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French Bulldog Allergies: What You Need to Know and How to Help

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French Bulldog Seasonal Allergies
This poor baby is suffering from Seasonal Allergies.
Credit 📸: @ThatGumboLife

Allergies are a common problem for French Bulldogs. As a veterinarian, I receive multiple inquiries regarding the causes of these allergies and the actions one can take if their dog develops them.

What are the different types of allergies in French Bulldogs, and how serious can they be? Should one take immediate action or not? 

I understand your concerns about allergies in your pets, and I believe it’s important to simplify this concept for better understanding.

In this article, you’ll discover various allergies that can affect French Bulldogs. You’ll learn about the signs and symptoms to look out for if your Frenchie develops any allergies and what you can do to address them effectively.

​​Please remember to consult with your veterinarian before implementing any treatment plan for your French Bulldog‘s allergies.

How Do French Bulldog Allergies Function?

When dogs have an allergy, their immune system becomes highly active, producing antibodies to fight usually harmless substances. These antibodies are proteins found in the blood. They are generated by the body to defend against specific antigens, like bacteria, viruses, or other foreign substances.

What Are The Common Food Allergies Impacting French Bulldogs?

Food Allergy In Bulldog & French Bulldog .Dr. Kraemer Vet4Bulldog
Food Allergy In Bulldog & French Bulldog Dr. Kraemer Vet4Bulldog

Food Allergy (FA) is defined as “all immune-mediated reactions following food intake,” in contrast with food intolerance (FI), which is non-immune-mediated. Since the body takes time to produce an immune-mediated reaction, food allergies can take months or years to show up.

In simpler words, the term food allergy is used when the immune system is involved. 

Food intolerance covers many adverse reactions to food that don’t involve the immune system. These reactions often look like food allergies, but you will usually observe these after initial exposure to a food or food additive. 

About two years ago, I treated Buzo, a labrador who had eaten two kilos of grapes! Yes, you read that right! 2 KILOS OF GRAPES! His family rushed him to the ER, and he had symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. He also developed a high creatinine value (a type of kidney function test). This is an example of food intolerance. Grapes are toxic to all dogs; if taken in large quantities, they react to it. 

Food allergies often arise from proteins found in the food. When a French Bulldog ingests and absorbs these proteins through the intestinal tract, they can activate an immune response that commonly leads to skin-related issues.

It’s important to note that some French Bulldogs may show additional symptoms like diarrhea, chronic vomiting, and decreased appetite. Remember that food allergies may take time to appear as the body produces antibodies against food proteins.

Here are several prevalent food allergens that provoke allergic responses in Frenchies:

  1. Beef
  2. Dairy
  3. Wheat 
  4. Chicken 
  5. Eggs
  6. Lamb
  7. Soy 
  8. Corn
  9. Pork
  10. Fish
  11. Rice
Common Foods Causing Allergies in French Bulldogs

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies in French Bulldogs?

  • Increased scratching 
  • Itchy, inflamed, moist, or scabby skin (generalized or otherwise)
  • Constant licking of various body parts
  • Red, itchy, and runny eyes and/or nose
  • Ear infections, inflamed and swollen ears 
  • Patchy hair loss along the neck and trunk
  • Excessive sneezing 
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

How To Diagnose a French Bulldog for Food Allergies?

The most accurate food allergy diagnosis method is feeding your Frenchie a hypoallergenic diet for about 8-12 weeks. This process is known as the elimination trial. 

The elimination diet must not contain any ingredients that your dog consumed in the past. During this trial, you should not feed your French Bulldog any other food, treats, or supplements. Changing the diet for 1-2 weeks won’t resolve any issue as the previous allergens must also get out of the system. Be sure not to quit halfway.

vet tips

If this trial resolves the allergy symptoms, you can slowly start introducing ingredients from their previous diet. This process is known as dietary rechallenge. If the symptoms return, your Frenchie certainly has a food allergy. 

If your dog’s symptoms don’t resolve with prescription diets, they potentially suffer from an environmental allergy. 

Getting a definitive allergy diagnosis is long, so you must hang in there for a while. 

Apart from that, a blood test is available to determine whether your dog has a food allergy. This test is known as RAST – Radioallergosorbent test

This test determines whether antibodies are being produced against specific antigens. Still, it doesn’t cover all antigens and is not entirely accurate. However, vets have obtained decent results with this test. 

There’s also Intra-dermal skin testing that one can request. We shall discuss this test in detail in the later sections of this article. 

How To Treat Food Allergies in French Bulldogs?

Allergies generally have no cure; the only way to prevent them is by avoiding allergens in dog food that cause them. If your canine has a severe allergy, your vet may prescribe a long course of medications to soothe the primary and secondary symptoms. 

These medications may or may not contain antibiotics, antacids, medicated shampoos, antihistamines, etc., based on the severity of your pet’s condition. 

However, to treat food allergies, most vets will suggest a change in diet. There are different hypoallergenic dog foods that one may start off with:

  1. Veterinary Hydrolyzed protein diet

Diets like Hill’s z/d and Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Diet belong to this category. What makes them stand out? Their proteins are meticulously broken down into tiny fragments, almost invisible to a dog’s immune system. 

