Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish
Are French bulldogs high maintenance? They can be, especially when it comes to all their potential health issues.
This popular breed is in high demand across the United States. They’re expensive (for a reason) and they can have health problems if not cared for properly.
Unfortunately, the high demand for this breed has some backyard breeders trying to make an extra buck. Sure, those puppies may not cost as much, but you’re going to end up paying through the nose in vet bills.
Because a good breeder will only breed a dam and a sire who are free from serious genetic problems. People who run puppy mills, however, only want your money and don’t care whether the dogs are healthy or not.
There’s no lifetime guarantee that your dog won’t have any health issues, but there are many things you can do to keep your Frenchie strong, happy, and healthy.
French bulldogs, like any purebred dog, require special care. The term “high maintenance” comes down to your own definition. If you love Frenchies and love fawning over them, they’re not high maintenance at all!
For the Love of a French Bulldog
The French bulldog is a companion or toy dog breed from France. It first appeared in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century, the result of a crossbreeding of imported toy English bulldogs and local Parisian ratters.
French bulldogs are perfect for people who want to be entertained. In fact, these funny little bat-eared dogs once rubbed shoulders with the “working girls” of Paris in the late 19th century.
Of course, they tickled the fancies from all levels of society, including French lace makers.
These compact dogs are a happy breed and are natural companion dogs.
Today, we love French bulldogs for some of the same reasons people did back then. They’re excellent companion dogs that don’t make a lot of noise (not much barking), and they’re amusing.
They make excellent family dogs. They pretty much get along with everybody, including children and other pets. The only thing to keep in mind is that, due to their small size, they should be protected from over-eager children or large pets.
Choosing a Reputable Breeder
This unique breed, however, does require some care.
Buying your Frenchie from a reputable breeder won’t guarantee your pup won’t be 100% free of health problems, but it definitely helps.
This requires responsible breeders who are more interested in the health and welfare of their dogs than they are in turning a quick profit. There’s simply no way around it.
French bulldogs can cost a lot of money. If someone advertises French bulldogs at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. The average cost of a French bulldog is around $5000 or more.
A reputable breeder works hard to ensure the breeding stock is healthy. They’re tested for health concerns and not bred if any show up. Backyard breeders, however, may not have the knowledge and experience to safely breed French bulldogs.
They may not have the means to do proper testing of their breed stock which can result in disastrous health problems.
Potential Health Problems with French Bulldogs
It’s important to keep in mind that all purebred dogs have the potential for unique health conditions. That doesn’t mean your dog will have all of them, or any at all.
There’s nothing you can do about a genetically acquired disease. However, proper exercise, an appropriate diet, oral care, and regular veterinary wellness checks can help keep your Frenchie happy and healthy.
Sometimes, the things that make French bulldogs cute are the same things that lead to their health problems. Brachycephalic breeds have very little space to breath properly. As a result, they can be prone to serious breathing issues.
French bulldogs don’t need as much exercise as some breeds. However, they do need some.
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome in French Bulldogs
This condition is a group of upper respiratory tract abnormalities in dogs that cause (partial) upper airway obstruction. The condition is usually associated with brachycephalic dogs (short noses and squished faces), such as the:
- English bulldog
- Boston Terrier
The stenotic nares (small nostrils), elongated soft palate, everted laryngeal saccules, laryngeal collapse, and hypoplastic trachea are all symptoms of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, and affected dogs and cats may have any combination of these problems.
A simple clinical examination, a thorough oral examination (sedation is required), and chest X-rays can all be used to diagnose these conditions.
Patellar Luxation in French Bulldogs
The patella, also known as the kneecap, is a component of the stifle joint (knee). In some dogs, the patella can pop out of place.
This condition can affect all breeds. However, small dog breeds appear to be more prone.
Treatment for this condition can involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, and surgery.
Intervertebral Disc Disease
The backbone, or spine, is a complex structure crucial to health in mammals. The spine protects the nerves that make up the spinal cord. These nerves transmit impulses between the brain and the rest of the body.
Intervertebral disc disease, or IVDD, occurs when the disc that sits between two vertebrae in the spine degenerates.
It presses on the spinal cord, causing IVDD. Intervertebral discs are frequently compared to jelly donuts.
