Frenchies are sensitive little creatures and are renowned for their weak stomachs and food intolerances. When we first got our French Bulldog puppy, food allergies and bad reactions after eating seemed to be a constant theme – he would puke all the time!
However, not all of this vomiting was due to a food allergy. But there was one certain brand dog food kibble that he was allergic to. He would come out in itchy hives and red patches before we are able to identify the problem with the help of our vet.
It’s said that as many of 15% of allergies in dogs are due to food intolerance, but they can be very hard to diagnose, particularly in the puppy months when our little guys tend to vomit regardless of an allergy; often it will be just because they eat too fast!
According to the VCA Animal Hospital, food allergies are:
“One of the most common allergies or hypersensitivities known to affect dogs. The immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to substances that it would normally tolerate. In an allergic reaction to a food, antibodies are produced against some part of the food, usually a protein or complex carbohydrate.”
What you are seeing with your suffering Frenchie might not even be an allergy, but could instead be a food intolerance. The two are actually different things:
- French Bulldog food intolerance: These reactions tend to arise when a Frenchie has difficulty in digesting certain food types.
- French Bulldog food allergies: These will often take the form in a skin allergy or as a gastrointestinal problem or a respiratory issue in some rare cases.
No matter how careful you are, it’s almost guaranteed that your French Bulldog will have a food allergy or bad reaction to something they ate at some point.
But it can be very difficult to diagnose what the allergy trigger is, as often it can be just one ingredient of many in one particular food type. The more regularly your Frenchie eats the one particular ingredient, the more likely an allergy will form.
How do I know if my Frenchie has allergies?
If your French Bulldog seems to be itching, licking, scratching all the time, and has visible symptoms such as hives, swellings, and hair loss in patches, then it’s very possible he or she has a food intolerance.
It goes without saying that the best way to find out how bad your Frenchie’s food intolerances and allergies are is to consult with your vets. Professionals are able to run tests to identify what foods your Frenchie is allergic too.
But there are also some tell-tale signs that your Frenchie has a food allergy. Symptoms are listed below.
6 common French Bulldog food allergy symptoms
It won’t always be obvious that your French Bulldog is allergic to food ingredients. One of the more common symptoms will be vomiting up their meal, but other intolerances can also manifest themselves, such as:
1. Itchy skin
The medical term is allergic dermatitis, and it’s the most common of French Bulldog food allergies. There are certain places on your Frenchie where the itching and scratching tends to occur most, including:
2. Hives, spots, and red patches
As your Frenchie bites and scratches, the allergic areas can become red and inflamed, or occur as spots and hives which then lead to further itching.
You might not always see hives, as they can be very small red lumps that appear up to a day after they eat food, they are allergic too. You might see them under the hair or have to run your hands over your Frenchie to find them.
Make sure you check for any broken skin, as the itchy can create cuts that are liable to infection.
3. Hair loss
Another side effect of itching the allergic spots and hives will be hair loss. These bald patches will appear in the areas referenced earlier such as around the paws, stomach, ears, and backend.
You might also find that your Frenchie has more dandruff as usual due to itchy, or even oilier skin (sebum) which can make your dog smelly.
4. Ear and paw infections
Two symptoms that aren’t often associated with French Bulldog food allergies are repeated ear and paw infections.
These aren’t actually an allergic reaction either, but instead will be attributed to a food insensitivity. Allergies produce an immediate immune system reaction; sensitivities are a gradual process.
5. Swollen face
One of the more severe symptoms of French Bulldog food allergies is a swollen face. Areas of swelling can include:
6. Vomiting and diarrhea
The quickest and most obvious symptoms of a food allergy will be your Frenchie regurgitating or pooping the offending food item out.
This will often be in conjunction with abdominal pain, so if your Frenchie appears to be in discomfort before expelling the food, it could be an allergy.
There are even some more subtle symptoms of a food allergy, that you might not even notice such as hyperactivity, slight weight loss, loss of energy, and even aggressive behavior.
Ruling out other possible reasons
Whilst the symptoms listed above are all things you can find with a Frenchie food allergy, they can also be signs of a completely different illness. This is just one of the reasons why food allergies are so hard to diagnose and should be something your vet does.
For example, it could instead be:
- Contact with a harsh chemicals man-made substance
- Flea allergy (read more) or parasites
- Atopia allergy
- Malassezia dermatitis
How to treat French Bulldog food allergies
There is only one fail safe way to treat a Frenchie food allergy, and that’s to completely remove the allergic ingredient or food type from their diet. But you need to be able to find out what the offending food ingredient is first, and this can be achieved by:
1. The elimination diet
Your vet will work with you to run some elimination tests. They work just as you would imagine, whereby foods are removed and added to your Frenchie’s diet until it’s possible to identify what food your French Bulldog’s allergic to.