These diets work stealthily to minimize immune reactions and provide relief for our beloved canines with food allergies.

  1. Veterinary Novel Protein Diet 

These diets don’t contain any ingredients that were present in your dog’s previous food. Some examples of this diet include Hill’s prescription diet d/d, Royal Canin Selected Protein PD, etc. 

  1. Home-Prepared Novel Protein Diet 

These diets are similar to veterinary novel protein diets except that they can be formulated at home under a vet’s guidance. These diets also need additional supplements to them. 

I would usually not recommend this diet as it is challenging to follow through, and many people forget to add the supplements, which leads to an incomplete diet. 

vet tips

What Are The Common Environmental Allergies Impacting French Bulldogs?

Environmental allergies, also known as seasonal allergies, are caused by substances like pollen, dust, mites, mold spores, or certain grasses or plants.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Environmental Allergies in French Bulldogs?

  1. Scratching/itchy skin
  2. Licking (especially the paws)
  3. Face rubbing 
  4. Inflamed or red skin
  5. Loss of fur
  6. Recurrent skin and/or ear infections.

You may see red skin or fur loss on your dog’s paws, lower legs, face, ears, armpits, and belly.

How To Diagnose Environmental Allergies in French Bulldogs?

Diagnosing environmental allergies in dogs involves a combination of methods. Some approaches that we as veterinarians use are:

  1. Physical Examination

The first step is a thorough physical examination of the dog. Your vet will look for any visible signs of allergic reactions, such as skin inflammation, redness, rashes, or ear infections.

french bulldog examination at vet image
Lola is being examined for a suspected Environmental allergy to pollen.
  1. Medical History: 

Your vet will gather information about your Frenchie’s medical history, including any previous allergic reactions, specific triggers, or seasonal patterns that may suggest environmental allergies.

  1. Elimination Diet: 

Similar to what we discussed in the food allergies section. Your vet may conduct this to rule out any potential food allergies that could be contributing to the symptoms. Still, if the history is clear, this is usually optional. 

  1. Allergy Testing:

Allergy testing can help identify the specific environmental allergens affecting the dog. There are two primary types of allergy tests:

a. Intradermal Skin Testing: This involves injecting small amounts of allergens into the skin and observing for localized reactions. It is considered the gold standard for diagnosing environmental allergies in dogs.

b. Blood Testing: Blood tests, such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or radioallergosorbent test (RAST), measure the levels of specific antibodies (IgE) against common allergens. 

While blood tests can provide some insights into potential allergens, they are generally considered less accurate than skin testing.

  1. Response to Treatment: 

Suppose a suspected environmental allergy is diagnosed based on physical examination and history and ruling other potential causes. In that case, your vet may prescribe a treatment plan. 

The response to specific treatments, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids, can help confirm the presence of environmental allergies.

How to Treat French Bulldogs with Environmental Allergies?:

If your little one still needs to undergo allergy testing, the treatment focuses on managing the symptoms. Your treatment options will include:

  1. Oral medications: 

Medications like Apoquel, Atopica, or antihistamines can be administered orally to reduce your dog’s allergy symptoms.

  1. Injectable medications:

Cytopoint is an injectable medication that can be given to alleviate allergic reactions in dogs.

  1. Fatty acids: 

Adding fatty acid supplements to your dog’s diet may help improve their skin condition and reduce itching.

  1. Steroids: 

In some cases, steroids may be prescribed to provide short-term relief from severe allergic symptoms. However, long-term use of steroids is discouraged by most vets due to the potential for significant side effects.

  1. Frequent bathing: 

Regular bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo can help soothe your dog’s skin and remove allergens from its coat.

If allergy testing has been performed and specific allergens have been identified, the ideal treatment involves avoiding those allergens. However, complete avoidance may be challenging as most dogs are allergic to multiple substances.

Another treatment option is immunotherapy, which involves administering an allergy vaccine. This can be done through allergy shots (injections under the skin) or oral immunotherapy. 

The goal of immunotherapy is to desensitize the immune system to allergens, reducing the dog’s reactivity over time.

It’s important to note that immunotherapy may take several months before improvements in symptoms are seen, and symptomatic treatment can be provided alongside it.

What Are The Common Contact Allergies Impacting French Bulldogs?

Some French Bulldogs possess delicate skin that can be susceptible to developing allergies. They may develop allergic reactions to substances that come into contact with their skin, such as certain fabrics, grooming products, cleaning agents, plants, or grass. 

What Are The  Signs and Symptoms of Contact Allergies in French Bulldogs?

  1. Severe itching, usually on sparsely haired regions of the groin and genital area (plants or carpets) and scrotum (floor detergents, cement, bleach)
  2. An itchy, red rash appearing 4-72 hours after contact
  3. Self-trauma and chronic inflammation may lead to the thickening and darkening of the skin in chronic cases

How to Diagnose Frenchies for Contact Allergies? 

