Not all Frenchies will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
- Hip Dysplasia: Hip dyplasia is a heritable condition in which the femur doesn't fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. Some dogs exhibit pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and found to be free of problems.
- Brachycephalic Syndrome: This disorder is found in dogs with short heads, narrowed nostrils, or elongated or soft palates. Their airways are obstructed to varying degrees and can cause anything from noisy or labored breathing to total collapse of the airway. Dogs with brachycephalic syndrome commonly snuffle and snort. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition but includes oxygen therapy as well as surgery to widen nostrils or shorten palates.
- Allergies: Allergies are a common problem in dogs. There are three main types of allergies: food-based allergies, which are treated by an elimination process of certain foods from the dog's diet; contact allergies, caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals, and treated by removing the cause of the allergy; and inhalant allergies, caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. The medication for inhalant allergies depends on the severity of the allergy. It is important to note that ear infections often accompany inhalant allergies.
- Hemivertebrae: This is a malformation of one or more vertebrae that causes it to be shaped like a wedge or triangle. This malformation can occur on its own or with other vertebrae malformations. Hemivertebra can cause no problems, or it can put pressure on the spinal cord. This can lead to pain, weakness, and or paralysis. There is no treatment for the condition unless there is spinal cord pressure.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts — the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) — is not properly lined up and slips in and out of place (luxates). This causes lameness or an abnormal gait (the way the dog moves). It is a congenital disease, meaning it's present at birth, although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
- Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): IDD occurs when a disc in the spine ruptures or herniates and pushes upward into the spinal cord. When the disc pushes into the spinal cord, nerve transmissions are inhibited from traveling along the spinal cord. Intervertebral Disc Disease can be caused by trauma, age, or simply from the physical jolt that occurs when a dog jumps off a sofa. When the disc ruptures, the dog usually feels pain and the ruptured disc can lead to weakness and temporary or permanent paralysis. Treatment usually involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) made specially for dogs. Never give your dog Tylenol or other NSAIDs made for people as they can be toxic. In some cases surgery can help, but it must be done within a day or so of the injury. You may also want to ask your veterinarian about physical rehabilitation. Treatments such as massage, water treadmills and electrical stimulation are available for dogs and can have excellent success.
- Von Willebrand's Disease: This is a blood disorder that can be found in both humans and dogs. It affects the clotting process due to the reduction of von Willebrand factor in the blood. A dog affected by von Willebrand's disease will have signs such as nose bleeds, bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding from surgery, and prolonged bleeding during heat cycles or after whelping. Occasionally blood is found in the stool. This disorder is usually diagnosed in your dog between the ages of 3 and 5 and cannot be cured. However, it can be managed with treatments that include cauterizing or suturing injuries, transfusions of the von Willebrand factor before surgery, and avoiding certain medications.
- Cleft Palate: The palate is the roof of the mouth and separates the nasal and oral cavities. It is made up of two parts, hard and soft. A cleft palate has a slit that runs bilaterally or unilaterally and can range in size from a small hole to a large slit. A cleft palate can affect both the hard and soft palate separately and together and may cause a cleft lip. Puppies can be born with cleft palates, or a cleft palate can occur from an injury. Cleft palates are fairly common in dogs, but many puppies born with a cleft palate do not survive or are euthanized by the breeder. The only treatment for a cleft palate is surgery to close the hole, although not all dogs with a cleft palate require the surgery. It is important to get a diagnosis and treatment recommendation from your veterinarian.
- Elongated Soft Palate: The soft palate is the extension of the roof of the mouth. When the soft palate is elongated, it can obstruct airways and cause difficulty in breathing. The treatment for Elongated Soft Palate is surgical removal of the excess palate.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Frenchies, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).