bare minimum, and then slowly have other foods added to it to rule out what could be causing the allergies
In more rare cases, conjunctivitis may be caused by cancer. In these cases, surgical removal of the tumor will likely be necessary. Radiation therapy and cryotherapy may also be used in the treatment.
Regardless of the cause, if there appears to be inflammation in the eye, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the inflammation.
Deafness, or hearing loss, is an all too common health problem in French Bulldogs. It can be present at birth due to genetic defects or develop over time in older dogs.
Fortunately, you can rule out congenital deafness by conducting a test known as the BAER test in puppies as young as 6 weeks old. Deafness is more common in white coated dogs due to a piebald gene which is often characterized by a mainly white coat with patches of black and blue eyes.
Deafness is also common in merle French Bulldogs as well, and we recommend staying away from breeders that offer merle French Bulldogs due to the other various genetic defects that are associated with the merle gene.
You may be wondering why the color of the coat can affect the hearing.
The reason for this is that these genes are associated with a lack of pigment cells which give the appearance of their coats. There are small hairs in the inner ear that are called cilia, and when there is an extreme lack of pigment cells, the cilia may not develop properly, resulting in deafness.
If you are interested in a predominantly white French Bulldog or are just concerned about the possibility of your new puppy being deaf, be sure to ask your breeder about performing a BAER test.
according to PetMD include, but are not limited to:
Unresponsive to sounds
Unresponsive to its name
Unresponsive to the sounds of squeaky toys
Not woken by a loud noise
To learn more about what can you do to make the life of a deaf dog easier, check out our in-depth article on deafness.
Did you know dogs have a third eyelid?
You’ve probably noticed it when your Frenchie was sleeping; it’s a red membrane in the eye that sometimes makes it look like their eyes are rolling back in his head. This membrane serves to protect the eye from debris, fight off infection, and produce some tears for the eye.
Cherry eye is a health disorder that occurs when the tear gland of this third eyelid pops out of position.
A congenital weakness of the tear gland in the eye is usually associated with cherry eye, however, it has not yet known whether it is inherited from parents. It’s also much more common in younger French Bulldogs, however, it can happen at any point in your Frenchie’s lifetime.
If your French Bulldog has a large, red mass protruding from its eye, take them to your veterinarian immediately. It’s important that you seek treatment quickly in order to minimize damage to the eye.
If cherry eye is left untreated, it may cause damage to the eye or third eyelid gland which may result in chronic dry eye. Severe cases of dry eye can seriously impair your French Bulldog’s vision. Don’t wait for cherry eye to go away on its own; go see your vet.
French Bulldogs are what are known as a brachycephalic breed. Simply put, brachycephalic means ”short-headed” or ”flat-faced”, and refers to that smushed face that we’ve come to love of dogs such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Chihuahuas.
These cute looks don’t come without any drawbacks though; the flat-faced appearance of these dogs is what causes your French Bulldog to snort and snore. In severe cases, it can seriously hinder your Frenchie’s ability to breathe properly.
Brachycephalic syndrome refers to a multitude of conditions. These are an elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and everted laryngeal saccules.
What are stenotic nares in French Bulldogs? It’s a fancy way of saying pinched or narrow nostrils. Many short-nosed dogs suffer from this disorder, and it can result in difficulty breathing through the nose, snorting, and snoring.
There are varying degrees of severity of stenotic nares, with some nostrils being nearly closed, and some only slightly narrower than usual.
This disorder can seriously reduce the quality-of-life for your Frenchie, making it harder for them to exercise, tolerate heat, and breathe.
Luckily, there are many surgical procedures that are commonly performed at the same time your French Bulldog is spayed or neutered that can greatly improve the ability to breathe through the nose.
What causes stenotic nares? The nature of the genetics of brachycephalic breeds are the only cause of stenotic nares; they will not develop over your French Bulldog’s life.
Because they are hereditary and present at birth, the best way to avoid this would be to find a puppy bred with two parents that do not have severe stenotic nares.
How are stenotic nares treated? If your French Bulldog is suffering from stenotic nares, your veterinarian will most likely suggest performing a simple surgery to widen the nostrils at the same time as a spay or neuter.
