Over the past few years in my veterinary practice, French Bulldogs have become exceedingly popular. In fact, most people who own “Frenchies” have at least one of them. They just can’t help themselves!
Thus, one of the most common questions I get from these owners are “How Long Will My French Bulldog Live?” The answer to that question, based on information from the AKC (American Kennel Club) is 10-12 years.
I will tell you that I believe we can get these Frenchies to live longer, and I will lay out a plan on how you can accomplish that. Trust me, I LOVE my French Bulldog patients (with the exception of one, we’ll get to him in another article), and I want them around as long as possible.
How To Pick The Healthiest French Bulldog Puppy
- Use the AKC site to find one
- If you’re lucky enough to already know and love a French Bulldog, find out who the breeder of the litter was. That’s a great start.
If you’re getting a French Bulldog from a rescue organization, try to find out the medical history of the dog as completely as possible. Understand that, while problems can emerge at any time, chronic health conditions that have been dealt with (successfully or unsuccessfully) for years are going to be your responsibility going forward.
For a complete Guide to French Bulldogs – including costs, care, feeding – check out my in-depth article here.
What Are The Most Common Diseases That French Bulldogs Can Suffer From?
- Brachycephalic Syndrome
- Patellar Luxation
- Heart Disease
- Spinal Disease
Let’s state now that there are many, many other diseases that French Bulldogs can get because they are diseases that all dogs can get (think ear infections, bladder infections, etc). The following are the ones I see most commonly in my patients:
Any dog that has a “pushed-in” face where the nose is set back into the face is deemed a brachycephalic. Think English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Pugs, Boston terriers, etc.
This syndrome is a collection of different diseases that affect the respiratory system. Individually they cause an impediment to breathing freely. Collectively they can cause premature death.
These diseases include:
- Stenotic Nares (nostrils are way too small)
- Elongated Soft Palate
- Everted tonsils
- Laryngeal collapse
- Hypoplastic trachea
- Redundant pharyngeal soft tissues
This is a condition in which the kneecap (it can be just one knee or both of them) doesn’t sit properly in the groove of the femur. French Bulldogs are prone to this condition because their leg bones are frequently very curvy.
That curve in the leg puts a lot of stress on the side of the knee and, over time, there’s pressure for that kneecap to move medially (towards the other leg). In some dogs the kneecap will freely move from a very young age (as early as 4-6 months) whereas in other dogs it comes on over time as they age.
The luxation can freely move in and out of position or it can move out (luxate) and then get stuck. The more problems this luxation causes, the more likely that only surgery will fix it.
The most common heart disease that can affect Frenchies is an acquired heart disease that come about as a result of degenerating heart valves. In many cases this is something that comes on late in life and doesn’t always lead to symptoms.
Many times I believe that my patients develop heart disease as they age because of the problems they have with their breathing. The harder the lungs have to work to exchange air (because it’s so hard for them to get air in easily due to brachycephalic syndrome), the harder the heart works as well.
The most common diseases that I see in the spinal cord of French Bulldogs are:
- IVDD (intervertebral disc disease)
- Degenerative myelopathy
IVDD is a degenerative condition in which the cartilage that makes up the discs in the spine become inflexible and brittle over time. This makes them more likely to tear and bulge up into the area of the spinal cord. This causes some pretty significant pain and, when it’s really bad, loss of your dog’s ability to use its legs.
While there are medications that can help in many occurrences of IVDD, there are times when only surgery can help your dog. Unfortunately surgery for IVDD is very expensive ($3,000 – $7,000 at minimum; more if there are complications) and doesn’t guarantee your dog’s full return to normal mobility.
While DM is most commonly associated with a condition that German Shepherds are prone to, DM in French Bulldogs is another disease that can affect their spinal cords.
No one knows exactly what causes this condition. The most distal nerves of the spinal cord will start to atrophy over time and gradually your dog’s control over the rear end of the body starts to deteriorate. It might start subtely as yoru dog occasionally scuffing their back toes on a walk. Check out the two middle toenails on the rear feet to see if your dog is scuffing their toes.
Dogs can scuff their toes for other conditions besides degenerative myelopathy (hip dysplasia is another common cause), but if you also notice that your dog seems to gradually lose more control over their rear legs, ask your veterinarian about degenerative myelopathy.
Sadly this is something that is becoming incredibly prevalent in many breeds of dogs and not just Frenchies. It’s also becoming something we are seeing in younger and younger dogs.
Allergies can present as itchy skin, ear infections, persistent foot licking, and even an ever present foul odor coming from the body. Sometimes these issues can be caused by food allergies, but I find that most of the time the allergy is to something in the environment (grass, trees, etc).
Thankfully there are far better medications these days that don’t have the side effects of some of the drugs we used in years past (like steroids). Medications such as Apoquel and Cytopoint are used far more commonly these days with great effect.
How Can I Get My French Bulldog To Live Longer?
Preventative Medicine/Wellness Exams
I’m a veterinarian so of course I’m going to tell you that regular wellness exams at the vet is extremely important. A good vet can spot conditions so early that you may not even be aware of yet.
When your Frenchie reaches 5-6 years of age, if you haven’t already had it done, have the vet run some bloodwork to check out all the internal organs. Primarily we are screening for kidney and liver disease, but there are literally hundreds of disease conditions that can be picked up by basic lab tests.
If you live in a heartworm-endemic area, keeping your dog on regular heartworm preventative is a no-brainer.
Daily Teeth Brushing
The biggest way you can save yourself money when you own a french bulldog is to brush their teeth daily with pet-specific enzymatic toothpaste. This is a 10-second exercise that only requires your finger and some toothpaste. Simply spread it on the outside of every tooth and you’re done!
Don’t do it daily? Plaque and tartar attempt to take hold every day so every day you don’t brush you’re falling behind.
Preventing dental disease will save you thousands of dollars over the life of your dog in dental cleanings. Sometimes you won’t be able to prevent every dental issue but you will dramatically cut down on them.
With the robust chest of a French Bulldog, it’s easy to see when they are overweight. The classic “hourglass shape” is what you should have. If you stand above or next to your Frenchie and find that the abdomen is the same diameter as the chest, your dog is overweight.
Diet is the best way to manage weight issues and you don’t need to spend a great deal to do it right. The “boutique” diets that advocate grain-free or completely holistic ingredients are not only far too expensive (in my opinion) but also can be harmful.
While French Bulldogs may only (on average) live 12-15 years, there are many conditions that can cut their life shorter. Make sure you’re having your Frenchie see the vet regularly and promptly when there are issues. Do whatever you can to keep your best buddy with you for as long as possible!