The Breed History
The French Bulldog was derived from the English Bulldog in the mid 1800s. The French Bulldog is of smaller stature. First specimens reached the United States in 1896.
Breeding for Function
Their primary function has always been as a companion, but perhaps they also functioned in the household as ratters and as watchdogs. Though breeds from which they derive were fighting dogs, "Frenchies" were bred for a calm stable temperament and not viciousness.
Height at Withers: 12" (30.5 cm)
Weight: Less than 28 lb (12.5 kg)
Coat: The very short, fine and flat glossy coat is brindle, white, brindle and white, or fawn. Black is a disqualification, as are liver, or black and tan, black and white, and mouse.
Longevity: 11-12 years
Points of Conformation: They possess a compact square conformation with heavy bone and muscling. The broad-based fine-leathered erect "bat" ears of the French Bulldog distinguish it from the English Bulldog (the latter having rose ears). Another distinguishing feature is the shape of the skull. In the French Bulldog it is flat between the ears but domed over the eyes, producing a strong-browed appearance. The head is large and square. The muzzle is short, broad and blocky, and the stop is well defined such that between the eyes there is a distinct groove. Wrinkles are set on a very short nose. The nose is black except in lighter colored dogs. The moderately deep-set dark eyes are set well apart and low in the skull forward facing, are round and moderate in size and don’t show the nictitans. The lower jaw is prognathic with very prominent black flews. The neck is short, thick and arched, and covered with very loose skin. The short back is arched (roach). The abdomen is tucked up and the thorax is deep and broad (barrel-shaped). The tail may be screwed or straight, is low set, short and tapers to a fine tip. Limbs are ideally straight boned, feet are compact, and toes well knuckled up. The nails are stubby. Forelimbs are set wide apart. The gait is somewhat rolling due to the broad thorax.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed traits include: Intelligent, affectionate, alert, playful, love human companionship, low barking tendency, low shedding tendency, and low grooming needs. Good for city or country. Considered a good dog for seniors. Needs daily hygiene of facial wrinkles to prevent dermatitis. Tend to snore.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Cesarean Section: In Great Britain, 81.3% of French Bulldog litters are delivered by C-section.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 32.6% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 5.2% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 2.9% affected.
Juvenile Cataracts (Hereditary Cataracts, HC): Autosomal recessive disorder causing bilateral nuclear and cortical cataracts with an onset around 3 months of age. Identified in 2.46% of French Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any French Bulldog with a cataract. A genetic test is available.3 Hemophilia B (Factor IX Deficiency): X-linked recessive coagulation disorder causing severe bleeding in this breed. In one family, concurrent Hemophilia A was identified.
Hemivertebra and Butterfly Vertebra: Misshapen or malformed vertebra. May cause scoliosis, pain, or spinal cord compression if severe. In the majority of affected French Bulldogs, the thoracic vertebrae are involved. Reported at a frequency of 35.1% in the FBDCA Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Brachycephalic Complex: The brachycephalic complex includes stenotic nares, elongated soft palate, everted laryngeal saccules, laryngeal collapse, and occasionally hypoplastic trachea. Can also cause bronchial collapse. Can cause difficulty breathing, and collapse if severe, or stressed. The FBDCA Health Survey reports the following frequencies: stenotic nares (21.6%0, elongated soft palate (15.8%), and hypoplastic trachea (4.36%).
Allergic Dermatitis (Atopy): Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). French Bulldogs show an increased prevalence versus other breeds for both inhalant and food allergy. Reported at a frequency of 28.0% in the FBDCA Health Survey, with food allergy reported at 14.2%.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 6.96% of French Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Acute spinal cord disease due to prolapsed disk material. Clinical signs include back pain, scuffing of paws, spinal ataxia, limb weakness, and paralysis. Reported at a frequency of 5.5% in the FBDCA Health Survey.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 4.50% of French Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles): Can be unilateral or bilateral. Reported at a frequency of 4.2% in the FBDCA Health Survey.
