French bulldogs, one of the world’s most popular dog breeds, are playful, smart, and adaptable. They also have a reputation for being more high-maintenance (though great with kids and families) due to their anatomy and breed-specific needs, including their dietary requirements.
In this article, we’ll dive into French bulldogs’ dietary needs, common health concerns, and tips to support your pup’s health as a Frenchie parent.
Understanding a French Bulldog’s Dietary Needs
Frenchies tend to have more dietary restrictions and requirements than other dog breeds. Thanks to their small size and shorter snouts, they can have difficulty eating and don’t need nearly as many calories as other breeds do.
French bulldogs are a small breed, only growing to approximately 13 inches tall and under 28 pounds. Because of their size, they gain weight easily, so it’s important to prioritize portion control. Depending on your Frenchie’s age and activity level, you should aim for around 25-35 calories per pound of body weight.
French bulldogs have been bred over the years to have a shorter snout, which can have a big impact on how they swallow. Inbreeding has also caused Frenchies to have smaller windpipes and larger tongues, which makes it harder for them to swallow food.
So it’s important to choose the right kind of food — and food and water bowls — to accommodate your Frenchie’s snout structure.
Common Health Concerns in French Bulldogs
There are certain health issues that French bulldogs' owners should know about and take precautions against. These include brachycephalic respiratory syndrome, hip dysplasia, skin issues, obesity, digestive issues, spinal disorders, and allergies.
Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome
As we mentioned earlier, short snouts in dogs can lead to health issues, including brachycephalic respiratory syndrome. This syndrome refers to a particular set of upper airway abnormalities that affect brachycephalic dogs’ airflow.
Frenchies with brachycephalic respiratory syndrome are more susceptible to respiratory crises like restricted airflow and heat dissipation, respiratory arrest, tracheal collapse, and heat stroke. Feeding a pup with this syndrome food that is too large for them to handle may make their condition worse.
Hip dysplasia is a degenerative skeletal disorder seen in many dog breeds where the ball and socket of the hip joint isn’t formed correctly. This condition can impact French bulldogs from as young as five months old. A dog with hip dysplasia may have difficulty walking, an abnormal walking pattern, pain when walking, or immobility.
Diet can have an impact on both the development of hip dysplasia and ongoing treatment of the condition. One study finds that the risk of hip dysplasia increases when puppies are fed as much as they want rather than a controlled diet.
People recognize French bulldogs by their smushy faces and skin folds, but these adorable attributes can also lead to skin problems. Some conditions include skin fold dermatitis, pyoderma, hot spots, and canine acne. You can manage or prevent these conditions with proper grooming and hygienic care, but diet can also impact the severity of skin issues.
Though skin issues usually arise due to skin folds holding onto moisture or bacteria, French bulldogs with a diet high in allergenic ingredients can have more complex skin concerns.
Prone to Obesity
Like many small dog breeds, French bulldogs tend to become overweight or obese, which is why weight management is vital.
In particular, French bulldogs are not as active as other dogs, so they need even fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. A healthy weight will support quality of life and lessen the risk of joint problems, back pain, and heart disease.
French bulldogs often have more sensitive stomachs than other dog breeds. Stomach sensitivities can lead to indigestion, flatulence, diarrhea, and vomiting. Frenchies are also prone to stress and anxiety, which can cause digestive issues.
To support your pup’s healthy digestion, try to keep the food they eat as clean and balanced as possible. This includes avoiding table scraps, food that is high in processed ingredients (like meat meals), and extremely fatty foods.
Spinal disorders are another health problem common among French bulldogs. Frenchies are more likely than other dog breeds to have hemivertebrae at birth, a congenital spinal malformation that causes deformed vertebrae.
Spinal disorders in dogs can also lead to neurological conditions, such as brain herniation. Symptoms of neurological conditions can include abnormal walking, head tilting or leaning, loss of balance, unusual eye movement, general confusion, and seizures. If your pup experiences any of these, take them to your nearest emergency vet.
A combination of French bulldogs’ anatomy, genetic predisposition, and short coats puts them at risk of allergies. From a food perspective, Frenchie’s have sensitive stomachs already, so the chances of food intolerances are higher. Many proteins are common offenders when it comes to food allergies.
On the environmental side, Frenchies will be exposed to more allergens through their shorter coats. That fact, combined with their skin folds, can make environmental allergies worse. Some environmental allergens can include dust and dust mites, mold spores, pollen, weeds, and grass.
Nutrient Breakdown: What To Look For in a Healthy French Bulldog Diet
Though French bulldogs commonly have more health issues than other dog breeds, there are ways to mitigate some of them through a balanced and nutrient-rich diet.
A healthy weight can be a great place to start. Ideally, a French bulldog should have a prominent waistline and ribs that are ever-so-slightly visible. A diet low in carbohydrates and fat and rich in high-quality protein can support a healthy Frenchie.
Protein will give your pup the energy they need on a daily basis, as well as help support their cognitive functioning. But not all sources of protein are the same.
Look for lean, whole-meat proteins or minimally-processed, non-animal protein sources as the first ingredient in their food. This could include whole, deboned chicken, beef, venison, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and whole grains.
