Descended originally from the Toy Bulldog the French Bulldog (or ‘Frenchie’) made the return journey across to England in the late 19th century to become the popular companion that it is today. This small, sturdy, compact dog is intelligent and has a clown-like attitude to life; loves to play and is a true companion dog, thriving on human company and having a strong desire to please and be part of the family.
With a life span of around 13 – 15 years on average, this is a generally healthy breed. However there are conditions that can affect it.
Through the centuries, people have selectively bred dogs to retain certain genetic defects or mutations. There are many breeds of dwarf dogs where the characteristics of dwarfism are part of the breed standard. (The name Corgi literally means “dwarf dog” in Welsh.) There are three primary types of genetic dwarfism: chondrodystrophic, achondroplastic and brachiocephalic. Some breeds may exhibit characteristics of more than one kind of dwarfism, for example the Bulldog is both an achondroplastic and a brachycephalic dwarf. Chondrodystrophic is the abnormal cartilage growth resulting in shortened legs.
This is a syndrome with a combination of a long soft palate, narrow nostrils, everted laryngeal saccules and under development and narrowing of the trachea. The most common finding in all cases is the long soft palate.
Signs of respiratory distress, very noisy breathing, decreased exercise tolerance and heavy snoring are all common symptoms. Warm/hot/humid conditions, increased weight, exercise, excitement, allergic reactions - all of these are added risk factors that can result in severe respiratory distress and possibly death if not treated.
Because of all these upper respiratory obstructions, the brachycephalic dog is an inefficient panter. A dog with a more conventional face and throat is able to pass air quickly over the tongue through panting. Saliva evaporates from the tongue as air is passed across and the blood circulating through the tongue is efficiently cooled and circulated back to the rest of the body.
In the brachycephalic dog, so much extra work is required to move the same amount of air that the airways become inflamed and swollen. This leads to a more severe obstruction, distress, and further over-heating.
BRACHYCEPHALIC DOGS ARE THE MOST LIKELY CANDIDATES FOR HEAT STROKE.
Altogether, the upper airways of the brachycephalic dog compromises his or her ability to take in air. Under normal conditions the compromise is not great enough to cause a problem; however, an owner should take care not to let the dog become grossly overweight or get too hot in the summer months. Be aware of what degree of snorting and sputtering is usual for your individual pet plus, should your pet require general anesthesia or sedation, your vet may want to take extra precautions or take radiographs prior to assess the severity of the syndrome. Anesthetic risk is higher than usual in these breeds, though under most circumstances the necessary extra precautions are readily managed by most animal hospitals.
To be clear, brachycephalic syndrome can be progressive if it is not corrected at an early stage. Severely affected dogs can actually experience collapse of the larynx and require a permanent tracheostomy (a hole in the throat for breathing).
With any brachycephalic breed there must be particular care taken with anaesthetics and the use of sedatives and your veterinarian should be well aware of this.
There can be a closing off of the trachea and soft palate obstruction when brachycephalic dogs are sedated or anaesthetised, so extra care must be taken when undertaking either procedure. The level of care needed is high, and these dogs must be kept under close observation from the time they are anaesthetised until they are fully out of the anaesthetic and are capable of holding their heads up.
The majority of these breeds are pretreated with Atrophine to dry out the mucous surfaces and ideally the anaesthetic agent should be of short duration. The head is kept in an extended position, particularly while recovering and the dog watched very carefully for a good 10-15 minutes after the endotracheal tube is removed.
SKELETAL STRUCTURE / JOINTS
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), sometimes referred to as a slipped or herniated disk, refers to a syndrome of pain and neurological problems that accompany degeneration of one or more intervertebral disks. These disks are pillow-like pads that act as shock-absorbers between adjoining vertebrae - the bones that make up the backbone or spine. Intervertebral disks can become displaced, deteriorate, collapse, bulge out (protrude), rupture or herniate in dogs as a result of gradual degeneration due to conformational abnormalities, obesity, genetics, repetitive trauma or other factors.
This compresses the spinal cord and nerves at the damage site. Dogs with IVDD have symptoms ranging from mild pain (lowered head, reluctance to move, stiffness, sensitivity to touch), to severe pain (arched back, lameness, dragging legs, inability to stand, crying when touched or moving, trembling, staggering, collapse), to partial or complete paralysis. IVDD is one of the most common neurological disorders in companion animals and reportedly affects 2% of the domestic dog population.
The patella, or "kneecap," is normally located in a groove on the end of the femur, or thighbone. The term luxating means "out of place" or "dislocated". Therefore, a luxating patella is a kneecap that moves out of its normal location. It generally resumes its normal anatomical orientation after only a brief period of luxation in most dogs.
Luxating patella, also referred to by veterinarians as patellar luxation, is much more complicated than “the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone.” The patella is the term describing a dog’s kneecap and when the patella luxates (shifts) in the complex structure of the knee joint, a misalignment of the knee has occurred. A luxating patella over time may progress into a condition requiring surgical intervention.
