The worst experience for a conscientious breeder is producing a sick puppy. Even when health issues are minor, common and to be expected with the breed, it is still heartbreaking to know that one of your beloved pups may not be 100% healthy.
If a breeder knows from birth, or prior to placing, that a puppy is sick, it is grossly unethical to sell the puppy without disclosing all health information to the new owner. As a buyer, you must absolutely be certain that you are receiving your puppy with documented veterinary health clearance, vaccinations, and a clear fecal exam. The puppy should see the vet within days of release to your care, and then again between 24-72 hours after being placed in your care. Yes, this protects you and the breeder - but more importantly, it protects the puppy.
However, many of the most common traits known to the French Bulldog breed are not readily apparent in the first few months of birth. In this case, buyers must research this breed thoroughly and know what to expect before making the Frenchie parent commitment. Many breeders offer guidance for the life of the puppy, this is one of the qualities that I personally look for when buying from other breeders.
FactsVery rarely do breeders admit to producing a sick puppy of any kind. Even the mention of non-life threatening and easily treatable problems such as cherry eye or demodex is met with adamant denial. In fact, if you have ever had the misfortune of reading the social media posts on Facebook "help" groups and pages for Frenchies, you have seen that help is limited, many of the posters are judgmental, the majority of breeders claim to have never had a sick pup of any kind, and anyone who has is accused of being a bad breeder. Well, this could not be further from the truth and this mentality is not conducive to bettering the breed. If we cannot honestly tackle the real issues, how can they be fixed?
Here are the facts, void of ego, void of judgments - just the facts.
First, understand clearly that there is little to no comparison between the advancements made in human genetic testing and canine genetic testing. Somehow, many people are under the impression that there are an abundance of canine genetic disease-causing mutations that can be tested for, predicted, and prevented. In actuality, according to Genome News Network (GNN), the scientific effort to map canine genetics is minuscule, with limited funding available to researchers, in comparison to the human genome project (Guynup, n.d.).
Experts estimate that as many as one quarter of the approximately 20 million purebred dogs living in US households have or carry serious genetic disease. In humans, a one-percent disease rate is considered high, in purebred dogs living in the US, we have a 25% disease rate (Guynup, n.d.).
Unfortunately, dogs are plagued by the greatest number of documented, naturally occurring genetic disorders of any non-human species (Guynup, n.d.).
American Veterinarian (www.americanveterinarian.com) published an article in May 2018 regarding the health issues common to French Bulldogs. The article cites a study conducted by the Royal Veterinary College in London which revealed that 72.4% of their 2228 French Bulldog participants had at least one recorded disorder. These disorders included ear infections, conjunctivitis, skinfold dermatitis, cherry eye, and brachycephalic airway syndrome (which encompasses stenotic nares, elongated soft palate, hypoplastic trachea, and everted laryngeal saccules). To date, none of the most common disorders, as outlined in the study, can be prevented with genetic testing (The, n.d.).
French Bulldog Genetic TestingThe good news is that advancements in the genetic testing of canines are ongoing and we currently have some valuable resources available to us as breeders and owners.
Animal Genetics (www.animalgenetics.us) offers a variety of canine genetic testing services including DNA profile testing, color and trait testing, parentage testing, and 60 canine genetic diseases that can be tested for, depending on your breed of dog.
Of the 60 canine genetic diseases that Animal Genetics offers, only 4 are commonly tested for in French Bulldogs, and only 4 are offered as a package for French Bulldog owners and breeders.
When breeders advertise their dog as "four panel clear", they are referring to the tests listed below, essentially the only tests readily and affordably offered for our breed through Animal Genetics.
CMR1 - Canine Multifocal Retinopathy Type 1
An autosomal recessive eye disorder known to affect Great Pyrenees, English Mastiffs, Bullmastiffs, Australian Shepherds, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Bulldogs, AMerican Bulldogs, Coton de Tulears, Perro de Presa Canario, and Cane Corsos. The mutation causes raised lesions to form on the retina which alter the appearance of the eye but do not usually affect sight. The lesions may disappear, or may result in minor retinal folding. Symptoms of the mutation usually appear when a puppy is only a few months old, and do not worsen over time.
DM - Degenerative Myelopathy
A progressive neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord of dogs. Dogs that have inherited 2 defective copies will experience a breakdown of the cells responsible for sending and receiving signals from the brain, resulting in neurological symptoms. The disease often begins with an unsteady gait, and the dog may wobble when they attempt to walk. As the disease progresses, the dog's hind legs will weaken and eventually the dog will be unable to walk at all. Degenerative Myelopathy moves up the body, so if the disease is allowed to progress, the dog will eventually be unable to hold his bladder and will lose normal function in its front legs. Fortunately, there is no direct pain associated with Degenerative Myelopathy. Onset of DM generally occurs later in life starting at an average of about 10 years. A percentage of dogs that have inherited two copies of the mutation will not experience symptoms at all. Thus, this disease is not completely penetrant, meaning that while a dog with the mutation is likely to develop Degenerative Myelopathy, the disease does not affect every dog that has the genotype.
