French Bulldog Health Problems: Watching Out for your Frenchie’s Health Issues

Medical articles
French Bulldog being kissed by owner

Who doesn’t love a French bulldog? They’re adorable. They’re cuddly. They’re hilarious! Every snorting, butt-wiggling, smooshy-faced inch of a French bulldog is there to make you fall in love with them, again and again, every single day.  

The history of the French bulldog is a fascinating story, they became popular in the French countryside and eventually Paris, where they were lauded as an adorable “city dog.” To this day, they are great, low maintenance dogs for apartments, as well as those with big yards and room to roam. In fact, the French bulldog is so popular, it was rated the most popular dog breed by the American Kennel Club in 2022.  

So you're smitten with those goofy grins and bat ears? Buckle up, friend! They may be lovable goofballs, but the French Bulldog price can drain your bank account. Not only do these designer pups cost a bundle (think north of $5,000!), but some of the French bulldog’s unique features make them vulnerable to some serious health issues. Knowing what you might be getting you and your future new canine bestie into is critical to ensuring you can care for them properly.

Decoding Snorts & Scratches: Common French Bulldog Health Issues 

While they charm us with their playful personalities and bat-eared adorableness, their unique features come with specific needs and potential Frenchie health issues. It's important to understand these before bringing a French bulldog home, so you can ensure a happy, healthy life together. 

French Bulldog Health Issue: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)  

BOAS is a potentially life-threatening French bulldog health issue (as well as other brachycephalic breeds, or smooshy-faced dogs with shortened snouts). It occurs when their breathing becomes restricted because of blocked or obstructed airways. BOAS is caused by a combination of genetic and anatomical issues, which may include: 

  • Stenotic nares (their nostrils are too small to let enough air in) 

  • Elongated soft palate (the soft portion of the roof of their mouths is too long and blocks normal breathing) 

  • Everted laryngeal saccules (tissue pockets around their larynx that can get pulled inside-out and block the air from flowing through the trachea) 

  • Laryngeal collapse (the structures of the voicebox that allow air to pass into the trachea by opening and closing don’t function properly) 

  • Hypoplastic trachea (the trachea is narrower than it should be because of malformed or dysfunctional supporting cartilaginous rings, which limits how much air can flow into the lungs) 

These French bulldog health issues, especially when combined with exertion and becoming overheated, can prevent a dog from breathing properly. As breathing worsens, the respiratory tissues become more inflamed, preventing the dog from being able to breathe at all. This can happen so quickly that the dog could die before getting to the veterinarian for treatment. Initial treatment involves oxygen therapy, often with intubation or even surgery into the trachea itself (tracheotomy) to make breathing possible.  

Imagine a Frenchie trying to huff and puff its way through a marathon in a ski mask. That's BOAS, a breathing challenge that can send your pup into a snort-worthy panic. But fear not, oxygen therapy and surgery can help. Just remember, keep the exercise cool and calm, and they'll be wheezing with joy, not distress. 

Preventive surgery is often recommended in French bulldog puppies/adolescents to correct some of the genetic defects before their breathing can become impaired. Surgical options include creating a larger opening for the nares/nostrils, removing excess soft palate, and removing the laryngeal saccules.  

Black frenchie laying down

French Bulldog Health Issue: Heatstroke  

Heatstroke is another life-threatening French bulldog health issue. Frenchies' adorable flat faces come with a hidden risk: higher heat sensitivity, especially for those with BOAS, obesity, or heart issues. French bulldogs need to be exercised regularly (but not too strenuously) and fed a healthy diet. It is also important to avoid exercise or vigorous activity during the hottest part of the day in summer. Make sure to provide plenty of shade and water if planning to leave a French bulldog outside for any period of time, regardless of what time of day it is. 

French Bulldog Health Issue: Sensitive Skin, Ear Issues, and Allergies  

French bulldog health issues include a wide range of allergies, encompassing seasonal irritations, food sensitivities, contact dermatitis, and the chronic skin condition known as atopy. Allergies can manifest as itchy skin and ears, skin and ear infections, respiratory tract issues (e.g. sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose), and sometimes tummy troubles. They are also prone to developing coat issues, like seasonal flank alopecia, in which they experience moderate to severe hair loss during certain times of the year. 

A Frenchie's skin is like a delicate velvet painting – beautiful, but prone to irritation. Allergies can turn their world into a symphony of itchy sneezes and scratchy woes. Keep an eye out for red bumps, watery eyes, and tummy troubles.  

After confirming your Frenchie’s allergies with a veterinarian, regularly using canine skin and ear cleansers, including cleaning the folds of the face and in between the toes, can help prevent severe allergy-related issues. Medications to prevent itching and help control allergies can also help as well as allergy serum injections (depending on the allergy). For food sensitivities, several prescription diets are available that can help prevent flare-ups (depending on the type of allergy).  