The initial objective of your veterinarian is to identify the specific irritant causing the allergic reaction. There are several approaches to pinpointing the triggers:

  1. Patch test: This method involves applying the suspected substance onto a patch, which is then affixed to the skin for 48 hours. Any resulting reaction is subsequently evaluated.
  1. Environmental elimination: Another technique is temporarily removing the pet from the suspected environment and observing any changes or impacts upon reintroduction.

In addition, your veterinarian may conduct bacterial cultures to gather more information. They might take a hair sample from an unaffected area and expose it to the suspected antigen, carefully observing for potential reactions.

In some cases, skin biopsies may also be necessary to aid in diagnosis and treatment planning.

How to Treat French Bulldogs Contact Allergies?

The treatment approach for contact allergies is given below:

  1. Eliminate the causative substance(s): 

The first step is identifying and eliminating the substance or substances triggering dermatitis. The recovery process can begin once the irritant or allergen is identified and removed from your pet’s environment.

  1. Use hypoallergenic shampoos: 

Regular bathing with hypoallergenic shampoos can help remove any remaining antigens from your pet’s skin, reducing further exposure and potential reactions.

  1. Create mechanical barriers:

Create barriers to prevent your pet from accessing the offending environment if possible. This could involve keeping them away from certain areas or using physical barriers to restrict their contact with the trigger.

How to Manage and Live with a Frenchie Suffering from Contact Allergies?

Removing your pet from the environment causing the condition is the most crucial and challenging aspect. Suppose the dermatitis is a result of an irritant and not an allergy. In that case, recovery will be swift once the irritant is identified and eliminated. 

However, if the dermatitis is due to an allergy, it may have developed gradually over months or years. Suppose your pet is exposed to the allergen again. In that case, symptoms typically manifest within three to five days and may persist for weeks.

Suppose the specific allergen can be identified and removed from your pet’s environment. In that case, their health will likely return to normal within a few weeks. If the allergen remains unidentified, managing the symptoms with medications may be necessary for the rest of your pet’s life.

What Are The Most Common Insect Bite Allergies Faced By French Bulldogs?

Some French Bulldogs can exhibit heightened sensitivity to insect bites, especially those inflicted by fleas, ticks, or mosquitoes. Both humans and pets can be sensitive to the proteins in the saliva or venom of biting insects. 

Sensitivities can be innate or developed over time through repeated exposure to specific insect bites. Among Frenchies, the most common causes of insect bite reactions are bee stings, bites from spiders, fleas, and ticks.

Did you know?

I have been treating a Frenchie named Chop for a while now. He is two years old and is very, very sensitive to fleas. He is always on his flea-preventative medications, but his skin flares every 1-2 months. This happens especially when he travels with his father for either hikes or beach walks. It is possible that this allergy may also be combined with a contact allergy to grass. 

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Insect Bite Allergies in French Bulldogs? 

  1. Swelling and redness at the site of the bite 
  2. Hives or multiple red raised swellings all over the body 
  3. A swollen face or muzzle 
  4. Difficulty in breathing and vomiting 

How to Diagnose Insect Bites Allergies for Frenchies?

Diagnosing insect bite allergies in dogs relies on observing the clinical signs and considering the pet’s history regarding previous stings or bites. Additionally, in some instances, blood samples may be examined to assess the presence of eosinophils, which are white blood cells associated with various allergic reactions.

How to Treat French Bulldogs Insect Bites Allergies? 

The treatment approach for insect bite allergies in French bulldogs depends on factors such as the specific type of insect bite, the number of bites, and the severity of clinical signs. 

Generally, the treatment involves the following:

  1. Removal of insect parts: 

Suppose a stinger or other insect parts are present. In that case, they are typically removed to prevent further irritation and reduce the risk of infection.

  1. Antihistamines: 

Medications such as diphenhydramine, cetirizine, or loratadine, which are antihistamines, may be administered to alleviate allergic reactions and relieve itching.

  1. Anti-inflammatory agents: 

Corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone or prednisone, are commonly used as anti-inflammatory agents to reduce swelling, redness, and itching. They are administered as needed, depending on the severity of the allergic reactions.

  1. Supportive measures: 

In severe cases of systemic or anaphylactic shock, additional supportive measures are necessary. These may include intravenous fluids to maintain hydration, administration of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, oxygen therapy to support respiration, and in some cases, epinephrine (adrenaline) to counteract the severe allergic response. The patient’s electrolyte levels will be monitored, and a urinalysis may be performed to assess kidney function and urine output.

The Bottom Line

I hope this article resolves all your doubts about allergies in French bulldogs. I would, however, like to add that when it comes to treatment and diagnoses, different vets can have different approaches. There are many right ways to go about it. Every diagnostic and treatment plan can differ based on individual cases; however, as responsible French Bulldog owners, you should be aware of your options. 

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Chinar is a passionate veterinarian and book enthusiast. Her subjects of interest include veterinary medicine, anesthesiology, and critical care. She also enjoys writing about a wide range of topics related to pet care, health & well-being being her primary interest.