It is made up of two parts: an outer part called the annulus fibrosus, which is made up of strong fibers that connect the vertebrae, and an inner part called the nucleus pulposus, which is gel-filled and serves as a shock absorber.
Intervertebral disc disease can be caused by changes in these structures.
Ear Infections in French Bulldogs
Ear infections are common in French bulldogs.
Their bat-like ears are open to the environment. In addition, their narrow ear canal provides a warm, humid environment for bacteria and yeasts to thrive.
Since French bulldogs are prone to food allergies and environmental allergies (atopic dermatitis), it only makes sense that they will also be prone to ear infections.
Ear infections (chronic progressive otitis externa) are painful and must be treated to prevent permanent damage.
Interdigital Cysts and Bulldogs
An interdigital cyst is an inflammation of the skin between the toes. The main cause is a deep bacterial infection that develops in the webbing between the toes.
Many dogs including the Shar-Pei, Labrador Retriever, English bulldog, and French bulldog (to name a few) are prone to this condition.
Risk of Heat Stroke
Any type of dog breed can succumb to heat stroke. However, brachycephalic breeds like French bulldogs are not good at maintaining their body temperature.
The reason for this is due to their skull deformity and very narrow nasal passages. The result of their unique physical makeup is shortness of breath. Because they are unable to pant efficiently, they are not able to adequately regulate body temperature.
For this reason, French bulldogs can become too cold or too hot. It’s vital to protect these dogs from overheating, especially in hot weather.
Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, is defined as a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Signs of heat exhaustion (a precursor to heat stroke) include:
- Wide mouth (open wide) panting
- Tongue hanging to one side.
- Dog needing to lie down and rest,
- Excessive thirst
For more information on heat stroke, read: How to Tell if Your Dog Has Heat Stroke: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention.
Joint Problems in French Bulldogs
Joint problems in French bulldogs include hip dysplasia, arthritis, and patellar luxation, as mentioned above.
Food Allergies and Food Intolerance
Frenchies have a reputation for having sensitive digestive systems.
Food allergies in dogs are caused by an interaction between the antibodies in the dog’s intestines and a specific allergen in the food.
When this happens, their bodies respond with symptoms that are usually visible. The most common food allergy is to certain proteins, so your Frenchie will need to eat more lean novel proteins or hydrolyzed proteins.
Novel proteins are proteins that your dog has never eaten before. These would include more rare proteins like duck, for example.
Hydrolyzed proteins are found in specialty diets in which the protein has been broken down to its base components, amino acids and peptides.
Some French bulldog owners have opted for a raw food diet.
It’s important to note that major organizations (AVMA, ACVN, WSAVA, CDC) do not recommend feeding dogs a raw diet. Dogs and and dog owners can get rick from handling raw food. In fact, Salmonella and Listeria bacteria have been found in raw pet foods.
Read more: CDC.gov Pet Food Safety
Heart Defects in French Bulldogs
Heart murmurs are among the most common heart defects in dogs. A heart murmur, essentially, is defined as turbulent blood flow within the heart.
A murmur is sometimes classified as “innocent” or “physiologic,” while other times it is classified as “pathologic” or “caused by disease.”
Pathologic heart murmurs can be caused by either a structural problem within the heart (cardiac disease) or a ‘extracardiac’ problem (i.e., not caused by heart disease).
We have a great post on Heart Murmurs in Dogs Life Expectancy that you may be interested in.
Eye Problems in French Bulldogs
French bulldogs can inherit a variety of different eye problems. Unfortunately, some conditions can cause blindness if not treated right away.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in many dogs, especially as they age. Other problems that can occur include something called “distichiasis”. This happens when extra hairs grow inside the eyelid and rub on the surface of the eye.
If not treated, this condition will cause corneal ulcers and pain. Surgery can help correct this problem.
11 Potentially High Maintenance Needs of a French Bulldog
Are French bulldogs considered high maintenance? Well…it depends on your definition of “high maintenance.”
All dogs have specific requirements, and the French bulldog is no exception. If you’re considering getting a French bulldog, it’s important to understand the amount of care you’ll need to apply.
