French bulldogs are undeniably cute, funny, and endearing. People love them so much that they’ve jumped to the top of the American Kennel Club’s list of popular dog breeds. The Veterinary Vision Center team also loves French bulldogs, but they often come into our office for treatment of genetic eye conditions. Here is a list of common Frenchie eye issues and what they could mean for your furry pal.

Cataracts in French bulldogs

French bulldogs may carry a gene mutation that causes cataracts—opaque areas on the eye’s lens—to begin forming shortly after birth. The cataracts can progress and cause impaired vision or blindness by 2 to 3 years of age. Once cataracts cause blindness, only surgery can restore vision, but some pet owners choose to manage the condition medically. Anti-inflammatory eye drops and frequent monitoring are important with or without surgery to prevent cataract complications, such as glaucoma.

Distichiasis in French bulldogs

Distichiae are extra eyelashes that grow from the eyelid margin rather than the eyelid skin. These extra hairs typically grow toward, rather than away from, the eye like regular lashes. Fine distichiae usually don’t cause problems, but coarse hairs rub on the cornea and lead to chronic inflammation and ulcers. Plucking the hairs provides temporary relief, but they will continue to grow back. Long-term relief requires surgery to freeze and permanently disable the hair follicles.

Entropion in French bulldogs

Entropion is a problem with the eyelid length or shape that causes the lid margin to roll inward and allows eyelashes and hair to rub on the cornea. Like distichiasis, entropion can cause chronic inflammation and ulcers and requires surgery for permanent correction. Because surgery is appropriate only when the pup is full-grown, temporary procedures, which may include eyelid tacking or eyelid filler injections, are often performed on young puppies to provide relief and prevent corneal scarring in the meantime. 

Persistent pupillary membranes in French bulldogs

Persistent pupillary membranes (PPM) are tissue strands or sheets in the front eye chamber. PPMs arise from blood vessels present during fetal development that don’t disappear a few weeks after birth as they should. Instead, the remnants form tissue that bridges the pupil opening (i.e., iris to iris), from the iris to the cornea, or from the iris to the lens. PPMs don’t usually cause problems, although they may result in small opacities on the lens or cornea, or the tissue may form sheets that obstruct and impair vision in severe cases. In most cases, PPMs don’t cause discomfort or require treatment.

Retinal dysplasia in French bulldogs

Retinal dysplasia is abnormal development of the retina, the tissue layer lining the back of the eye. The retina contains cells that detect light signals that they transmit to the optic nerve, which means vision requires a functional retina. Some French bulldogs have abnormal folding in their retinal tissue, which is the mildest form of retinal dysplasia, but they typically have normal vision and don’t require treatment.

Recognizing eye disorders in French bulldogs

Genetic eye disorders usually cause problems for puppies only in their first few months, so ensure you take your French bulldog for all their scheduled puppy veterinary visits to monitor their development. If your puppy develops an abnormal eye appearance or you notice vision changes, schedule a visit with our veterinary ophthalmology specialty team for a complete evaluation. 

Frenchie owners should also be aware that brachycephalic breeds (i.e., short-nosed) are prone to corneal ulcerations and injuries because of their eye shape and reduced surface sensitivity. An injured cornea can become infected and quickly progress, possibly requiring surgical repair. Report all eye health changes to your veterinarian right away.

You can reduce your French bulldog’s chances of suffering from a genetic eye health issue by purchasing them from a responsible breeder who performs appropriate genetic testing on parents to ensure healthy offspring. However, genetic inheritance patterns can be unpredictable, so even the most well-bred Frenchie may suffer from eye disease.

French bulldog owners who notice changes in their pup’s eyes, including redness, squinting, tearing, mucoid discharge, or reduced vision, should schedule a prompt visit with Veterinary Vision Center or their primary veterinarian.