11 Common Bichon Frise Health Issues and Ways to Prevent Them

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Common Bichon Frise Health Issues and Ways to Prevent ThemThe bichon frise is a popular breed of dog, known for its cheerful disposition and hypoallergenic coat. However, like all breeds of dogs, the bichon frise is susceptible to certain health issues like ear infections, dental problems, and allergies. However, fret not!

We love our dogs and want the best for our pooches, and we’d like to share some of our top tips for preventing some of the health issues that might arise from the genetics of our beloved breed – the bichon frise. Keep in mind, though, that this is by no means a medical advice and so, if you suspect something is wrong with your pooch, you should be seeking a vet’s advice.

Are Bichons Frises Generally Healthy Dogs?

Yes, bichon frises are generally healthy dogs with a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, especially with proper care. However, they are still prone to certain complications and you should especially watch out for dental problems, infections, obesity, allergies, eye problems, and hip problems.

Before symptoms start appearing, always focus on preventative care such as regular vet visits and up-to-date medications and vaccinations. Remember – prevention is better than cure!

How Often Should You Take Your Bichon Frise to a Vet?

Bichon frises will benefit from trips to the veterinarian every 6 months. The vet will conduct a routine check-up on every visit. Before waiting for symptoms of health conditions to appear, always have your pooch checked every once in a while.

Veterinary professionals can often spot the early onset of a potential medical problem way before us, untrained pet parents can.

11 Common Bichon Frise Health Issues

While bichons are typically healthy, happy-go-lucky dogs, they, like all breeds, are prone to certain genetic diseases.

1. Heart Disease

There are a few heart diseases that bichons can develop during their lifespan, especially as they age.

Good dental health and weight management will lower the risk of developing heart problems, and a yearly heart check with a veterinary professional is recommended. Heart checks can be done as an echocardiogram or X-rays to rule out any potential medical problems. Early diagnosis can save lives!

Patent Ductus Arteriosis

One of the most common heart conditions in dogs, this is when a vessel between the two parts of the heart remains open. While usually closed so that the amount of blood carried to the lungs is just enough, this open condition will cause excessive fluids and strain on the heart.

Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, struggling to exercise, weak hind legs, and weight loss. Vets will look for a particular kind of heart murmur, and this condition can be treated with a surgery near the affected vessel if diagnosed early.

Heart Failure

Heart failure is a condition that can be caused by a deformed valve that cannot be tightly closed. The strained heart’s function is then compromised, potentially causing a heart murmur. It is crucial to have a thorough examination to diagnose this condition, and annual checks are advised.

These kinds of defects can be caused by the genetic structure of the heart, affecting the functioning of the valve. Some bichons frises are born with such defects that don’t manifest until much older.

2. Liver Issues

Bichons frises are more pre-disposed to having portosystemic shunt (PSS), a condition where the liver is getting inadequate blood flow required for proper growth and function, and the blood that should be getting to the liver goes around it instead.

Because of the lack of blood supply, the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the bloodstream is compromised. Many liver conditions can be treated with lifestyle and diet changes and medication, while in severe cases, surgery might be required.

3. Eye Problems

Like many small dog breeds, bichons frises are vulnerable to eye diseases and infections like:

  • Cataracts: A condition where the lenses appear cloudy instead of clear.
  • Glaucoma: A painful condition that can lead to vision loss if left untreated. Symptoms to watch for include watery eyes, redness, squinting and bulging.
  • Entropion: Entropion is a painful condition that is when the eyelid rolls inward. The eyelashes can scratch the surface of the cornea, causing pain and eventually permanent blindness.
  • Distichiasis: This is a condition when there is excessive hair growth inside the eyelid. When it scratches the surface of the eye, it causes discomfort and even extreme pain. The good thing is that the extra hairs can be very easily removed, and bichon owners should pay attention to this disease as it put dogs at higher risk for chronic eye pain and corneal ulcers.

4. Blood Diseases

Hemangiosarcoma is a type of bleeding tumor that affects the spleen but can form in other organs as well. Undetected and often with no symptoms, the tumor breaks open and causes internal bleeding. Some tumors can go undetected for years before signs of them show.

Hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia are rare blood diseases that bichons are prone to developing. This occurs when the immune system attacks either red blood cells or platelets, making the dogs anemic and weak when the red blood cells are destroyed.

In addition, because of their inability to clot their blood, dogs are seen with abnormal bleeding or bruises when platelets are destroyed. Steroids can be recommended to slow down the destruction of either red blood cells or platelets, and surgery and emergency transfusion can be done in severe cases.

Von Willebrand’s disease is another blood clotting disorder in bichons. This disease is tested through the time taken for the blood to clot, or a DNA blood test.

5. Bladder or Kidney Stones

Bichons frises have greater chances of forming kidney and bladder stones than other dog breeds. Symptoms of urinary complications include your bichon’s inability to pee, reluctance to pee, or blood in their urine.

6. Allergies

Skin and food allergies affect more dogs than you think, and bichons are no different. Their tiny digestive systems are often intolerant or allergic to certain foods, so if you suspect an allergy, you might want to change up their food.