Typically, a good breeder will remain a good source of advice and support. However, it doesn’t hurt to do some pre-planning before making the big decision.
The following are 11 potentially high maintenance needs you may come across.
1. The Exercise Needs of a French Bulldog
One of the most appealing aspects of owning a French Bulldog is that they don’t need hours of exercise a day. That said, they DO need exercise.
A daily walk is an excellent exercise for a French bulldog, but you’ll need to be flexible. On really hot or really cold days, your walks may be shortened. This is because Frenchies have a hard time regulating proper body temperature.
Extreme in temperature can be hard on a French bulldog. On days like that you might want to bring your dog shopping with you (look for stores that allow pets inside). That will give your dog a chance to walk comfortably.
When your Frenchie is indoors, it’s a good idea to provide him with balls or toys so he can burn off some energy.
2. Bathing Your French Bulldog
Bathing your French bulldog too frequently can cause their sensitive skin to become dry and irritated. That said, you may need to do spot washes every day, especially if your dog spends time outside.
The brachycephalic nature of this breed can make it difficult for them to do their own grooming. You may need to gently cleanse areas where they are unable to reach, for example their genitals and inside their ears.
Those cute little folds in a French bulldog’s skin can be prime breeding ground for bacteria. It’s important to keep the folds clean and dry as much as possible. A simple wet wipe made for dogs, or a damp cloth will work well.
3. Cleaning the Tail Pocket
Tail pockets are the little indentation formed under the skin of your French bulldog’s tail. Not all bulldogs have them. If they do, you have to keep them clean.
Tail pockets are not deep, but they do trap moisture and bacteria.
To clean a tail pocket, use a damp cloth with mild soap. Life the tail and gently wipe around the base and directly into the tail pocket.
You could also use dog-friendly wipes for this job. The important thing is to remember to dry the area after. A gentle tap with a dry cloth should do the trick. If the area is left wet, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria to form.
4. Grooming Your French Bulldog
French bulldogs have a smoot, short coat that are single layered. That single layer means they don’t have a seasonal undercoat.
They don’t shed a lot, but they do lose some fur seasonally. Brushing your dog twice a week with a bristle brush or grooming mitt will help lessen the amount of fur that gets on your clothes or furniture.
5. Nail Clipping the French Bulldog
Nail clipping can often be one of the most difficult things to do. Dogs tend to be scared of the clipping sound or really don’t like to have their paws handled. It’s a good idea to get your puppy used to having his paws gently handled to reduce anxiety later.
Some dogs will file their nails down naturally when out and about. Unfortunately, since French bulldogs can’t physically run as long and as hard as a bigger (non-brachycephalic) breed, you’ll need to manage his/her nail growth.
Watch the following short video on how to clip your Frenchie’s nails. This little sweetie is a little nervous but is in good hands. Take note of the awesome nail trimmer being used.
6. Feeding Your French Bulldog/Appropriate Diet
French bulldog puppies (between 2 and 6 months of age) should be fed three times per day. Once the dog reaches 6 months of age, reduce feeding to two meals per days.
The amount of food your French bulldog should consume is determined by their size and energy level when they are at a healthy weight.
French bulldogs aren’t known for being particularly energetic dogs. That means you won’t feed your French bulldog as much as you would more energetic small dogs.
Important Diet Information for French Bulldogs
The French bulldog’s diet should include quality animal proteins and carbohydrates. They should also get a balanced number of vitamins and minerals for digestive and immune health.
Omega fatty acids are great for healthy coats and skin issues. These days, there are plenty of great diet options on the market. Ask your veterinarian for the best suggestions.
Shop Chewy for Great Food for French Bulldogs
The following are affiliate links which just means that I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase.
When purchasing food, look for appropriate life stages and follow the feeding guidelines on the package (unless otherwise advised by a veterinarian).
Keeping your French bulldog at a healthy weight is vital to his/her health.
7. Cleaning the Ears of Your Frenchie
The adorable bat-like ears of a French bulldog can, unfortunately, collect dirt and debris. It’s important to gently swab their ears regularly to remove debris. In addition, be sure to keep the ears dry (after a bath or after being in water/rain).