Your Frenchie will be fed one protein and one carb for between 8 and 12 weeks. Vets will monitor for reactions, changing the foods up, and then introducing challenge tests to check for allergies again and again.
The video below is an excellent explainer on how exclusion diets work.
2. Blood test
Some vets can offer blood tests that might provide an indication of a food allergy.
Ask your vet about the possibility of giving your Frenchie a serum IgE test. The vet might say no, if it’s not something that will help to diagnose an allergy in your particular dog.
This is more to help with the symptoms of a food allergy, to give your Frenchie some relief from the scratching and itching. Just like humans, French Bulldogs can be given oral antihistamine to help relieve the allergy.
There are also creams available to soothe the sore skin.
Medication is only really intended to be a relief whilst the vet does longer term tests to come up with a solution to the food allergy.
4. Switch to a special diet
If it’s not possible to identify what foods your French Bulldog is allergic too, some vets will recommend you switch your Frenchie to a special diet for life. It will contain foods that are very unlikely to cause allergies, sometimes being a completely raw diet.
What foods are French Bulldogs allergic to?
All Frenchies are different, and some will react badly to food that others will gulp down. That being said, there are some foods that are bad for all Frenchies, but aren’t necessarily an allergic item.
Research into canine allergies has identified certain foods as being more likely to cause a bad reaction. According to WebMD.com, the most common food allergens include:
- Dairy products
And then on a lesser common scale, you have foods such as:
It’s not just these foods that can produce allergic reactions. They are the most common, but in truth, any food can trigger an allergy in a Frenchie.
Many owners will tell you that grains are the main causes of a French Bulldog food allergies. According to the Vet4Bulldog.com website this isn’t actually the case and is actually a myth. Their lead vet, Dr Kraemer is quoted as saying:
“Many French Bulldog owners associate food allergy with grain when in fact it is usually due to the protein source found in meat. The most common allergens are chicken (60%), then beef and fish. Also, on the frequent food allergens, shortlist is corn, soy, wheat, and dairy.”
What Frenchie owners are saying
I also looked on social media to see what other owners are saying in the comments and suggestions on this topic. Here’s a selection of the best responses.
“My little boy is allergic to quite a few things including certain good. We had him tested with a company who came highly recommended. They offered us great advice and support. Our Frenchie now only eats natural food that we get custom made which is always raw.”
“Don’t think it’s always a food allergy. For example, our Frenchie puppy was found to be allergic to various chemicals in the home. We not use a ZeroWater filter, Soapnuts for washing his bedding and other preventative methods. He is also allergic to quite a few foods, but with testing and trial and elimination we are getting there to find out what the offending ingredients are.”
“We feed our Royal Canin hypoallergenic dog food and don’t give him anything else, not even treats. You must do a food trial for a full 12 weeks before you really know if it works or not as an allergy test.”
“You can also get prescribed steroids from the vets and pay for a test to find out what the allergy is. But it will cost a lot of money perhaps £500. I have used Piriton on my dog and it helps, and the vets will give you the same advice unless they want money out of you for the steroids of course!”
“I advise you pay for a blood test as mine has allergies to grass, pollen, and dust. We tried different food and it never made a difference. He is now on long term pills like anti histamines for canines, which has helped stop the scratching. Only a blood test will show this up though.”
“Always check the back of the dog food label as some contain as little as 10% meat. Go with something that has a high meat or fish content and no grain or wheat. Our Frenchie has food with 80% chicken, blueberries, and all sorts of good stuff.”
“We put our Frenchie on hypoallergenic food and the vet prescribed a special shampoo. We used it 3 times in a couple of weeks and now bathe him once a month. He is now 8 and not had a food allergy for nearly 5 years now. Give it a try and also it may be worth getting him allergy tested.”
There’s nothing worse than seeing your beloved Frenchie in obvious discomfort. The itching and scratching can be intolerable for them, so the sooner you see it and visit your vet, the better.
Be prepared for some hard work though with the food elimination as it’s very tricky to find out what food your Frenchie is actually allergic too.
With our Frenchie, Claude, we discovered he was allergic to an ingredient in the Royal Canin French Bulldog specific food. We would never have thought that would be the case, given it is sold to be just right for this breed.
You might also like…
I won’t lie, it’s a huge challenge owning a Frenchie, as they are prone to a lot of different health problems. You can read more about these and some related issues in the following guides: