Preventing Health Problems in

French Bulldogs




Please remember when choosing a breeder the color of a dog should not be the focus. The overall health and longevity should be foremost. 

All French Bull Dogs parents should be examined for hip disease and other diseases. Choosing the institute is up to the breeder.  The BVA (British Veterinary Association), PennHip, OVC (Ontario Veterinarian College) , FCI or OFA.  We have worked with a few of these. Many institutes due exams when the dog is one year of age. This is to help differentiate between genetic and environmental problems.

We concentrate on the major health issues in the French Bull Dogs. Pennhip Hip, Patella, Eyes, Heart, Thyroid, Genetics 

There are many opinions with breeding. I want to help explain to buyers the differences. 

Hips: Recommended Tests OFA- Buy OFA or Pennhip

PennHip VS OFA

For those unfamiliar with the Pennhip Hip process we offer some background on their methodology. 

  • A PennHip evaluation not only reports as dysplastic those dogs with bone and cartilage abnormalities like OFA but takes it a step further and also points to the risk of the dog developing such radiographic signs later. 

  • While PennHip does measure laxity, it also looks at the integrity of the joint for dysplasia.

  • Veterinarians who wish to submit films to PennHip are required to be trained in the techniques and to be certified. This assures that standard protocols will be used in obtaining the films and helps insure accurate data.

  • Pennhip can Evaluate as young as 16 weeks of age.   Every dog as they get older will develop some wear and tear of the joints. It has great potential to lower the frequency of canine hip dysplasia (CHD) when used as a selection criterion.

  • The distraction index assigned to each hip joint is based on precise measurements and mathematical calculations.

  • The distraction index assigned to each hip is a number which tells us how loose the ligament is holding femur into the acetabulum. This is to predict future problems. You can have a .60 in an Excellent, Good or Fair hip reading from the OFA. This number is future prediction. It is not saying the dog has dysplastic hips. If the dog actually has dysplastic hips it is also noted in the report. This is very important because if the ligament is to loose it will not matter what the hip is rated at ( Excellent , Good, Fair by OFA) the movement will cause Osteo Arthritis.

  • Pennhip includes hip-extended position, compression and distraction radiographic views.  (Which is three views in comparison to one view used by OFA.)

Pennhip's downside is that the cost is higher, vet's must be certified to preform with special training and are not as assessable all over. 

The Distraction Index (DI), as determined by the PennHIP method, is the most reliable indicator of future hip osteoarthritis.  A study of large breed dogs showed that the distraction index stayed the same over time (within acceptable statistical limits) and was much more reliable over time than other methods such as the Norberg angle and the OFA scoring method. This is because no other company takes the ligament and movement into account. PennHip has taken it one step farther.  . 

Hip Dysplasia is a degenerative joint disease which leads to Osteo Arthritis. There are many causes of degenerative joint disease, such as trauma, abnormal wear and tear on the joint and cartilage, excessive weight and improperly formed joint's. Pennhip vs OFA 

In layman's turn to help you understand  PennHIP looks at the Cup/Saucer however evaluates how much movement "in" (Compression) and "out" (Distraction) of the socket there is.  In other words - Does the ball (femoral head) STAY in the socket (acetabulum). This in turn causing less wear and tear reducing degenerative joint disease which leads to Osteo Arthritis. If the anchor (ligament) is to loose and the hip socket by OFA is deep (Let's say Excellent) it doesn't really matter, the ball (femoral head) will have abnormal wear and tear on the joint and cartilage, leading to Osteo Arthritis in the future.  The opposite, if the anchor (ligament) is very short and very tight and the ball (femoral head) is sitting inside more of a saucer instead of a cup. The dog will have less abnormal wear and tear on the joint and cartilage. This is because although a shallower cup the ligament keeps it seated and secure. Promise Land does consider the OFA score, obviously you need to see the depth of the cup/saucer and does take this into account, however shallow or deep we want to make sure the ligament will hold the head of the femur in place, reducing wear and tear on the joint's. In turn reducing the chances of  future Osteo Arthritis. With the ability to reduce the wear and tear on the joint's you can reduce hip problems in the Golden Retriever which could not be achieved previously.  


For those unfamiliar with the OFA Hip process we offer some background on their methodology.


The majority of the challenges with using OFA we’ve researched (and we seldom find challenges against PennHip).

  • The film taker did not lined up the dog’s hips correctly.

  • The films quality taken depends on the skill of the one taking them.

  • OFA is unregulated for training of person taking film.

  • Tests comparing positioning shows that one image hip-extended position used by OFA tends to drive the femoral head into the socket, masking the amount of laxity and artificially improving the look of the hip joint. 

  • One radiologist may disagree with another and may even contradict themselves.

  • X-rays are examined by three radiologists who report their findings to OFA-Copied from the OFA sight- One radiologist reported Excellent, one Good, one Fair—the final grade would be Good. So which radiologist was correct?????I have to ask myself. 

The good points of  OFA-Easily assessable (any vet with x-ray equipment), cost low and  better than no test at all.

They gives us a basic idea of cup depth and if the dog currently has dysplastic hips. 

OFA Radiologists assess to see developed hip joint such as how deep the cup (acetabulum) is that the ball (femoral head) sits in. With OFA, they want to see a deep cup (acetabulum) with the ball (femoral head) down deep inside it. Obviously this is important - if you are trying to take something with you down the bumpy road of life, it is better to take it in a "cup" than a "saucer". This gives the radiologist the score of  Excellent, Good and Fair.

Here comes another problem with the reading you get from OFA, they give us the basic cup depth but no assessment as to what is happening with the anchor (Ligament) that holds the ball in the cup or the saucer.   We know that if the anchor (Ligament) is to loose it create's extreme movement causing greater wear and tear.  It is great if you get an idea of the cup depth and I do give them credit but that doesn't provide a way for a breeder to see if  the ball will stay in the Cup/Saucer. As many as 80% of dogs evaluated as “normal” by the OFA were found to have hip laxity by PennHIP testing that predisposed them to developing hip osteoarthritis in the future. This gives a breeder pause to think about. 

A study done of OFA's findings determined there is "substantial bias in OFA database, which causes lower estimates of prevalence of CHD." Additional research has determined that " OFA scoring of HE radiographs underestimated susceptibility to osteoarthritis in dogs, which may impede progress in reducing or eliminating hip dysplasia through breeding." The specifics of both studies can be read in the Abstracts listed as reported in the Journal American Veterinary Medical Association. Prevalence of CHD may be much higher than previously reported in the United States.

The JAVMA reported in their February 2005 issue:

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
February 1, 2005, Vol. 226, No. 3, Pages 387-392
doi: 10.2460/javma.2005.226.387



Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
September 1, 2010, Vol. 237, No. 5, Pages 532-541
doi: 10.2460/javma.237.5.532

At this point PennHIP is known to be the most accurate test of future hip osteoarthritis. There is more information on the PennHip website.  After researching articles and looking at our clearances of dogs we have bred over the years from our 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation lines. We believe that PennHip vs. OFA for our program leaves PennHip winning hands down. Our goal has always been to continue to maintain and improve the health of the Golden Retriever with an emphasis on improving the hip scores of the adults in our breeding program in order to produce the healthiest puppies possible.


The PennHIP method has been adopted by several countries and is gaining wide spread interest internationally as it grows in the USA.  Promise Land began learning about and using the Pennhip around 2011 before it was excepted by OFA and listed on a open data bank for the public. Although we have been ridiculed by breeders only wanting to stick with the basic OFA principles. Many breeders are coming around to a broader knowledge base and are now able to make great strides in there breeding programs.  We thank our vets in guiding us along with their advise. . 

Originally OFA wouldn't post Pennhip or Foreign Registers Clearances results due to it was done by competing companies. This lead people to make accusations against many breeders that weren't true. You will see this with our own older dogs around the 2011- 2013 time frame. Since the results couldn't be placed on open websites they must not be real. Since buyers had no way of knowing this many breeders went out of business.  In actuality many breeders were trying to switch to Pennhip due to it was more accurate. There was a division of breeders doing clearances at this time frame. Promise Land still relies on the Pennhip results for our dogs hips. 


OFA has recently changed and is now excepting the result's from the other countries BVA, OVC, FCI and PennHIP.  We for one are grateful to OFA that now more results can be on a open data bank and have gone back to them. There is no reason with new dogs entering programs that the results can't be placed on a open data bank for buyers.

We understand breeders that this cost money to register Pennhip or Foreign Clearances with OFA. However the cost is small when considering breeding genetic abnormalities in your puppies and rechecking your breeding dogs health. There is no longer a excuse to not register your results no matter where they came from.

Elbows: This is considered a optional test by OFA for French Bull Dogs.

Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow. Three specific etiologies make up this disease and they can occur independently or in conjunction with one another. These etiologies include:

  • Pathology involving the medial coronoid of the ulna (FCP)

  • Osteochondritis of the medial humeral condyle in the elbow joint (OCD)

  • Ununited anconeal process (UAP)

Patella: Recommended Tests OFA

The patella, or kneecap, is part of the stifle joint (knee). In patellar luxation, the kneecap luxates, or pops out of place, either in a medial or lateral position. Bilateral involvement is most common, but unilateral is not uncommon. Animals can be affected by the time they are eight weeks of age. The most notable finding is a knock-knee (genu valgum) stance. The patella is usually reducible, and laxity of the medial collateral ligament may be evident. The medial retinacular tissues of the stifle joint are often thickened, and the foot can be seen to twist laterally as weight is placed on the limb.

Tracheal Hyoplasia: All Bulldog Breds can Suffer from-This is considered a optional test by OFA for French Bull Dogs.

Hypoplasia means underdeveloped or smaller than normal. In dogs suffering from trachea hypo - plasia, the windpipe is often less than two times the width of the third rib where they cross.OFA radiographic evaluation for Tracheal Hypoplasia.

Why genetic testing????  Why have we incorporated this into our breeding process in recent years.......

Understanding and paying attention to hereditary diseases can prevent problems in offspring.

A example: The parents may be cleared by a ophthalmologist.  The parent's may never have a problem with an eye exam. That doesn't mean that your puppy can not go blind. Surprised?   The reason.......There are genetic traits if not matched up correctly between the SIRE and DAM will cause a genetic abnormality in their offspring. These are all separate genetic eye disorders and will not affect each other.  

Progressive retinal atrophy - crd4/cord1, PRA-cord1, PRA-crd4, PRA-crd4/cord1: Recessive

Progressive retinal Atrophy, cone-Rod dystrophy 4 (PRA-crd4) is an inherited eye disease affecting dogs. PRA-crd4 occurs as a result of degeneration of both rod and cone type Photoreceptor Cells of the Retina, which are important for vision in dim and bright light, respectively. Affected dogs can show symptoms of vision loss or have signs of retinal disease on veterinary ophthalmologic exam by 3 years of age. However, age of onset varies significantly in PRA-crd4 affected dogs, and has been reported from 1 to 15 years of age. Mutations in the RPGRIP1 gene show Incomplete Penetrance, meaning that not all dogs inheriting two copies of the Mutation develop clinical disease. This suggests that other unknown genetic or environmental factors may play a role in modifying disease development and progression. Although progression tends to be relatively slow, most affected dogs (especially those with an early age of onset) will progress to complete blindness.

Canine multifocal retinopathy BEST1/VMD2: Recessive

Multifocal Retinopathy 1 is an inherited disorder of the Retina affecting several breeds of dog. Affected dogs typically present between 11 and 16 weeks of age with multiple discrete circular areas of retinal detachment with underlying fluid accumulation that are visible on an eye exam performed by a veterinarian. These blister-like lesions are typically found in both eyes and can appear gray, tan, orange or pink and vary in number, size and location. Progression of retinal changes is usually slow and new lesions are not noted after 6 to 12 months of age. Occasionally as affected dogs age, lesions appear to heal and are no longer visible on an eye exam. Generally the dog’s vision is not affected although vision loss has been described in some cases of multifocal retinopathy 1.

Eye test recommended

There is some confusion about Cataracts.

To explain cataracts there are many kind the above test is only for the Hereditary kind.

On a ophthalmologist eye exam you may get an idea whether they suspect a cataract is genetic or not, however there is no genetic test to prove this per researchers. There is the belief that the inherited type is more common for both eyes to be affected and on the triangle of the back of the eye.  After speaking to several genetic labs they haven't determined the links to produce a genetic test.  Researchers haven't determined if cataracts are a recessive or dominant trait.  There are so many causes of cataracts that is why you will see many breeders still using a dog with a cataract for breeding. This is done in the USA and all over the world.


  • They can be a inherited condition although as of yet researchers haven't found if cataracts are a recessive or dominant trait.  There is no genetic test to eliminate.

  • Diabetes is a common and preventable cause.

  • The aging process of any dog can cause.

  • Drug toxicity and other underlying eye conditions.

  • Sodium Selenite is normal for cell function but in high doses can causes due to toxicity.

  • Trauma to the eye.

  • Electric shock.

  • Inflammation of the eye's uvea (uveitis).

  • Abnormally low levels of calcium in blood (hypocalcemia) at some point in the dogs life or poor diet.

Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs.