The cleaner your dog’s ears are the less chance of an infection. Keeping the ears cleaned will lessen how often your dog scratches them.
Excessive rubbing of the ears can cause the yeast to overgrow, which is unsightly and unpleasant to smell. Yeast infections can cause hair loss around the ear, redness, swelling, and constant head shaking, among other things.
8. Cleaning Your French Bulldog’s Teeth
French bulldogs can develop a variety of dental problems, including halitosis (bad breath), plaque, gingivitis, and infections.
There are countless doggy toothbrushes and toothpaste on the market these days. The type of toothbrush you use is up to you. However, make sure to only use toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs.
Human toothpaste often contains artificial sweeteners like Xylitol which is toxic to dogs.
Regular brushing can help reduce the amount of plaque build-up on your dog’s gums. The healthier your dog’s teeth and gums are, the easier it will be for him/her to eat the proper diet.
9. Training Your French Bulldog to Have Good Manners
French bulldogs are intelligent and headstrong. For those reasons, training should begin at a young age.
They respond well to training if it is enjoyable and involves a lot of patience and rewards, preferably treats.
Early training is beneficial in part because it can emphasize the importance of obedience, which is something that the rambunctious puppies struggle with.
This is especially useful if your dog develops undesirable habits that must be corrected later, such as chewing.
Socialization is the most important aspect of training to ensure that the puppy remains friendly and lovable around other dogs, children, cats, and people.
Introduce your dog to as many new people, places, and situations as possible by taking him to training classes, parks, and other dog-friendly locations.
11. You Must Be Available For Your Frenchie-Always!
French bulldogs have a reputation for being clingy. They are also known as “Velcro dogs” because they thrive on their owners’ attention.
Although French bulldogs are small in stature, they have big hearts and personalities, and they adore their owners.
If you’re looking to buy a French bulldog puppy, keep in mind that this breed is not suitable for people who are frequently away from home. Because Frenchies dislike being alone at home, they are more likely to experience separation anxiety.
Signs of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- destroying toys
- ripping up furniture, shoes, etc.
- “accidents” in the house
- scratching doors
More Great Posts on French Bulldogs
We’ve hand-picked the following posts for you. The information in these posts will help answer all of your questions about the breed. This will make picking out a puppy an easier task.
French bulldogs are delightful and friendly dogs. Doing your research and locating good breeders is important. It takes a lot of knowledge, patience, ethics, and love to breed French bulldogs. Finding a breeder with a wait list is a good thing. It likely means they are not overbreeding their dogs.
If you do decide to bring home a French bulldog, make sure you’re armed with everything he/she will need. Appropriate food, bedding, grooming supplies, and toys are a great place to start.
Although we’ve listed a number of potential health issues here, that doesn’t mean your dog will get them all. Buying your dog from a reputable breeder goes a long way in reducing the number of vet visits you’ll need to make.
French bulldogs are very popular dog breeds. Unfortunately, not everybody does their research before getting one. Congratulations for taking this important step! Knowing the breed before you get one will make the transition a lot easier.
Have fun! You’ll soon discover just what great companion dogs these guys really are.
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Complete Care Guide for French Bulldogs » Info, Tips, & More. www.dog-learn.com, https://www.dog-learn.com/dog-breeds/french-bulldog/care. Accessed 1 May 2022.
French Bulldog Breed. www.frenchbulldogbreed.net, 18 Dec. 2019, https://www.frenchbulldogbreed.net/blog-teaser/trim-french-bulldog-nails/.
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Dawn, Coral. DogsPlanet.Com. www.dogsplanet.com, 16 Nov. 2021, https://www.dogsplanet.com/en/nutrition/how-much-should-a-french-bulldog-eat/.
French Bulldog Breed. www.frenchbulldogbreed.net, 20 July 2019, https://www.frenchbulldogbreed.net/blog/french-bulldog-ears/.
Jo – RVC – Uni of London, By Dr. Just HEALTHIER Frenchies! www.frenchbulldogsclub.org, https://www.frenchbulldogsclub.org/french-bulldog-teeth-problems/. Accessed 1 May 2022.
Cuteness.Com. www.cuteness.com, https://www.cuteness.com/article/care-french-bulldog. Accessed 1 May 2022.
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