Demodicosis: Generalized demodicosis has an underlying immunodeficiency in its pathogenesis. Reported at a frequency of 4.1% in the FBDCA Health Survey.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Affected dogs show an insidious onset of upper motor neuron (UMN) paraparesis at an average age of 11.4 years. The disease eventually progresses to severe tetraparesis. Affected dogs have normal results on myelography, MRI, and CSF analysis. Necropsy confirms the condition. Unknown mode of inheritance. A direct genetic test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptibility gene is available. All affected dogs are homozygous for the gene, however, only a small percentage of homozygous dogs develop DM. The susceptibility allele occurs at a frequency of 23% in the breed. Clinical DM is reported at a frequency of 2.3% in the FBDCA Health Survey.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds, geographic, and generalized retinal dysplasia with detachment are recognized in the breed. Can cause retinal detachment and blindness. Reported in 2.05% of French Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Entropion: Rolling in of the eyelids, which can predispose to corneal irritation and ulceration. Reported in 1.36% of French Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 1.1% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis: Several case studies are published. Affected dogs present with chronic large bowel diarrhea, tenesmus and hematochezia. Colonic biopsies are characterized by infiltrations of PAS positive histiocytes in the lamina propria. There may only be minimal improvement with nutritional and medical therapy. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Pulmonic Stenosis (PS): Congenital cardiac disorder of restricted pulmonic outflow. Echocardiogram findings of restriction of right ventricular outflow tract, pulmonic valve and/or main pulmonary artery on transthoracic imaging from the right parasternal and left cranial parasternal short-axis views. Reported at an increased frequency in the breed.
Hiatal Hernia: French Bulldogs have a predisposition to paraesophageal hiatal hernia.
Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis: A non-suppurative acute to chronic necrotizing meningoencephalitis is identified in French Bulldogs, similar to that seen in the Pug, Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier breeds. Affected dogs present with seizures, ataxia, blindness and mentation changes from 1 to 10 years of age.
Anasarca, Cleft Palate/Lip, Deafness, Fold Dermatitis, Spina Bifida, and von Willebrand’s Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD): Case report of a 4-month-old male French Bulldog with a left heart base grade 3/6 systolic murmur, and a right heart base grade 4/6 systolic murmur. Doppler ultrasonography and cardiac catheterization revealed a supracristal ventricular septal defect (VSD) with accompanying aortic regurgitation.
Muscular Dystrophy: An 8 month old male French Bull dog was diagnosed with dystrophin deficient muscular dystrophy. Clinical signs included; apathy, muscle weakness, dysphagia, regurgitation and dyspnea.
Fibrinoid Leukodystrophy: A 1 and 1/2 year old French bulldog exhibited megaesophagus, general emaciation and weakness, and died due to aspiration pneumonia. Histopathology revealed discolored foci in the white matter of the cerebellum and brain stem, with Rothenthal fibers and hypertrophic astrocytes in the perivascular, subependymal and subpial area.
Oligodendroglioma: A 5-year-old, male French bulldog presented with bradycardia, dyspnea, and decerebrate rigidity was necropsied. Macroscopic findings were restricted to a brain mass consisting of diffuse proliferated neoplastic oligodendroglial cells characterized by small, round, and hyperchromatic nuclei with clear cytoplasm and the cells aggressively invaded into the adjacent parenchyma. The mass was diagnosed as oligodendroglioma.
XX Sex Reversal: A 3-month-old outwardly female French Bulldog presented with an enlarged clitoris with an os clitoris, and inguinal hernias containing testicles. A diagnosis of SRY-negative XX sex reversal was made based on the gonadal histology and cytogenetic analysis.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for juvenile cataract is available from the Animal Health Trust and VetGen. Direct test for the DM susceptability gene is available from OFA.
Direct tests for fawn, brindle(black) and liver coat colors, and black or brown nose are available from HealthGene.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination (recommended annually) and patella evaluation. Recommended tests include thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and congenital cardiac disease evaluation. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommend elbow radiographs.
• Breed Name Synonyms: Frenchie, Boule Dogue Franзais
• Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
• AKC rank (year 2008): 26 (6,963 dogs registered)
• Internet resources: French Bulldog Club of America: frenchbulldogclub.org
French Bulldog Club of England: frenchbulldogclubofengland.org.uk
French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada: frenchbulldogfanciers.com
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