Brain and Spinal Cord (Neurologic) Recessive

Degenerative Myelopathy is an inherited neurologic disorder caused by a Mutation of the SOD1 gene known to be carried by French bulldogs. 

The white matter tracts of the spinal cord contain fibers that transmit movement commands from the brain to the limbs and sensory information from the limbs to the brain. Bulldogs are known to develop degenerative myelopathy associated with this mutation. DM, on its own, is not a painful disease.  This is a progressive degenerative disorder of the spinal cord that can cause muscle wasting and gait abnormalities.  The first signs of neural degeneration appear in the nerves that innervate the hind limbs. However, compensatory movements for a weak hind end can cause the dog to develop pain in other areas of his body such as his neck, shoulders, and front limbs. SYMPTOMS DM typically comes on slowly, almost imperceptibly. Promise Land does bred to prevent this.


Symptoms generally occur as follows:

  •   Initial

    • Loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs

    • Wobbling when walking and/or rear feet knuckling over or dragging

    • Mild hind end weakness such as difficulty in: walking up steps, squatting to defecate, getting into the


    •  Can first occur in one hind limb and then the other

  • Intermediate

    • Limbs become weak; dog begins to buckle and has difficulty standing

    • Weakness progresses until dog is unable to walk in the hind limbs

  •  Advanced

    • Loss of urinary and fecal continence

    • Weakness in front limbs

    • In general the dog will become near-paralysis of all four legs and widespread muscle wasting. 

Hyperuricosuria and Hyperuricemia: Recessive

Hyperuricosuria is an inherited condition of the urinary system affecting several breeds of dog. The SLC2A9 gene codes for a protein that allows the kidneys to transport uric acid from the urine. Dogs with mutations in both copies of the SLC2A9 gene are predisposed to have elevated levels of uric acid in the urine, hence the name hyperuricosuria. Uric acid can form crystals and/or stones (uroliths) in the urinary tract. Dogs with hyperuricosuria most commonly present with symptoms of recurrent urinary tract inflammation, which include frequent urination, blood in the urine, and straining to urinate. They may also have loss of appetite, lethargy, weakness, vomiting and pain. Urinary stones in the bladder can cause urinary tract infections or more seriously, blockage of the Urethra. Both male and female dogs can be affected, but obstruction of urine flow is more common in males due to differences in anatomy. Although an x-ray can be used to exclude other types of stones, urate stones cannot typically be seen using x-rays and must be evaluated by ultrasound. Not all dogs with mutations in both copies of the SLC2A9 gene will have symptoms of disease, though they will have increased uric acid excretion in the urine.

Chondrodystrophy with Intervertebral Disc Disease Risk Factor (CDDY with IVDD): Dominant

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is an inherited disease affecting many dog breeds. A severe form of IVDD is associated with a genetic mutation in the FGF4 gene on canine chromosome 12. This genetic mutation is also identified as one cause of the characteristic trait for short legs (chondrodystrophy) in some dog breeds. Dogs affected with IVDD have premature degeneration and calcification of the cartilage discs that connect the vertebrae and function as shock absorbers for the spine. In some cases, these degenerative changes result in cartilage weakness and subsequent herniation of the discs into the spinal cord, causing Hemorrhage and inflammation. Affected dogs present with a variety of neurological clinical signs including severe back pain, abnormal gait, loss of balance, and limb weakness or paralysis, often requiring surgical intervention. Affected dogs are at risk of experiencing disc herniations at multiple sites along their spine during their lifetime. Therefore, it is common for dogs which have been surgically treated for disc herniation to experience a herniation in another location of the spine later in life.

Heart Problems: Recommended Tests OFA one of these two tests:

Congenital Cardiac Exam - Echocardiagrams recommended but not required
Advanced Cardiac Exam - Echocardiograms recommended but not required

Congenital heart disease in dogs is a malformation of the heart or great vessels. The lesions characterizing congenital heart defects are present at birth and may develop more fully during perinatal and growth periods. Many congenital heart defects are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring; however, the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations. The most common congenital cardiovascular defects can be grouped into several anatomic categories. These anatomic diagnoses include:

  • Malformation of the atrioventricular valves

  • Malformation of the ventricular outflow leading to obstruction of blood flow

  • Defects of the cardiac septa (shunts)

  • Abnormal development of the great vessels or other vascular structures

  • Complex, multiple, or other congenital disorders of the heart, pericardium, or blood vessels

Spay or Neuter can be done earlier due this is a smaller breed.