Atopy is an extremely common, genetically-influenced disease that causes dogs to become hypersensitive to things that normally would not cause an allergic reaction. The most consistent symptom in atopic dogs is pruritis, known commonly as skin itchiness. Often, pruritis is mild and seasonal, at least during the early stages of the disease, when the symptoms may wax and wane. The symptoms in some dogs never progress beyond this stage of annoying but not overwhelming itchiness.
Interdigital furuncles, often referred to as interdigital cysts, are painful nodular lesions located in the interdigital webs of dogs. Histologically, these lesions represent areas of nodular pyogranulomatous inflammation—they are almost never cystic. Canine interdigital palmar and plantar comedones and follicular cysts is a recognized syndrome that may be a subtype of interdigital furuncles or a separate disease.
With most of the nasal bones compacted, brachycephalic dogs tend to have trouble with the way their eyes seat in their heads.
First, recognize the prominence of the eyes on these dogs. The boney eye sockets are very shallow. This means that any blow to the back of the head, even a fairly minor one, can cause an eye to pop from its socket and require surgical replacement. This can happen also with too much pulling against the leash if the pet is wearing a collar. You may wish to consider a harness for your pet.
Sometimes, the eyes are so prominent that the lids cannot close all the way over the eyes. This will lead to irritation and drying of the center of the eye unless surgical correction is performed. If you cannot tell by watching your pet blink, watch as your pet sleeps. Dogs who sleep without closing their eyes all the way could do with surgical correction.
Eyelid problems are common in these breeds. Look for persistent wetness around the eyes. In some dogs, the shape of the eyelids prevents normal tear drainage and there is an overflow. This problem cannot be corrected surgically and is not uncomfortable for the pet; however, there is a more serious condition which looks similar. This second condition involves the rolling inward of the eyelids such that the lashes rub on the eye. Surgery may be needed to correct this problem.
Chronic irritation will show as a pigmented area on the eye surface, especially on the side nearest the nose. This is hard to see without a bright light but if it is noted, a search for the cause is warranted. Depending on the location of the pigmentation, surgery may be recommended.
‘Cherry eye’ an everted (rolled out) 3rd eyelid with the gland underneath exposed – this occurs usually secondary to loose eyelids and inflammation of the eye. Usually seen over 6 weeks and under 6 months of age. Low incidence as most Frenchies have tight eyelids.
Corneal ulceration, also known as ulcerative keratitis, occurs in all breeds of dog, but brachycephalic breeds with pushed-in faces, such as Shih Tzu, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, and Pug, are more commonly affected. Age doesn’t seem to play a role in development of corneal ulcers, although most cases occur in young to middle-aged dogs.
The normal dog has 42 teeth in its mouth. The brachycephalic dog also has 42 teeth but a lot less space to fit them in. This means that the teeth will be crowded and growing in at odd angles which, in turn, traps food debris and leads to periodontal disease at a far younger age than in non-brachycephalics. The earlier you begin using home care dental products, the longer you will be able to postpone full dentistry under general anesthesia.
INTESTINAL/ GLAND HEALTH
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a disorder in which one or more sections of the gastrointestinal tract have become invaded with inflammatory cells. Over time, this inflammation causes the intestine to become less efficient at absorbing nutrients from digested food and weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea often result. Early signs are often subtle which allows IBD to go undiagnosed for months to years until the dog begins to develop more serious symptoms.
WHAT ON EARTH ARE ANAL SACS? Anal sacs (also called "anal glands") are two small glands just inside your pet's anus. The material secreted into these sacs is thick, oily, stinky, and is commonly described as smelling "fishy." Most wild animals can empty these glands voluntarily for scent marking or in self-defense (like a skunk might do); however, domestic animals have largely lost their ability to empty these sacs voluntarily. Walking around and normal defecation serve to empty the sacs but some animals become unable to empty their sacs on their own at all.
Defects – uncommon to rare.Congestive heart failure - Even in old age, this breed seldom requires heart medication, and are generally very sound in this aspect.
French Bulldogs are not high on the tumor lists and usually not under 8-10 years. The tumors more commonly seen would include:-
Haemangeosarcoma – of the spleen or liver;
Skin tumours – mast cell, squamous cell tumors, melanomas – more commonly seen in older animals.
Bone tumours – fairly rare.
Mammary Tumors – as in all breeds of dogs, these are commonly seen in the older non desexed bitch. Desex your bitches as soon as they have finished being bred from – this will greatly decrease the incidence of mammary tumors and remove the risk of pyometra.
Hypothyroidism does occur in the breed - there is a small but significant percentage of hypothyroid French Bulldogs seen in general practice – probably around 8-10% in older dogs, generally over 5-6 years of age.
Symptoms seen generally include bilateral hair loss and thinning of the coat, low fertility (less common) and obesity. Treatment involves replacing thyroid hormones and regular checks initially to ensure the condition is under good control. Within 6 weeks most dogs are under very good control.
Whelping -There are often problems associated with whelping which results in a significant proportion of bitches requiring caesarians. This is comes predominantly from having large head and shoulder size in the puppies, combined with a tapering body shape of the bitch. Narrow pelvis shape then further compromises the situation. The relatively large size of puppies, particularly in smaller litters can again increase the incidence of caesarians. Despite this, the bitches generally handle caesarians very well, recover rapidly and mother up quickly.