Because French bulldog health problems include sensitive skin and ears, it is important to talk with your veterinarian before trying new treatments at home. Some treatments can make the skin worse, whereas others may not be exactly what your French bulldog needs, which can make solving the problem more difficult.  

French Bulldog Health Issue: Birthing Problems 

French bulldogs are among the more common breeds to have trouble giving birth (also known as dystocia). The mother’s pelvis is often too small for the average French bulldog puppy’s head and shoulder width. Unfortunately, it is also common for Frenchies to give birth to malformed babies, which further increases trouble during the birthing process.  

Cesarean section (c-section), or surgical removal of puppies from the uterus, is a common necessity with the breed, even when everything goes right during pregnancy. Because of this, it is very important that if you are considering breeding your French bulldog, you know the exact date of conception, go for regular check-ups during pregnancy, and follow all of your veterinarian’s recommendations. 

French Bulldog Health Issues: Brain and Spinal Diseases 

Brain and spinal diseases are not uncommon French bulldog problems. They are prone to developing genetic malformations of the vertebrae (bones that make up the spine), spinal cord, and skull. Sometimes these malformations are not obvious and don’t cause major issues or require treatment, such as developing hemivertebrae (incompletely formed vertebrae) in their spine. Other deformities, like spina bifida (vertebrae are missing, which can affect the spinal cord) or caudal occipital malformation syndrome (inadequate space for the brain and connecting spinal cord within the skull) can cause pretty serious issues, including paralysis. Surgery can help with certain types of deformities, but for others, like spina bifida, no treatments are available. 

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is also a big Frenchie health issue. IVDD occurs when the cartilage cushioning the vertebra in the spine becomes misplaced or damaged and presses on the spinal cord (we call it a slipped disk in people). Pain and paralysis are common, and the problem may require multiple surgeries. 

French Bulldog Health Issues: Anesthesia Risks 

French bulldogs face an important consideration when anesthesia is needed: potential complications due to BOAS. But here's the good news: vets are trained to manage these concerns, even if the extra monitoring involved can bump up the cost. 

One major concern is aspiration pneumonia. Due to their compromised airways, Frenchies are more likely to vomit after anesthesia. If that happens, stomach contents can enter their lungs, leading to a potentially serious infection, even with careful monitoring. Another factor to consider is the cost of the extra attention vets need to give them during and after surgery. This specialized care often requires additional equipment and personnel, reflected in the final bill. 

So, what can you do to ensure your Frenchie's smooth journey through anesthesia? Following your vet's instructions about fasting and recovery is crucial. Remember, with proper precautions and your vet's expertise, your Frenchie can go through surgery safely and recover comfortably. Ask your vet about pre-anesthesia medications to prevent vomiting, choose a vet experienced with brachycephalic breeds, and explore alternative treatments if possible. By working together, you can ensure your little bat-eared buddy gets the best possible care before, during, and after anesthesia.  

French Bulldog laying in grass

French Bulldog Health Issues: Eye Problems 

Frenchie health issues include a host of eye problems, involving all parts of the eye. Cherry eye, which is a prolapse of the dog’s third eyelid gland, is common. Diseases of the cornea (the clear, central, outer part of the eye) are common as well, including ulcers, infection, lacerations/tears, and inflammation (keratitis). Cataracts (discoloration of the lens within the eye) and ocular nerve disorders (retinal diseases that can cause blindness) are also common French bulldog health problems. Issues surrounding the eye include entropion (inward rolling of the eyelids), distichiasis (eyelashes on portions of the eyelid where they shouldn’t be), and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissues surrounding the eyeball). Many of these conditions are painful. Treatment varies depending on the problem, but often multiple visits to a veterinary ophthalmologist are necessary. 

French Bulldog Health Issues: Gastrointestinal Problems 

Some Frenchies have food sensitivities that can lead to chronic diarrhea or loose stool. They can also develop a condition called hiatal hernia, in which the stomach protrudes into the esophagus. This can lead to frequent episodes of vomiting or throwing up. Frenchie health issues include a tendency to pass gas, A LOT, but this might be one of their more humorous quirks. Some veterinarians theorize that because French bulldogs tend to have breathing problems, all that panting they do to oxygenate properly leads to extra air in their tummies, which has to leave the body one way or another (as Shrek would say, “Better out than in, I always say…”). Other possibilities are their voracious appetites that lead to gobbling a lot of air along with their food or even their tendency to sneak garbage and table scraps wherever they can get them. To help prevent some of their more general tummy troubles, avoid table scraps, fatty foods, and too many treats, and try to stick to a healthy, commercial dog food. 

