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Genetic Health Testing for French Bulldogs

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French Bulldog Puppies

Embark for Breeders offers four breed-specific genetic health tests for the French Bulldog among the 210+ genetic health conditions for which Embark tests. Breeders can easily share breed-specific DNA test results on parents or puppies with the one-page DNA Health Summary report offered with Embark test results.  

Genetic health testing is an integral part of a responsible dog breeding program. When using genetic health testing it is important for breeders to educate themselves about concepts such as modes of inheritance, penetrance, prevalence, and phenotype for a specific variant (mutation) in your breed in order to apply test results. Breeders also need to know which variants are causing health concerns in their breed, and which health conditions currently have no genetic test available. This handy search function by breed or by health condition can show breeders which DNA tests Embark provides. 

Embark DNA tests for the French Bulldog include the following conditions. The health condition percentages based on clear, carrier, and at-risk status presented on common, rare, and very rare genetic risk factors are based on a subset of dogs within the Embark database and do not necessarily represent all dogs of this breed. While we are not able to provide specific population numbers at this time, we believe the data provided here to be sufficient to inform on current trends within the North American population of French Bulldogs. 

Common genetic health risk factors <95% clear rate

These are the most common genetic conditions based on Embark data, ranked from most to least prevalent, in the French Bulldog with less than 95% of dogs testing clear. 

Chondrodystrophy and Intervertebral Disc Disease, CDDY/IVDD, Type I IVDD

Type I Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a back or neck issue affecting the discs that act as cushions between vertebrae (the bones of the spine). With Type I IVDD, affected dogs can have an event where the disc ruptures or herniates towards the spinal cord. This pressure on the spinal cord causes neurologic signs which can range from pain to a wobbly gait to paralysis. Chondrodystrophy (CDDY) refers to the relative proportion between a dog’s legs and body, wherein the legs are shorter and the body longer. 

There are multiple different variants that can cause a markedly chondrodystrophic appearance as observed in Dachshunds and Corgis. However, this particular variant is the only one known to also increase the risk for IVDD. The gene is ​​FGF4 and the mode of inheritance is dominant. 

Many dog breeds, due to human selection for a desired appearance (phenotype), have a high frequency of this variant in the FGF4 retrogene, meaning most or all Frenchies have at least one copy of the variant. Therefore, breeding decisions cannot be made solely based on this variant in these breeds.

  • Based on Embark-tested French Bulldogs that have opted into research, here’s a snapshot of the breed today: 3.6% of dogs tested clear, 67.74% tested at-risk, homozygote, dominant and 28.66% at risk, heterozygote, dominant for Chondrodystrophy and Intervertebral Disc Disease, CDDY/IVDD, Type I IVDD 
Citations: Brown et al 2017 Batcher et al 2019

Progressive Retinal Atrophy, crd4/cord1 (RPGRIP1)

PRA-CRD4/cord1 is a retinal disease that causes progressive, non-painful vision loss over a 1-2 year period. The retina contains cells, called photoreceptors, that collect information about light and send signals to the brain. There are two types of photoreceptors: rods, for night vision and movement, and cones, for day vision and color. This type of PRA leads to early loss of cone cells, causing day blindness before night blindness. The gene is RPGRIP1 (Exon 2) and the mode of inheritance is recessive. Research into this variant’s affect on this breed is ongoing, as some breeds seem to be clinically unaffected. Frenchie owners are encouraged to fill out Embark’s Annual Health Survey to characterize the variant in Frenchies. 

  • Based on Embark-tested French Bulldogs that have opted into research, here’s a snapshot of the breed today: 84.72% of dogs tested clear, 14.43% tested carriers, and 0.85% tested at-risk for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, crd4/cord1 (RPGRIP1)
Citations: Mellersh et al 2006

Canine Multifocal Retinopathy, cmr1 (BEST1 Exon 2)

This is a non-progressive retinal disease that, in rare cases, can lead to vision loss. Dogs with larger retinal lesions can suffer from vision loss. CMR is fairly non-progressive; new lesions will typically stop forming by the time a dog is an adult, and some lesions will even regress with time. The gene is BEST1/VMD2 (Exon 2) and the mode of inheritance is recessive. 

  • Based on Embark-tested French Bulldogs that have opted into research, here’s a snapshot of the breed today: 90.75% of dogs tested clear, 8.93% tested carriers, and 0.31% tested at-risk for Canine Multifocal Retinopathy, cmr1 (BEST1 Exon 2). 
Citations: Guziewicz et al 2007 Hoffman et al 2012 

Very rare genetic health risk factors >99% clear rate

The following genetic conditions have a greater than 99% clear rate and are considered very rare genetic diseases in the French Bulldog. 

Hyperuricosuria and Hyperuricemia or Urolithiasis, HUU (SLC2A9)

This condition causes kidney and bladder stones composed of urate. In most dogs, uric acid is converted to allantoin, an inert substance that is then excreted in the urine. Dogs with HUU have defects in the pathway that converts uric acid to allantoin. As such, uric acid builds up, crystallizes and forms urate stones in the kidney and bladder. Once bladder stones develop, surgical removal is typically required. While hyperuricemia in other species (including humans) can lead to painful conditions such as gout, dogs do not develop systemic signs of hyperuricemia. The gene is SLC2A9 and the mode of inheritance is recessive. 

Citations: Bannasch et al 2008 Karmi et al 2010 Donner et al 2016

With four known conditions in the French Bulldog, this is evidence that genetic disorders are of concern within the breed and other conditions are likely to be identified in the future. By DNA testing your French Bulldog with Embark you can help accelerate more novel discoveries to help your breed and all dogs. 

Canine Health and Breed Resources 

French Bulldog Club of America

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)

OFA Canine Health Information Center (CHIC)

OFA-CHIC Health Testing Requirements for the French Bulldog

Mandatory

Hip Dysplasia 

Eye Examination 

Patellar Luxation

Cardiac Evaluation

Optional but recommended 

Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Elbow Dysplasia

Tracheal Hypoplasia

Genetic health testing is not a diagnosis of a disease. Please consult your veterinarian for any health issues with your dog. To start your DNA testing journey, breeders can select from a variety of Embark for Breeders Dog DNA Kits. 

 

Lisa Peterson Contributor

Award-winning writer, journalist, and podcast host, Lisa Peterson, is a canine subject matter expert and Senior Content Strategist, Breeder/Veterinarian at Embark Veterinary. She served as the American Kennel Club director of communications and club communications for 10 years before becoming a Westminster Kennel Club public relations consultant from 2016 to 2021. Lisa began owning, breeding, and handling Norwegian Elkhounds more than 35 years ago, and today is an AKC judge and AKC Breeder of Merit.

Read more about Lisa Peterson

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