Bichons frises are also susceptible to skin problems – they can start to develop a skin allergy or “atopy” as early as one to three years old, with the effects escalating each year. Symptoms of a skin allergy include:

  • Constant itching in the belly, ears, feet, and folds of the skin
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Excessive paw licking
  • Rubbing the face against the wall or furniture

7. Endocrine Gland Problems

The most common endocrine gland problem in dogs is hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including weight gain, hair loss, and lethargy. Other endocrine glands that can cause problems for dogs include the adrenal glands and the pancreas.

Endocrine gland problems can be difficult to diagnose, so it’s important to work with your veterinarian to figure out what’s going on. With proper treatment, most dogs with endocrine gland problems can live happy, healthy lives.

8. Hip Issues

Hip and elbow dysplasia are diseases where the joints are not connected properly. This can be an inherited disease but there are also factors like obesity that can put dogs at a higher risk. Implementing an effective weight management program for the dog can also reduce the risk.

Telltale signs include showing lameness in legs and struggle to sit or stand.

In addition, a degenerative hip condition called Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can show up as early as six to nine months. Symptoms include pain and lameness in the rear legs. Surgery is often the suggested treatment for this type of condition.

9. Knee Problems

Patellar luxation happens when your bichon’s kneecap, or patella, gets dislocated.

Cruciate ligament disease is also common in bichons frises. The cruciate ligaments are inside the knee joint, helping with stability. This disease weakens the ligament, worsening it as time goes by. Surgery is often an option to stabilize the knee joint and treatment should be done as if left untreated, this disease can end up crippling your dog.

10. Spinal Cord Injuries

Bichon frises are at greater risk for developing spinal cord injuries, often developing instability in the neck vertebrae which are the atlantal and the axial vertebrae.

This condition often manifests in unusual behaviors such as unwillingness to climb up the stairs, or difficulty lowering his head. This is a degenerative condition that should be managed, or your bichon will be in a lot of pain and discomfort.

11. Brain Problems

Seizures are common in many bichons, that can experience three different types: reactive, secondary, and primary.

Reactive seizures stem from the reaction of the brain to low blood sugar, organ failure, or toxin, while secondary seizures are caused by brain tumors, trauma, or stroke. Primary seizures or idiopathic epilepsy occur when there is no known cause, but are thought to be an inherited condition.

The cause can be learned through a diagnostic workup and once identified, the medications to manage the seizures will last for your dog’s lifetime.

4 Tips to Keep Your Bichon Frise Healthy

By keeping your bichon healthy, you can mitigate the risks of their health problems rearing their head. Although it is not a be-all-and-end-all solution to everything, a bichon in the pink of health is less likely to display symptoms of their genetic issues.

1. Care

Bichons frises love attention! To keep them happy, make sure you spend enough time with them and give them plenty of love and attention. A lack of care can result in a nervous, anxious dog that exhibits stressed-out behaviors like barking, chewing, scratching, and whining.

Bichons are also prone to separation anxiety, so if you can, avoid leaving your pooch home for long periods alone. Having another dog or doing training can help if you need to be away for extended periods.

Just like us hoo-mans, mental and physical health go hand in hand!

2. Exercise

A tired dog is a happy dog. While bichons frises aren’t the most active breed around, they have moderate to high energy levels and if under-stimulated, they can become bored, frustrated, and anxious.

Bichons are small dogs that would benefit from a daily walk of about 30 minutes. If you have a young bichon, try walking for 15 minutes twice a day before your pooch gets stronger and builds more stamina.

Also, bichons are playful, cheery creatures that would love having tons of playtime in between. Although bichons frises are suitable apartment dogs, they too, could benefit from a game of fetch or tug every once in a while and several treat-dispensing interactive toys that they can chase around to expel their excess energy.

3. Grooming

While bichons typically have a low-shedding coat, they have long hair that needs to be brushed and cut regularly. A daily brush every day or two would get rid of any knots and tangles in their hair, and a haircut every few weeks would keep their soft, downy coats short and manageable.

You’ll also have to cut down their nails unless they run long distances on hard, rough ground and manage to naturally file them down.

They aren’t dirty dogs, so a bath every few weeks should be enough to keep them in tip-top shape.

Ears and eyes have to be cleaned regularly to avoid a buildup of dirt, debris, and wax, as well as to prevent any infections.

Brush their teeth daily to encourage optimal dental health. Plaque and tartar can build in their gums and teeth and cause periodontal disease, a super common disease afflicting more than 80% of dogs under three years.

For more on this topic, read my detailed guide to grooming a bichon frise.

4. Diet and Nutrition

All living things need adequate nutrition, and the same goes for your beloved bichon. Feed only top-quality dog food free of cheap fillers like grain, soy, and corn that your pooch might be allergic to. Other common causes of food allergies include protein sources like beef and chicken.

A bichon young puppy will require three to four meals a day, and a pup between three to nine months can go down to three meals a day. Older pups and adult dogs can be fed twice a day with some treats interspersed in between.

Your bichon needs a balanced diet with adequate nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Try to avoid giving human food to your bichon frise no matter how tempting those beautiful adoring eyes look. Common human food like garlic, onions, and grapes are often mildly toxic to dogs, but can severely impact a small bichon’s sensitive digestive system.

I wrote about how to feed your bichon frise in detail here.

Summary

With proper care, bichons can enjoy a long and healthy life. Their diet should be tailored to their individual needs, and they should be given plenty of exercise to stay in shape. Regular vet check-ups are also important to help catch any health problems early on.

With a little love and attention, a bichon frise can be a wonderful companion for many years to come!