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Puppy Care / Breed Info

How to care for your French Bulldog.

French Bulldogs are known with quite a few health issues. On this page I will attempt to tell more about them. To keep a good overview all diseases are devided in tabs.

Because of this health issues only a small part of French Bulldogs is suitable for breeding. The long list of tabs shows the need for extensive health testing. Health tests is something we highly value.

Unofrtunately a lot of people think breeding is only fun. Without any knowledge they find a male that they think is beautiful to breed their bitch. Both dogs are rarely health tested. Of you look at the list below you can understand that non-health tested French Bulldogs are often not the healthiest among the breed. Of course there are exceptions, or you could get really lucky. When you are searching for a French Bulldog puppy, make sure you are well informed! Ask the breeder about his actions to improve the health of the breed overall. An annual checkup with the vet is nowhere near enough to declare a dog suitable for breeding! A good breeder shows you results of health tests. You will get a clear contract with the puppy that tells you all you want to know. Also, a good breeder will stand by you for as long as the dog shall live. In case there occur any issues he will make sure all is solved properly.

What are we doing to improve the health of French Bulldogs? What health tests we perform and why cou can find on this page.

Below are the most common eye abnormalities explained.

Hereditary Cataract

Hereditary Cataract distinguishes itself from senile cataract by the age of the dog that developed it. An eye with cataract has a cloudy appearance inside the lens of the eye. The function of that lens is to distinguish light and form an image on the retina. When the lens becomes cloudy less light can enter the eye and this decreases vision.

This type of cataract is early onset and usually is hereditary. Hereditary Cataract can occur in one eye only or in both, and it can play up at different moments. There is no evidence that suggests eye colour has a role. A lot of dogs with hereditary Cataract can have a normal life, when they become older the cataract will dramatically decrease vision. Unfortunately the cataract can be so severe that the dog will become blind at young age. Luckily for French Bulldogs a DNA test is available. It is the HSF-4 test, a simple test performed on a cheek swab. There is no treatment known for cataract yet.

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 An eye profile, you can see the cataract shown very clear in pink.

Progressive Retina Atropy

Progressive Retina Atropy is also called PRA. It is a hereditary condition that makes the dog go blind. The DNA markers of PRA are known and there are DNA tests available.

PRA is a disorder that affects the retina. The tissue of the retina consist of special cells called photoreceptors. These absorb the licht that comes in. These cells transfer the information to nerve signals. These signals are sent from the retina to the eye nerve an from there the go to the brain. The brain processes this information to what we can see.  The receptors in the retina consist of bars and cones. The bars take care of the sight when it is dark and the cones take care of daylight and color perception. PRA is know to affect the bars first, and in a later stage also the cones. Early on in the disease the animals become blind at night, the can not adapt their vision in the dark. Later on the vision during tha day is also affected. If the surroundings stay the same, the dog can adjust very well.
In the meantime the pupils will enlarge in an attempt to catch more light into the eye. This causes a ‘glow’ in the eyes and the lens becomes cloudy or opaque, this means cataract is also developing.

The diagnosis of PRA mostly made by eye specialists. It is visible with an instrument called an indirect ophthalmoscope. During the examination it is neccesary that the dogs pupils are fully dilated. The dog will get specials drops in his eye for that. The eye specialist can quickly see if PRA is present in the eye, the optic nerve will shrink and the blood vessels of the retina degenerate. These changes are visible in every form of PRA. When these abnormalities are shown the dog has advanced PRA. There is no treatment yet for PRA.

Distichiasis

In the eyelids of dogs hairs can grow in abnormal places. These hairs are called distichia. Distichiasis can be irritating when the hairs grow towards the eye. Ectopic cilia also are called distichiasis, but these hairs grow from the inside of the eyelid and are very painful. Dogs with normal distichiasis do not have to show symptoms of pain or discomfort. Symptoms that can occur are pinching with the eye or rubbing in the eye.
Dogs with ectopic cilia always have discomfort or pain of it.

Distichiasis is known in a lot of breeds, among them is the French Bulldog. They think distichiasis is partially hereditary, but the inheritance is not known yet. An official exam can be performed, called ECVO.

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  A dog with significant distichiasis on his upper eyelid.

Cherry Eye
Cherry eye is the bulging of the third eyelid. a lot of mammals, including dogs, have a third eyelid in the inner corner of the eye. It serves as extra protection for the eye. The third eyelid contains a gland that produces a lot of the lacrimal fluid. When this gland is bulging out we call this Cherry Eye.

The third eyelid will be red and swollen, and visible in the inner corner of the eye. The Cherry eye can be so large it can cover up a portion of the eye or it can be small and temporarily. Any sign of Cherry Eye should be seen by a veterinarian.

Normally the gland in the third eyelid is anchored to the edge of the lower eyelid with a small ligament. In certain breeds that ligament can be weak and the gland pops out. It is more common in brachycephalic breeds.

