French Bulldog – Breed description
The French Bulldog or Frenchie has become an immensely popular breed in recent times. Like the Pug, it can be found in many aspects of popular culture, from advertising to fashionwear. The breed is known for its larger-than-life personality.
French Bulldogs were first popularised in Paris in the 19th century, but they had a bit of a journey before this. The breed actually stems from an older version of the English Bulldog. When relegated to showing after bull-baiting became a thing of the past, smaller versions of the breed became popular. In the early 1800s, they were especially popular among textile workers in northern England. When they were forced to relocate because of the industrial revolution, they arrived with their toy Bulldogs in France. These dogs later enjoyed fashionability in Paris, and the French Bulldog was born.
Aside from obvious similarities with the English Bulldog, the French Bulldog is also quite similar to other brachycephalic breeds such as the Boston Terrier, Pug and Pekingese.
French Bulldog pros
- Good companion
- Happy to enjoy a quiet life
- Low energy
French Bulldog cons
- Noisy breathing and brachycephalic-breed related health problems
- Not suited to a high level of activity
- Can be expensive to insure and manage conditions
The French Bulldog can make a good companion for many people. However, the noisy breathing often associated with BOAS might make the breed intolerable for some. All owners must be attentive to the Frenchie´s susceptibility to overheating and be committed to maintaining the pet at a healthy weight.
Many of these dogs require reconstructive surgery to improve their quality of life, the emotional and financial cost of which should also be taken into consideration when considering taking on a Frenchie. It could be a good choice for:
- Owners who are not bothered by noisy snoring
- Dedicated owners with time to spend on regular dental and skin maintenance
- Older children who can understand that the breed is susceptible to breathing difficulties
The French Bulldog may be appropriate for retired owners who aren’t bothered by the breed´s snoring and snorting, and who have the time to dedicate to caring for the breed´s specific needs.
Known health problems for French Bulldogs
French Bulldogs are genetically predisposed to various health problems, owing to being a brachycephalic or snub-nosed breed. They commonly suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), in addition to dental, ocular and gastrointestinal problems.
The breathing difficulties caused by BOAS can be very serious. BOAS is caused by certain characteristics such as an overly long soft palate, narrow openings of the external nose, a narrowed trachea and too much soft tissue in the back of the throat. They can cause acute breathing difficulty as well as chronic, discomfort and can also make it difficult for the dog to regulate its temperature.
The breathing compromise that French Bulldogs suffer from is also associated with certain tummy problems. These can include oesophageal reflux, pyloric stenosis (where the outflow from the stomach is narrowed) and hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia means that the stomach can move through the hole (or hiatus) in the diaphragm that the oesophagus passes through, and it can cause signs of gastrointestinal obstruction or breathing difficulties.
The most frequent health problems in Frenchies include:
- BOAS – as well as breathing difficulties, this can cause fainting episodes and disturbed sleep
- Susceptibility to overheating
- Gastrointestinal problems – oesophageal reflux, pyloric stenosis and hiatal hernia
- Skinfold dermatitis
- Bulging eyes at risk of drying, ulceration and trauma
- Dental disease – abnormal tooth positioning in a brachycephalic breed.
French Bulldog care advice
French Bulldogs require careful management to enable them to enjoy a good quality of life and to minimise further stress on their delicate, already compromised respiratory systems. They should not become overweight, and must avoid periods or intense levels of activity, and any activity in warm weather (here walks should be short and only in the cooler hours).
It is also a good idea to watch how these dogs sleep. Often, they can´t sleep comfortably because they struggle to breathe with ease. This can cause abrupt awakening or habits such as trying to prop the mouth open whilst sleeping. Both are signs that the dog might need veterinary intervention to address its compromise from BOAS.
French Bulldogs should be assessed by their veterinarian to see if any surgical correction is needed, so that the dog may live more comfortably. They also will be able to teach you how to correctly clean out any skin folds and brush their teeth.
- Stick to short walks and gentle playtime
- Avoid activity when it’s warm
- Monitor weight to prevent obesity
- Keep an eye on sleeping habits
- Clean out any skin folds to prevent infection
- Regular tooth brushing
Article by Yvette Bell MRCVS