Fat and protein go hand in hand to support your pup’s energy and cognition. Since Frenchies are a smaller breed, you should incorporate fats in moderation and ideally only when they are high-quality.
Consider ingredients like lean chicken fat or beef fat, eggs, fish and fish oil, and flaxseed and hemp seed oils that provide plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Carbs are another essential nutrient group to incorporate into your Frenchie’s diet to support their health. Similar to fat, though, French bulldogs don’t require a ton of carbs — too many will cause weight gain. Look for clean carbs with high nutritional value, like whole grains, sweet potatoes, peas, and brown rice.
Foods or Ingredients To Avoid in a Healthy Diet For a French Bulldog
There are good ingredients and not-so-good ingredients when it comes to crafting a diet for your French bulldog. Some foods and ingredients to avoid include common allergens, artificial additives, and high-fat ingredients.
Though not every dog will react to common allergens, if your pup is prone to allergies or skin conditions, it may be best to avoid commonly problematic ingredients.
These include beef, dairy, wheat, soy, gluten, corn, pork, eggs, and rice. However, virtually any food ingredient can cause an allergic reaction, so when in doubt, check with your vet.
Artificial Colors, Preservatives, or Flavors
As a general rule, avoid artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors when choosing dog food for your Frenchie. Artificial ingredients are unnecessary and can trigger allergies.
A common reaction to artificial preservatives is stomach upset, and since French bulldogs often have sensitive stomachs, it’s best to avoid them as much as possible. Instead, look for natural, minimally processed dog foods full of veggies and antioxidants.
High Fat Content
The number one risk of high-fat content in a dog’s diet is obesity. If your dog gets too much fat content and has a low activity level, they will store that fat rather than use it for energy.
A Frenchie puppy may need a little bit more fat in their diet than an adult or senior dog to support their rapid growth. But generally speaking, no more than 13.8% of a dog’s daily calories should come from fat, according to the AAFCO. Consult your vet to learn if a low-fat diet is best for your Frenchie.
The Honest Kitchen’s Food Selection for French Bulldog Health
While all the nutritional needs of French bulldogs might seem overwhelming, we recommend turning to The Honest Kitchen. Our high-quality, great-tasting recipes are a great solution to give your pup a balanced diet that supports their overall health and well-being.
But don’t forget to slowly transition your Frenchie to their new food to help avoid any upset tummies and other digestive issues. You should also take into account your dog’s size and activity levels to determine the right portion sizes and feeding frequency.
Read about other Frenchie parents’ experiences with human grade dog food from The Honest Kitchen.
Limited Ingredient Grain Free Dehydrated Dog Food
The Honest Kitchen’s Limited Ingredient Grain Free food has just six gently and slowly dehydrated quality ingredients to maintain taste and nutrient density.
It comes in low-carb and hypoallergenic-friendly beef, fish, and turkey varieties, which can support healthy weight, skin, and coats.
Whole Grain Fish and Oat Dehydrated Dog Food
For a low-fat food option for your French bulldog, look no further than The Honest Kitchen’s Whole Grain Fish and Oat Dehydrated recipe. In addition to wild-caught white fish, this recipe also features non-GMO, whole grain organic barley and oats.
Similar to the limited-ingredient food recipes, this recipe contains slowly dehydrated ingredients to ensure all the good stuff stays in the food. Plus, the ingredients are easy on the digestive system and can help support your pup’s immune system.
Gourmet Grains Beef and Salmon Dehydrated Dog Food
The final dehydrated dog food we recommend for French bulldogs is The Honest Kitchen’s Gourmet Grains Beef and Salmon Dehydrated dog food. This low-fat option includes nutrient-rich ingredients like ranch-raised beef, wild-caught salmon, organic oats, and quinoa.
Instead of filler ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy, this recipe includes flavorful, slowly dehydrated bone broth for an added boost of vitamins and healthy fat.
Hip and Joint Pour Over Topper
Beyond dry food options, The Honest Kitchen also offers functional pour-overs, which can either be added to your dog’s dry or dehydrated food or given as a tasty treat. We recommend the Hip and Joint Pour-Over to support French bulldogs’ mobility at any life stage.
The topper includes cage-free chicken simmered in a bone broth reduction. These ingredients ensure an extra helping of EPA and DHA in your pup’s diet to support their hip and joint health.
Grain Free Beef Clusters for Small Breeds Dog Food
If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional kibble dry dog foods, we recommend The Honest Kitchen’s Grain Free Beef Clusters for Small Breeds. This recipe features a smaller kibble size to support small dogs’ mouths and digestive systems.
The Grain Free Beef Clusters also leave out grains and instead include peas, potatoes, and lentils as sources of healthy, digestible carbohydrates that can sustain your pup.
Give Your Frenchie a Healthy Diet With The Honest Kitchen
The Honest Kitchen offers human grade dog food options without artificial preservatives, by-products, fillers, GMO ingredients, corn, wheat, or soy. Instead, we use healthy, nutrient-rich whole food ingredients to support a well-rounded diet that’s ideal for French bulldogs.
Learn more and explore our full collection of dog foods, from wet, dry, and dehydrated options to fun treats and supplements!*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.