Often surgery is needed to cure the Cherry Eye. It is important to treat a cherry eye as soon as possible. So that any collateral damage is limited. The gland produces more than 50% of the tears for the eye, so it must not be damaged. Without tears the dog will get dry eyes.

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Cherry Eye in a French Bulldog

Allergies express themselves mostly on the skin and they are caused by a complex chain of events in the immune system. Until today, the origin of allergies is not completely clear. Genes seem to play a part in this, and researchers assume that it is at least partially hereditary.

When an allergy presents itself the immune system reacts excessively to certain ‘allergens’ in the surroundings. These allergens can be very diverse, for example different proteins, pollen, plants, insects or nutrition.

Types of allergies

One animal can suffer from multiple allergies at the same time. Generally, we can split the allergies into 4 types:

Atopic dermatitis:
Also called atopy. Previously we presumed that allergens needed to be in the respiratory system to cause a reaction in the body. Nowadays a lot of dermatologists believe that it is a combination of inhalation and contact with the skin. This is a very frequently occurring problem in French Bulldogs. See the tab ‘Atopic Dermatitis’ for a more in depth explanation.

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 Flea allergy in a French Bulldog

Flea allergy:
This is relatively common. The dog is hypersensitive to the bite of a flea. Dogs with flea allergy often bite and lick the back half of their body so much it becomes bald. They have more hotspots and it is hard to catch the flea because the dogs immediate reaction to it: it scratches or bites right after the flea bite. There are good treatments available against flea allergy, of which prevention is the most important. A high percentage of dogs with flea allergy also suffer from other types of allergies.

Food allergy:
Also called food intolerance. We do not know how big the percentage of dogs is that suffer from this type of allergy. Multiple conditions exist with the same symptoms. Unfortunately it is hard to tell them apart. Dogs with food allergies can have skin problems, but also problems with the intestines. These dogs usually need an elimination of hypoallergenic diet.

Contact allergy:
The best way to compare a contact allergy is to think about poison ivy and its effect on humans. When you come in contact with the plant red itchy spots form that can grow out to enormous blisters. Next time that person comes in contact with poison ivy the reaction gets even worse. For a long time researchers believed contact allergies were rare in dogs because of their fur.

 

Besides from the normal symptoms in a dog with allergies there is often a secund (skin)infection. There seems to be a strong connection between allergies and skin infections. The resistance of the skin is so deminished that infections see a good chance to spread. The infections are ofter re-occurring and can cause problems that are worse then the problems that are linked to the allergy itself. It is important that the infection is well sorted out, so that it can be combated together with the allergy problems. The largest causes of secundary infections are:

Staphylococci infection
This infection is most common in dogs with allergies. The staphylococci can not be transferred to other dogs or humans. Symptoms consist of itch, pimples, hotspots, patchy spots with hair loss with a lot of itchiness. The problem areas are mostly the abdomen and groin area, the bottom of the chest, paws and ears. To set a diagnosis the veterenarian needs a scraping of the skin. There will be antibiotics needed.

Yeast infection
This infection is also seen a lot as a secundary infection. The occus in more moist areas. Yeast infections in dogs are different then in humans. Yeasts seem to love the more greasy spots on the skin. Like in the neck and chin area, the lips, the ears and in between the toes. Yeast can cause a lot of itch, even if the infection is not that severe. There are special shampoos available that kill yeat, but antibiotics of ointments are often also needed to kill the yeast.

Comination infection
A combination of both infections is also seen in allergic dogs. It is important to find out wich infection causes the most problems and treat that one first.

Irritatieplekken op de borst

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 This dog has an inflammation between the toes due to excessive licking.

Contact allergy

For a long time they thought this was rare, partially because it is hard to set a diagnosis on contact allergy. A lot of dogs chew on their paws, the bottom specifically. This causes redness and even sores. Feet are the parts of the body that have most contact with the allergens. They often have problems on the bottom of the chest and the abdomen. A lot of dogs have a rash on the lips, this is because the allergens are transferred during the licking and chewing of the paws.

Diagnosis
One of the reasons a contact allergy is hard to recorgnise due to the testing possibilities. There is no test available that giver 100% certainty. Therapy often exists of elimination of suspicious allergens, such as an animal species in nutrition, or a laundry detergent. The second method is a patch test. Suspicious allergens are placed on a patch on naked skin. The patched must stay on the skin for 48 hours. The dog can not touch the patch. After 48 hours the skin is checked for any reactions to the patches.

Treatment
Treatment of contact allergy consist of avoiding the responsible allergens. An allergy builds up over time, so every time the dog comes in contact with the allergen it will worsen the reaction against it. A treatment with steroids is sometimes recommended, but this is not a long term solution. The hardest part in contact allergy is the dedication that the owner must have. It is not likely the dog will grow over the allergies, so a life long commitment is needed.