HUU - Hyperuricosuria
Dogs with this genetic mutation metabolize waste products as uric acid in their urine. The uric acid forms into hard stones in the bladder, causing pain and inflammation as the stone moves through the urinary tract. A dog that has difficulty urinating or appears to have an inflamed bladder may have HUU. Other signs can include blood in the urine and frequent urination. If the dog is unable to pass the urate stones without medical intervention, surgery may be required to remove them. And if the urinary tract is blocked, the condition can be life threatening. Even in the best case scenario, HUU is uncomfortable and painful for the dog. The mutation is autosomal recessive. Both parents will need to be carriers of the mutation to pass it on to their offspring. Carriers will not show any symptoms of HUU and even affected dogs may not show any signs, so it is important to test dogs for HUU prior to breeding.
JHC - Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts
JHC causes a clouding of the lens of the eye due to a breakdown of tissue in the eye. The condition results in an inability to see clearly and can cause total blindness. In canines, cataracts are often familiar but there are also cataracts caused by a mutation in the HSF4 gene. One HSF4 mutation causes the recessive form of JHC in French Bulldogs. Because it is recessive, a dog must have two copies of this mutation to experience this form of cataracts. Cataracts can also be caused by old age or injury and these types of cataracts are not attributed to this gene mutation.
Final Thoughts So, where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us somewhat in the dark when it comes to the most common health concerns for our breed, doesn't it? In fact, the most common issues we have to deal with are not yet genetically testable and, unless you are God, there is no 100% method of prevention at this time. The only thing a breeder can effectively do is know as much as possible about the history of their breeding pair, and even then, these undesirable traits can arise randomly from as many as five generations back. With the stigma surrounding unhealthy puppies, breeders are often not forthright about these issues in their lines, making it truly a guessing game as to whether or not we are making the best choices for our program.
It is not in my scope to advise other breeders of what they should or should not do, this blog is meant to educate Frenchie owners or those who are searching for a French Bulldog. So, I can only speak for myself when I say that the most ethical thing that I can do, as a breeder, to maintain the quality of health in our line is to be forthright and honest about health issues (especially involving our publicly offered studs), retire breeding stock that we know to produce puppies that are genetically flawed, and do our due diligence in helping to educate our clients and offer resources should issues arise.
The most responsible thing that you can do when buying a pup is to research this breed and realize that, regardless of genetic testing and the dedication of the breeder, issues may arise that will require additional efforts and financial commitment on your part, as the owner. Request a full veterinary clearance by a board certified veterinarian, up to date vaccinations, and fecal testing for parasites prior to receiving your puppy. Find a breeder that will go the extra mile with you, and not turn their back on their pup, if issues arise.
It takes a village to raise French Bulldogs, but the additional efforts employed to protect and enhance the health of the breed is worth it.
"Anybody can be a parent, but it takes someone special to be a French Bulldog parent"
Animal Genetics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.animalgenetics.us/
Guynup, S. (n.d.). Genetic Testing for Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/07_00/genetic_testing_dogs.shtml
The Most Common Health Problems in French Bulldogs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.americanveterinarian.com/news/the-most-common-health-problems-in-french-bulldogs
Because all brachycephalic breeds have varying degrees of predisposing anatomical features of airway obstruction, even if it is sub-clinical, it is appropriate to treat all brachycephalic breeds as having the potential for upper airway obstruction. It is worth remembering that with the shorter face, the less the air will cool before it reaches the lungs.
Predisposing Risk Factors – Heat, humidity, exercise, excitement can all increase panting as the dog attempts to lose heat and cool itself – this excessive panting in turn can produce local swelling (oedema) and further airway narrowing, increasing anxiety and body temperature; creating a vicious cycle.
Treatment – If panting hard, cool the dog all over by hosing the dog down in a bath or wading pool. Pay particular attention to the head, throat and belly. Do not attempt to make the dog swallow – ice packs placed along the belly, under the throat will help cool the dog – keep going for a minimum of 10-15 minutes, until the respiration rate slows down. If the dog is still having problems, get the dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Keep the car air conditioned with the cold air directly in the face of the dog.
Prevention – Be aware of the temperature on a daily basis, weather forecasting generally will give a good idea well ahead of hot weather. Place your dogs on extra electrolytes in their food – this can help them cope with the heat better. Keep your dogs in cool conditions with plenty of through ventilation.
GENERAL - The French Bulldog, is on the whole, a fairly sound dog. Being a brachycephalic breed that is fairly short and compact with a screw tail, the “Frenchie” is prone to the associated problems these conformational characteristics will bring.