French Bulldog Health Issues: Joint Diseases 

French bulldog problems include a higher risk for certain types of joint issues, including hip and knee problems. Hip dysplasia, a condition in which their hip joints aren’t well formed, can result in a lot of pain and arthritis over time. Knee problems can also be common Frenchie health issues, and may include luxating patella, in which their kneecap pops on and off the knee joint, and cranial cruciate ligament tears (also called anterior cruciate ligament or ACL tears), in which one of the ligaments that stabilizes the knee breaks. But don't despair! Weight management, gentle exercise, and joint supplements can keep those joints happy and healthy. Remember, a fit Frenchie is a pain-free Frenchie! 

French Bulldog Health Issues: Dental Concerns 

Brachycephalic dogs, including French bulldogs, are at higher risk for developing periodontal disease, which is inflammation of the structures that surround the teeth. Also, because of their short noses and cute smooshy faces, they are more prone to dental malocclusions (abnormal positioning of the teeth relative to each other), including an underbite (the lower teeth and jaw stick out further than the upper teeth). While malocclusions cannot be prevented, dental disease can be largely avoided with regular dental check-ups, cleanings under anesthesia at the veterinarian’s office, and good dental hygiene at home.  

French Bulldog Health Issues: Cardiac Concerns 

Congenital heart disease may be a more common French bulldog problem compared to some other breeds. Atrial septal defect or ventral septal defect (a hole in the wall between the heart chambers) or pulmonic stenosis (narrowing of the pulmonary valve, which limits blood flow to the lungs to gather oxygen) may be suspected at their puppy check-up if a murmur is heard with the veterinarian’s stethoscope. At older age, heart base tumors can be a concern. Surgery can be performed to correct heart defects or remove heart tumors, but it is expensive and certainly not without risks. 

Some Frenchie's are born with hearts that have a few extra twists and turns. Heart problems can be scary, but with surgery and careful monitoring, even the bravest pup can live a long and happy life. Remember, love and support are the best medicine, and a happy heart is a healthy heart! 

Frenchie on walk with owner

Don't Let Frenchies’ Health Problems Get You Down 

Welcoming a French bulldog into your life brings boundless joy, but responsible ownership also requires financial planning for their potential veterinary needs. While not every Frenchie encounters the health concerns mentioned earlier, everyday mishaps like digestive issues, sprains, and infections are par for the course. Budgeting for their medical care is key to ensuring you can always prioritize their well-being. 

Investing in pet insurance early, before any pre-existing conditions are diagnosed, unlocks lifelong protection for your Frenchie. This opens doors to crucial treatments down the line, ensuring they receive the best possible care throughout their journey with you. Pre-existing conditions can be anything from a minor allergy to a more serious condition like Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). These conditions may not be apparent at first, but can become evident later in life and potentially require ongoing treatment. Having pet insurance before any pre-existing conditions develop ensures your Frenchie receives the care they need without breaking the bank. 

Say goodbye to surprise vet bills and hello to peace of mind with French bulldog insurance. Whether your Frenchie faces common issues like allergies or more serious concerns, Embrace has your back with comprehensive coverage and flexible plans. You choose the level that fits your budget and your Frenchie's needs, knowing you'll never have to choose between their health and your finances. 

But the good news doesn't stop there. Embrace offers an optional Wellness Rewards plan, a smart budgeting tool that helps you spread the cost of essential preventive care like checkups, vaccinations, and even training and grooming. Think of it as an all-in-one package for your Frenchie's long-term health and happiness, spread out over convenient monthly payments. 

Embrace pet insurance is more than just coverage – it's a commitment to your Frenchie's well-being. Get a free quote today and unlock a future filled with worry-free adventures, confident vet visits, and unlimited snuggles with your adorable bat-eared companion. With Embrace, you can truly embrace every moment of Frenchie life. 

Finally, before succumbing to those irresistible Frenchie charms, choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of their furry family. Look for breeders who provide regular veterinary care for their breeding dogs and readily share health records. Understanding the potential inherited risks in your Frenchie's lineage equips you to provide tailored care and prevent future surprises. 

Forever Friends: Embracing the Adventures of Life with a Frenchie 

Beyond the wrinkles, snorts, and bat ears lies a love unlike any other. Owning a Frenchie is a promise to navigate life's adventures together, from playful puppy romps to cozy snuggles on the couch. While their unique charm comes with potential health concerns, it's also a call to embrace a deeper level of care, a commitment to their well-being that strengthens the bond you share. Remember, every wag of their tail, every goofy grin, every snort and sneeze is a reminder that this journey of love is worth every step, every hurdle, and every wet Frenchie kiss along the way. So open your heart, open your arms, and embrace the boundless joy of a Frenchie, knowing that every challenge you face together only deepens the love that fills your life with endless laughter, unconditional devotion, and the heartwarming certainty that, in the end, all you truly need is a Frenchie by your side.