Tracheal collapse in French Bulldogs is a chronic, progressive disease of the trachea or “windpipe”. It is often caused by a chronic respiratory disease, Cushing’s disease, or heart disease. It can be present at birth or develop over time.
What treatment options are available for a dog affected by tracheal collapse? Initially, your veterinarian will most likely start by prescribing medications such as:
If medication is not a successful treatment option for your Frenchie, there are surgical procedures that have shown a 75% to 85% success rate in dogs under the age of six.
These procedures consist of applying prosthetic rings to the outside of the trachea to support it. These surgeries are pretty pricey and can range anywhere from $3,500 to $6,500.
Heat stress in French Bulldogs is one of the most common conditions affecting the breed. Due to their smushed faces, they typically have a hard time breathing and regulating their body temperatures.
If you live in a hotter area, it’s even more important that you’re careful of heat stress in your French Bulldog.
If left untreated, heat stress can eventually lead to heat stroke.
According to PetMD, these are some of the steps you should follow to treat an overheated dog.
The soft palate refers to the soft tissue located at the back of the roof of the mouth. In dogs with an elongated soft palate, this tissue grows too long for the head and can block the entrance of the windpipe.
Elongated soft palate is part of the Brachycephalic Syndrome and many French Bulldogs are born with this issue. It can make breathing difficult for your French Bulldog.
The larynx, or voice box, protects the lungs for aspiration while swallowing, allows for barking & growling, and servers as a passage for airflow to the lungs.
Laryngeal collapse is a condition that happens when there is a loss of the rigidity and support for the laryngeal cartilage, causing the larynx, or voice box, to collapse. This leads to severe respiratory problems that make it hard for your dog to breathe in.
This condition usually develops in dogs older than two years of age, but can happen earlier in brachycephalic breeds such as the French Bulldog.
What causes laryngeal collapse in French Bulldogs? Laryngeal collapse usually develops as a complication to long-standing brachycephalic syndrome.
Brachycephalic syndrome can place a lot of strain on the respiratory system over the years so it’s crucial that you treat problems such as elongated soft palates, everted laryngeal saccules, and stenotic nares before they progress into something worse.
What can you do if your French Bulldog is suffering from laryngeal collapse? Luckily, there are many different treatments options depending on the severity of the laryngeal collapse.
Portions of the collapsed cartilages may have to be surgically removed.
In severe cases, a permanent tracheostomy may be required.
Hemivertebrae is a congenital (present at birth) condition of the spine. It refers to when the vertebrae of the spine are deformed and fuse or develop abnormally.
The “corkscrew” tail appearance on some bulldogs is caused by this condition
This abnormality creates a twisting wedge where the spine should be straight. This can result in twisting in the spinal cord and compression of the spinal cord.
Compression of the spinal cord is a serious condition as the spinal cord is the central nervous system structure; it can result in nerve impulses not able to transmit their signals to the final destination.
Luckily for most French Bulldogs with hemivertebrae, it doesn’t manifest with any symptoms.
Symptoms of a more severe case of hemivertebrae include
If your veterinarian decides that surgery is necessary, it can cost anywhere between $2,500 to $7,000 including the imaging.
This is a condition in which the discs between the vertebrae in the spine bulge or herniate into the spinal cord space. These discs can press on nerves, causing pain, nerve damage, and paralysis.
Damage to the discs in the spinal cord can be caused by forceful impacts such as jumping and landing.
Surgery to correct this can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000.
Degenerative myelopathy is a rare, progressive disease of the spinal cord that usually develops in older dogs between the ages of 8 and 14 years old. While French Bulldogs are actually less likely to develop this genetic problem when compared to other breeds, it is still a possibility.
Symptoms generally begin to manifest with a loss of coordination in the hind legs, progressing to buckling limbs and difficulty standing. It is a progressive disease, so it tends to get worse as time goes on.
Within 6 months to a year from the beginning of the onset of degenerative myelopathy, most dogs will become paralyzed in their hind legs. After this point, the dog may experience a lack of control over their bladder and bowel movements. Weakness will eventually develop in the front limbs.
Degenerative myelopathy is caused by degeneration of the white matter within the spinal cord. The white matter in the spinal cord contains fibers that transmit nerve signals for movements from the brain to the limbs.
