The French Bulldog or ‘Frenchie’ has a really interesting history. Spanning back to pre-industrial Britain and the lace makers of Nottingham who kept smaller bulldogs as companions and rat catchers. As the industrial age threatened lace-makers livelihood in the UK owners migrated to France where the Bulldogs were bred with terriers and pugs – eventually giving rise to many of the breeds distinguishing features, like their pointy bat ears and smaller stature. The breed exploded in popularity across France and their proclivity for city living as well as their even temperament saw them become a feature of Parisian living. This little breed fast became associated with Cafe culture, the ‘bon vivant’ lifestyle of the French and those who enjoy the ‘finer’ things in life, a cultural quirk that has become permanently attached to them.
By the end of the 19th century, the breed had become tremendously popular across Europe and in the US. Today the Frenchie is ranked no.4 in the world of most popular dog breeds, with no signs of slowing down.
But, like all breeds, these loveable little characters are not without their vices and it could be easily argued that the Frenchie has more than their fair share.
Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome
Frenchies are a ‘Brachycephalic breed – meaning they have pushed up little faces. It’s a desirable breed trait but can result in the below conditions, which can be extremely detrimental to their health and in some cases can cause an early death.
Elongated soft palate – a condition where the soft palate is too long so that the tip of it protrudes into the airway and interferes with the movement of air into the lungs.
Stenotic Nares – Stenotic nares means the nostrils are pinched or narrow. This makes it more difficult to breathe and causes snorting and snoring. It can be rectified through a surgical procedure performed by your veterinarian.
Everted laryngeal saccules – Are soft tissue masses located between the vocal folds and wall of the larynx in canines. We’re not really clear on their function, but we do know that in Brachycephalic breeds the saccules can become everted causing symptoms such as snoring, noisy breathing, coughing, nasal congestion, and shortness of breath in affected dogs.
The above three symptoms are shared traits of ‘Brachycephalic breeds’ (think Shit-Tzu’s, Pekingnese, Boston Terriers, the Mastiff and Boxer breeds). On a cool day without much exercise and at the correct weight, your Frenchie will snort and be a little noisy (it’s really cute actually), but in cases of higher temperatures, strenuous exercise and overweight Frenchies it can be highly worrying as they start to gag, retch and even faint.
Potential French Bulldog owners should be aware and ensure their dogs maintain a healthy weight range and do not strenuously exercise especially in the heat. It’s also a GREAT idea to know your breeder and if possible ask for genetic testing on both parents.
Eye Issues such as Cherry Eye and Corneal ulcers
Those adorable brown eyes can be troublesome, due to the squashed faces of the Frenchie some extra care should be given to the eyes and keeping them clean should be on your weekly if not daily pet care tasks. The French Bulldog can often exhibit symptoms of the following eye conditions;
Cherry Eye – One of the most common eye problems that Frenchies experience. Cherry eye can be characterized by red tissue protruding from the inside corner of the eye. The red tissue is caused by the prolapsed gland of the eyelid. It’s generally not painful for the dog but looks worrisome and can lead to other serious eye problems if neglected. Cherry Eye can only be fixed through surgery.
Dry Eye – Dry eye occurs when your Frenchie’s eyes are not producing enough tears due to a congenital defect, disease, removal of Cherry Eye, or medication. The dryness causes the surrounding eye tissue to become inflamed and can be painful. If you do notice your pup squinting and blinking a lot with a yellow or green discharge it will best to visit the vet to confirm the cause and get a prescribed treatment.
Corneal Ulcers – Corneal ulcers are serious and extremely painful for your puppy, they’ll attempt to relieve the pain by rubbing at their eyes. Ulcers are usually caused by some type of trauma, untreated dry eye, or a chemical burn due to soap or shampoo, and it will require urgent medical care.
Hip and Spine Problems
Frenchies are susceptible to back problems. They were purposefully bred to have short back legs and slightly curled tails, this can lead to congenital conditions which affect development. These defects can impact their spine and hip development as your pup matures.
Hemivertebrae – This is an abnormality of one or more vertebrae that causes it to be shaped like a triangle. The abnormality can occur on its own or with other vertebrae malformations. It can be a tricky one to diagnose as often it can get missed or owners won’t be aware until it puts pressure on the spinal cord. If there is pressure this will most likely cause your pup pain, weakness or even paralysis.
Patellar Luxation – Commonly referred to as “slipped stifles”. This condition isn’t unique to the Frenchie and occurs often in a lot of smaller dogs. When the patella, femur and tibia, are not lined up properly the knee joint slips in and out of place (luxates). This can cause lameness or an unusual gait. The disease is present at birth but will not manifest until later on in life at around 4-6 months. There are four grades of patellar luxation ranging from grade 1 through to grade 4. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)- This condition occurs when a disc in the spine ruptures and pushes up into the spinal cord. If this occurs, nerve transmissions are inhibited from travelling along the spinal cord. IVDD has a lot of causes and is much more common in smaller breeds. If the disc ruptures, your dog usually feels pain and the ruptured disc can lead to weakness and temporary or permanent paralysis. The effects can be managed by anti-inflammatory drugs (MUST BE VETERINARIAN DIRECTED) and in some cases, surgery can help, but it must be done within a short time period of the injury.
Hip Dysplasia – A quite a common health concern across a number of breeds and also found in French Bulldogs. Hip dysplasia is when the thigh-bone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. The dog may exhibit lameness or symptoms of pain with arthritis in the joint often being the long-term prognosis. The ailment is genetic so it is very important to ensure that your pup’s parents are free from the condition.
The Frenchie is an adorable dog that will unfailingly melt hearts with its big eyes, a funny little personality and superior companion traits. A French Bulldog is smart, loving and will seek out its ‘people’ and shower them with adoration. While most owners can attest to some of the above susceptibilities they’ll also confess their unerring affection for the breed and many charms.
No dog breed is perfect and health problems can and will occur across a range of breeds. As a way to mitigate risks and ensure a healthier and happier dog, we recommend adding some Dig-In Powder or better still, cooking your own dog food and adding a dollop of Dig-In Fresh as the ultimate display of genuine care.