BODY – While small in size, the Frenchie is incredible solid for its height and muscle weight ratio is phenomenal when comparing this breed to almost any other. Males ideally should weight around 14kgs, females around 12kg. Despite their small stature, the strength of the Frenchie holds it in very good stead. The strength of bone and generally good ligament strength makes them quite a hardy breed, unlikely to break bones or injure themselves, even though they play fairly hard. Launching off beds and chairs even while quite young, rarely causes any damage – only heart attaches to the owners! The French Bulldog is also incredibly agile on the whole, able to spring up onto sofas, chairs, lounges, beds etc in a single bound – usually without having to back off and take a run at it. In play, they often jump up in midair, turn 180 degrees and come down facing the other direction. Chasing and playing with bigger dogs is no problem. As they are fairly easy going, they don’t generally start fights, but are quite willing to give and opinion on whom they are backing and will line up in support.
When lifting this breed, one should be careful to shift the majority of the lift to just behind the shoulders due to the front-heavy head and chest of the breed. As they trust you totally, they are very good at throwing themselves forward in your arms – be prepared and have them securely held at all times.
TEMPERAMENT – The breed was developed to be a comical and affectionate companion – whether you wish to put affection before the humor is your decision! These are incredibly easy-going dogs and are very easy to live with, once the stubborn little darlings are fully house trained! They are easily spoiled rotten and are good nature enough to deal with this very well, and take it as their due. This should not however, extend to you being unable to hold them for an ear clean or nail cut – some discipline is needed, as you will need to be firm at these times – teach them early or it won’t sink in.
LIFESPAM – The Frenchie is on the whole, a reasonably healthy breed and lives between 12-16 years of age, and usually has a good age with minimal diseases.
The French Bulldog can come in a variety of different colors. The standard colors acceptable by the AKC are brindle, fawn, cream, white, brindle and white. Non standard colors are solid black; black and white; mouse, liver, and black and tan.
Bindle is described as a dark color mixed with lighter colored hair mixed between, this color is a dominant gene. Fawn is usually described as a tan color, it can range from light to dark, and is a recessive gene. Cream is a warmer version of the white and both are recessive.
Are you wondering where does the color blue come from? Well..the blue frenchie color comes from a rare gene known as the dilute gene(d) which alters the coat color of the frenchie from black to blue or gray, and can also cause the change of their eye color.
Why avoid Merle color trend? It is impossible for a Merle French Bulldog to be purebred. French Bulldogs do NOT carry the genetic mutation for Merle. Breeders are crossing into other strains that carry Merle, like a Chihuahua, to create the Merle French Bulldogs. The cross bred pups are then weeded out to pick the Merle examples, which are then bred back to other French Bulldogs. Merle dogs can face alot of health issues ranging from increased fetal mortality rates, deafness, blindness, eye anomalies, and structural defects.
There are a lot of reasons for this, as we have come to understand. The French Bulldog is just not an easy dog to breed.
First of all, very few French Bulldogs can breed naturally, mainly due to their narrow hips which makes mounting difficult. Because of this, most Frenchie females must be artificially inseminated. This is a fairly costly and time consuming process.
Secondly, Frenchie’s tend to have relatively small litters. The average litter of live births is about four puppies, but litters of one or two puppies are very common.
Thirdly, because of the relatively large head and shoulders of the Frenchie puppies in comparison to the size of the birth canal of the typical Frenchie mom, almost all Frenchie’s are delivered by C-section, which is a very costly procedure, especially at the ER Vet, which seems to happen quite frequently.
And fourthly, new-born Frenchie puppies take a great deal of hands-on care and attention. New-born Frenchie’s need to be fed every 2 hours around the clock and they should not be left alone with the mom, at least for the first weeks. Frenchie moms are generally very attentive and good moms, but there is a high probability that a mom will inadvertently rollover on one of her babies and smother it. We couldn’t bear to see this happen, so we are up with them constantly and get sleep deprived when we have new litters.
When these things are taken into consideration, along with the normal vet bills, medicines, food, toys, play areas, shelter, and attention that must be devoted to those dogs, breeding Frenchie’s gets to be an expensive and time consuming proposition.
Even with these wonderful dogs selling in the thousands of dollars even for the standard colors, the AKC says that a reputable breeder will do well to break even. There are puppy mills and other disreputable breeders out there that may sell you a dog a little cheaper (unfortunately, even many pets shops buy their dogs from puppy mills where the dogs are repeatedly bred, poorly socialized if at all, and rarely see the outside of a cage). As with everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
By the way, the reason that blues, blue-fawns, and chocolates (and even more so, the extraordinarily rare pure black, black & tan, pure blue and blue & tan Frenchie’s) are more expensive that standard color Frenchie’s is that there is a very high demand for these colors (because they are so beautiful) and they are relatively rare because they are created by recessive genes, which are naturally occurring but not common in Frenchie’s, which means that they must be inherited from both mom and dad. Based on our research and our own experiences, there are no inherent health problems associated with these rare colors, regardless of what some individuals might say.