 Summarizing

The problem is briefly discussed here, not every allergy is extensively discussed. Although new antihistamines are developed for humans, animal medicine is not yet to that point. The histamines that work on humans unfortunately do not work on dogs. But is promising that research keeps improving in humans. Perhaps animal medicine can benefit from this in treating allergies in dogs

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Irritation spots on the chest.

Atopic dermatitis is an allergy of the skin. It is caused by a hypersensitive immune system to very common substances, for example dust mites. It is common in Fench Bulldogs. Under the tab ‘Allergies’ is more information about allergies in general.

The immune system of a dog creates receptors and antiboedies for every substance that is not of its own body. Every antibody is specifically made for that substance. There are different types of antibodies. IgG for example is involved in the protection against viruses, and IgE is involved in the protection against parasites. IgE is the type of antibody that infuences atopic dermatitis. IgE are specialized cells in the skin that wait for contact with certain a type of protein. When that protein is spotted, perhaps a dust mite, the cell releases chemicals that try to destroy the intruder. In atopic animals this system is hypersensitive and the chemicals do not work properly. The cells react too sensitive to any foreign substance such as pollen, fungus and dust mites.

For an allergy to express itself, the dog must first be ‘allergic’ and then exposed to the substance that the abnormal reaction comes from. The number one reason mostly is dust mite. These little animals live in our homes, carpets, beds an any soft fabrics. They feed themselves with dead skin cells that we, humans and animals, shed everywhere. The feces of the mite is what contains most allergens. Dogs also van be allergic to pollen of funges, but they are usually less exposed to that so that allergies are less common.

Another known factor in atopy are certain infections that you may have suffered as a baby or toddler. In children researchers have show that kids with a lot of airway infections at a young age will show less allergy problems. This effect is not know yet in dogs.

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 This drwaing shows the process in a dog with atopic dermatitis.

Symptoms

Atopic dermatitis often comes to the surface before the age of 2. Owners may notice the dog licking or biting its paws, abdomen and anus. The ears can be red and warm to the touch without any visible damage. Often these dogs show subtle signs of the disease before the age of 1,5. The skin looks normal but skin and ear infections are seen, as well as itch. There problems do not all express themselves at the same time, so linking them is not easy. Only when the problems reoccur or get worse we see that the itch also becomes a lot more severe. Anti-itching therepy becomes a neccesity, the itch dominates the dogs life. Other problems that come with itch are baldness, redness and thickening of the skin. Secundary infections are inevitable.

A lot of dogs are punished for scratching. Without knowing, the owner teaches the dog to lick and bite in secret. Fortunately, there are signs to look out for. Saliva discoloring is one of these signs. A reddish brown discoloring of light hairs is often seen in the armpits of in between the toes. In long term saliva discoloring the skinn will also transform. Instead of pink you will see a black glow, called hyperpigmentation, this develops slowly over time.

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Places where atopic dermatitis usually shows are darker colored.

Diagnosis

At this point there is no test available that will give a 100% certain result about atopic dermatitis. Veterenarians can only suspect the didiease after everyting else is ruled out. Other causes can be fleas, infections or other types of allergies. Every dog will get bitten by a flea at least once in its life but dogs with atopic dermatitis often also have flea allergy.

Food allergy can also be a cause for bad skin. Food allergy can also be seen in dogs with atopic dermatitis as well as with flea allergy.

Bacterial infections can cause even more trouble and a dog with atopic dermatitis is more prone to getting skin infections. The skin has no resilience so an infection is easily developed.

Yeast infections (mostly Malessezia) will cause redness, greasiness and a smell on the skin.

Sometimes a skintest is performed. Suspicious allergens are injected into the skin and after 20 minutes the skin is inspected for any visible reactions.

Treatment

In atopic dogs it is important to look at the whole picture because a lot of secundary problems can occur. Infections must be prevented as much as possible. This can be done with special shampoos of antibiotics. Corticosteroids (Prednisone) is often given long-term to fight infections and deminisch complaints. Sometimes a dog will be desensitized if the allergies can be proven. Dogs that suffer from a lot of itch can even get depressed.

Avoidance of allergens is one of the most important treatments.

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 A French Bulldog that suffers from atopic dermatitis.

Breeding

Studies show that when at least one of the parents is atopic, about 60% of their offspring will show signs of atopic dermatitis. When 2 healthy parents are combined, that chance is reduced to 10%. Atopic dermatitis could be almost completely deminished by good selection of parents. Despite that is is hard to diagnose a mild case, it must be taken into account when considering to breed with that animal.

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Breeder of AKC Registered French Bulldog Puppies.

We take pride in our program because we breed healthy and happy puppies that will bring many years of joy to you and your family. Every dog in our program is a part of my family and is raised indoors with us so that they come to you well socialised and happy!

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