Research has shown that a mutation in a gene is correlated with a higher risk of developing this disease. As of a 2013 study, this mutation is present in about 20% of French Bulldogs, but only 1% will be affected. Unfortunately, this number is expected to rise in the future and we may start seeing many more French Bulldogs affected by degenerative myelopathy as time goes on.
Degenerative myelopathy is diagnosed once other causes of the weakness have been ruled out. Your veterinarian will most likely rule out herniated intervertebral disks, tumors, cysts, infections, injuries, and stroke.
There is no definitive testing available for diagnosing degenerative myelopathy; the only way to confirm the diagnosis is when an autopsy is performed and the spinal cord is examined.
There are currently no available treatment options for dogs affected by degenerative myelopathy; nothing has shown evidence of stopping or slowing the progression of this disease.
There are a few ways that you can improve the quality of life for dogs affected by degenerative myelopathy
Patellar luxation occurs when the kneecap, or patella, is dislocated, or luxated, from its normal position.
This is a genetic disorder in which the kneecap becomes dislocated from its original location in the femur. Unlike hip dysplasia and other disorders, there are currently no known ways to prevent patellar luxation.
Fortunately, a dog will only feel pain the moment the joint is dislocated; after that, they rarely experience any pain.
If your French Bulldog is showing any signs of patellar luxation, talk to your veterinarian about it.
Luckily for Frenchies affected by patellar luxation, surgery has shown to be extremely effective even in the most severe of cases. In 90% of cases, original function will be restored and discomfort alleviated.
The surgical procedure for patellar luxation usually consists of fastening the kneecap on the outside of the bone to prevent it from sliding toward the inside.
Patellar luxation is caused by a genetic malformation or trauma to the knee.
It can be corrected by surgery that has shown positive results in stopping dysfunction in 90% of cases, although, there is a high risk for recurrence (48%)
Entropion is a hereditary disorder of the eyelids. Entropion is an abnormality in which the eyelid “rolls” inward, causing the hair on the surface of the eyelid to rub against the cornea.
Unfortunately, brachycephalic breeds such as French Bulldogs are much more likely to develop entropion.
In most cases, the abnormality will have to be surgically corrected by removing a section of skin from the affected eyelid.
There will be a first, major surgical procedure performed to correct the entropion. This surgery is usually followed by a second, minor corrective surgery to reduce the risk of over-correcting the entropion.
Distichiasis is hereditary disorder in which an eyelash arises from an abnormal location on the eyelid or one that grows in an abnormal direction.
Your veterinarian will perform an exhaustive eye examination to diagnose distichiasis. These tests consist of measuring tear production, checking the intraocular pressure within the eye, and evaluating the level of fluid in the eye. Further tests may be required in some cases.
In most cases, the distichiae will have to be surgically removed. Surgery is extremely effective in treating diastasis, however, multiple surgeries may be required over your dog’s lifetime. The procedure can be performed when your dog has reached their adult size.
It’s important that you don’t put off the surgery as it can damage the eye, resulting in permanent visual deficits.
Cataracts refer to the cloudiness in the lens of the eye. The cloudiness can range from complete to partial opacity.
Cataracts are a progressive disorder and can lead to blindness if not treated quickly. In cases where cataracts are caused by diabetes, they progress even quicker.
Surgery for cataracts has shown more than a 90% success rate. After the procedure, it will take some time for your Frenchie to recover from the operation in the hospital. You will also need to apply eye drops for several weeks following the operation.
Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is a congenital, chronic bleeding disorder that is similar to Hemophilia in humans. It is caused by a deficiency of an adhesive glycoprotein in the blood required for normal platelet binding (clotting).
According to PetMD, some of the symptoms of Von Willebrand’s Disease are
Mild to moderate vWD usually doesn’t affect the quality-of-life nor require any special treatment.
In severe cases, your Frenchie may require a blood transfusion prior to surgery and for uncontrollable bleeding episodes. Their activity must be monitored and limited to prevent bleeding.
Cleft palates in French Bulldogs is a genetic disorder that is commonly seen in brachycephalic breeds.
It is characterized by an abnormal opening in the roof of the mouth.
During embryonic development, the two sides of the palate (roof of the mouth) fail to come together and fuse. This results in an opening between the nasal passages and the mouth.
