Dr. Roy Kraemer
- Dr. Roy Kraemer is a veterinarian who specializes in treating French and English bulldogs.
- He says Frenchies can be healthy dogs, but some of their health issues need ongoing maintenance.
- He shares that Frenchie popularity has amplified health issues and offers tips on Frenchie care.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Dr. Roy Kraemer, a Tufts veterinary school graduate with over 30 years of experience in the veterinary field and Southern California veterinarian who specializes in treating English and French bulldogs. It’s been edited for length and clarity.
There’s no board certification or bulldog specialty in veterinary school, as some might think. To become a “bulldog expert” you need to see and operate on many.
But no one will want to see you until you become an expert.
It’s an unfortunate irony — one that means only a few vets have adequate experience treating bulldogs.
How I became an expert in treating French bulldogs
Dr. Kraemer has treated thousands of bulldogs.
Dr. Roy Kraemer
About 25 years ago, I started helping with the not-for-profit Southern California Bulldog Rescue. The founder had come to me in need of shelter and medical care for his rescues.
At first, I knew little about the breed, but I eventually went from seeing a few bulldogs a year to examining 20-30 a day — many of them in poor physical shape.
I even treated some rescued French bulldogs with stem cell therapy, a cutting-edge regenerative medicine.
Frenchies, like other bulldog types, have distinct problems that other breeds don’t, and I found the best way to prevent, care, and treat them was through a large case volume over many years.
Frenchies’ growing popularity is amplifying health issues
Frenchies were the most popular dog breed in the US of 2022.
Frenchies became the most popular breed in the US in 2022, probably due to their fun, energetic, playful, and usually friendly nature.
When I started my bully specialty practice 20-plus years ago, I might have seen 10 to 20 English bulldogs for every one Frenchie.
In recent years, I have seen more Frenchies than English bulldogs.
As with any type of purebred dog, this rise in popularity has led to a rise in breeders with inadequate knowledge and questionable ethics, which only amplifies many Frenchie health issues.
For instance, ongoing selective breeding — “boutique breeding” — is fueled by demand, not pet welfare. So, we’re seeing extreme variation from the breed standard, like miniature-size bulldogs, unusual eye color, and coat color — and some of these traits are linked to “bad” genes.
Many online forums and sites also have misleading information about vaccinations, flea preventatives, and popular boutique diets — like grain-free diets and raw diets, which can put your dog’s health at risk.
This misinformation makes it hard for Frenchie owners to recognize responsible breeders and experienced veterinary teams and tell good advice from bad.
Frenchie health problems may require lifetime maintenance
Pre-anesthesia oxygen is one of the safety protocols Dr. Kraemer uses to help make surgeries safe.
Dr. Roy Kraemer
Many Frenchies face serious health concerns related to their flat head (brachycephaly). But treating those cute little faces can come with major medical costs and lifelong maintenance.
For example, many Frenchies suffer from a serious flat-faced airway disease named brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, which most commonly includes a pinched nose (stenotic nares), and an elongated soft palate.
If your Frenchie develops these serious and potentially deadly airway health concerns, timely treatment is essential, as well as minimizing stress and excitement and providing a cool and well-ventilated environment.
Treatment involves corrective surgery of the nose, soft palate, tonsil, and laryngeal saccules. Types of surgery include a rhinoplasty, stapedectomy, sacculectomy, or tonsillectomy. Surgery should be done once they reach their full growth around 10-12 months.
I recommend getting surgery done by an experienced team, since anesthesia and surgery for Frenchies is challenging and risky.
For example, I have a series of protocols customized specifically for bulldogs that include specially customized anesthetic drug combinations, providing oxygen before anesthesia, and strict monitoring before, during, and after the procedure.
Not all French bulldogs will require surgery, but their flat faces can lead to other conditions that involve consistent maintenance, including skinfold, eye and eyelid, dental, and ear diseases. Routine ear cleaning and wiping can help prevent chronic and end-stage ear disease.
What’s more, antiseptic skinfold wipes, lotions, and rinses can help address skinfold moist dermatitis, which can develop on the face, nose, tail, vagina, and toes.
Frenchies can still be healthy dogs
Elevating dog food bowls can help prevent your Frenchie from regurgitating their meals.
Dr. Roy Kraemer
Some older statistics suggest Frenchies only live an average of 6 to 8 years. But in my experience, with the improvement of preventive care, wellness, and medicine, the average French bulldog may live 11 to 12 years.
Frenchies can absolutely be active: They can play, jog, and hike like other dog breeds. In fact, I’ve treated French bulldogs who competed in local fundraising physical activities, like Cherie the Surf Dog who raises funds for French Bulldog Rescue.
The key to ensuring the health of your Frenchie lies in being an educated and committed owner.
Start by finding a vet knowledgeable with Frenchies, getting pet insurance, and making sure the policy doesn’t discriminate against bulldog breeds. This is especially important if you buy your Frenchie, instead of adopting from a rescue group, as most rescued dogs will see a vet before they’re ready for adoption.
It’s also important to stay on top of parasite prevention and vaccinations and schedule regular wellness visits, which can help catch common Frenchie health problems and potentially reduce the need for drugs, expensive medical care, and risky surgeries.
I also recommend using a slow feeder and elevating their feeding bowls, which can help control aspiration pneumonia and a common Frenchie condition called megaesophagus, where a pocket in the esophageal wall collects food before it reaches the stomach, causing dogs to regurgitate.
Pureeing their food or soaking kibble in water to soften it can also keep food from getting trapped in the megaesophagus.
I share free content to help Frenchie owners and vets
There just aren’t enough veterinarians with bulldog experience. Despite treating thousands of bulldogs, I still receive countless cries for help from bulldog owners, both nationwide and globally.
On my website, Vet4Bulldog, my YouTube channel, Facebook, and Instagram, you’ll find plenty of guidance dedicated to educating and helping new and current bulldog owners. I also offer a monthly bully newsletter and a customized bully therapeutic product line for preventive care and wellness.