A runny nose
Aspiration pneumonia (pneumonia caused by milk and food contents entering the cleft and infecting the lungs)
Respiratory difficulty (caused by aspiration pneumonia)
Difficulty sucking and nursing (for puppies)
Lack of appetite
Surgery to correct a cleft palate can be performed when puppies are 3-4 months old. It usually requires more than one operation to completely close the opening.
The thyroid is a gland in your dog’s neck that produces the hormone thyroxine (T4) along with various other hormones.
These hormones play a huge role in your dog’s metabolism and can cause major problems if they’re not produced at normal levels.
The thyroid is like the thermostat of the body.
When hypothyroidism in French Bulldogs occurs when your dog isn’t secreting enough of the thyroid hormones.
Hypothyroidism causes your dog’s metabolism to slow down, which can result in the following symptoms
Hypothyroidism in French Bulldogs occurs when your dog’s body produces too much thyroid hormone. It can increase the metabolic rate to dangerous levels.
While this is quite rare in dogs, it’s commonly seen in cats. When it does affect dogs, it is usually very severe.
Thyroid cancer is the primary cause of hyperthyroidism in dogs.
Goiters are a non-cancerous enlargement of the thyroid caused by genetic defects. They can also be caused by an iodine deficiency
Goiters can be a symptom of congenital hypothyroidism.
They appear more alarming than they actually are.
Autoimmune thyroiditis occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. It can also be a symptom of another disorder such a systemic lupus erythematosus.
With the recent rise in popularity of the Frenchie, there have been many breeders popping up looking to make a quick buck by breeding French Bulldogs without much care about their quality of life.
It’s important that you find a reputable, ethical breeder when looking for a French Bulldog puppy to minimize the chances of having a French Bulldog with preventable genetic diseases.
There are many inexperienced, unethical breeders that often have little to no regard for the health of the pups they’re breeding and many of them can suffer from preventable genetic diseases.
Just because a breeder is AKC certified doesn’t always mean they’re a reputable, trusted breeder.
You should obtain proof of family history that shows there are no genetic health problems in their blood. The family history should go at least 5 generations back.
The average cost for pet insurance ranges anywhere from as low as $10 to higher than $100. When it comes to French Bulldogs, investing in pet insurance is definitely a smart decision.
The cost of coverage usually is based on your Frenchie’s age, current health, and level of coverage you want. There may be exclusions for pre-existing conditions or health conditions that are not covered due to it being a common problem of the breed.
We recommend to insure your pet as early as possible; preferably when they’re less than a year old. You want to get insurance before any hereditary conditions manifest their symptoms and you’ll miss out on coverage.
This may differ depending on what insurance company you go through, but most insurances don’t cover the following:
Well, that depends on the type of policy that you choose. Here’s a list of the different types of policies to help you make your decision on what best fits your needs.
Depending on your level of coverage, you may be covered for the following:
This is generally the cheapest policy available. An accident-only policy would cover emergency illnesses from an accident such as poisoning or other freak-accident injuries.
Time-limited policies are one of the other cheaper options. As its name implies, there is a maximum amount per condition that is limited by a specified duration of time.
The limit would be placed on the condition; after the limit has been reached, no further payouts will be made.
If you’d like greater coverage and peace-of-mind without breaking the bank, a maximum benefit policy is a great option.
A maximum benefit policy will cover up to a maximum amount with no time limit on how long you can make a claim for.
Once you reach your maximum payout amount, you will not be able to make any more claims.
While this may be a great option depending on your needs, it may not provide complete coverage for ongoing illnesses that require medication over your French Bulldog’s lifetime.
This is the most expensive policy that offers the most exhaustive coverage. Your Frenchie will be covered throughout its lifetime for any illness, injury, or other vet expenses.
You will be given a set amount of coverage to pay for vet fees which will renew annually. If you reach your maximum payout before the year ends, you’ll be on the hook for vet expenses until your coverage renews.
While this is the most expensive policy, it’s sure to offer the most peace-of-mind. Some of the health issues that I’ve listed here such as hip dysplasia and intervertebral disc disease require surgeries that cost thousands of dollars.
While we hope that our Frenchies never suffer from any of these health issues, you can never say anything for sure. Pet insurance is a great way to save yourself from possibly paying thousands of dollars in the event of an emergency or other illness.
There are many different pet insurance companies that offer a variety of policies.