Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like DDBs and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
An affectionate companion and family dog
Even temper and gentle disposition
Sweet, playful, and friendly
Confident, steady, and fearless
Protective of owners; excellent guard dog
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
Can become overweight easily if not exercised regularly
Can be gassy and drool a lot
Strong prey drive—will chase and grab things that run, including cats and children
Exhibits signs of separation anxiety if left alone too much
Takes up a lot of room due to her massive size
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! The Dogue de Bordeaux is a protective and devoted companion that needs a strong leader and early socialization. She is a good and powerful watchdog, but is often territorial.
The Dogue de Bordeaux, also known as the French Mastiff, is an ancient breed that originated in France and was bred as a guardian, hunter, and fighter. The breed’s popularity increased after a Dogue de Bordeaux starred as Hooch in the 1989 movie Turner & Hooch. DDBs are known for their massive wrinkly heads. They are natural guardians of family and home. The Dogue de Bordeaux is a giant breed with an average lifespan of 6 years.
Your Dogue de Bordeaux’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Dogue. By knowing about health concerns specific to Dogues de Bordeaux, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Dogues de Bordeaux to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Dogues de Bordeaux. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your DDB looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Dogue de Bordeaux
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Dogue de Bordeaux is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Dogue de Bordeaux’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Dogues de Bordeaux are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Dogues de Bordeaux. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your DDB’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Dogue is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Dogues de Bordeaux
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, also known as GDV or Bloat, usually occurs in dogs with deep, narrow chests. This means your Dogue is more at risk than other breeds. When a dog bloats, the stomach twists on itself and fills with gas. The twisting cuts off blood supply to the stomach, and sometimes the spleen. Left untreated, the disease is quickly fatal, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes. Your dog may retch or heave (but little or nothing comes out), act restless, have an enlarged abdomen, or lie in a prayer position (front feet down, rear end up). Preventive surgery in which the stomach is tacked down or sutured in place so that it is unlikely to twist is an option. If you see symptoms, take your pet to an emergency hospital immediately!
DDBs are prone to multiple types of heart disease, which can occur both early and later in life. We’ll listen for heart murmurs and abnormal heart rhythms when we examine your pet. When indicated, we’ll perform an annual heart health check, which may include X-rays, an ECG, or an echocardiogram, depending on your dog’s risk factors. Early detection of heart disease often allows us to treat with medication that usually prolongs your pet’s life for many years. Veterinary dental care and weight control go a long way in preventing heart disease.
Dogues de Bordeaux are especially prone to a life-threatening heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy , or DCM, in which the heart becomes so large, thin, and weak that it can no longer effectively pump blood to the body. As this problem advances, he may act weak or tired, faint or collapse, breathe in a labored way, or cough. If found, we’ll treat this condition with medication and may also recommend dietary supplementation.
Some Dogues de Bordeaux inherit a heart condition known as aortic stenosis. This disease causes a partial obstruction of blood flow as it leaves the heart, which means the heart must work harder to pump enough blood. If the condition is severe enough, your dog may faint or just seem to run out of energy during exercise. He may also have difficulty breathing, cough, or not grow as much as he should. We’ll test for this disease if he has any symptoms and discuss treatment options with you if he has the condition.
Bone and Joint Problems
A number of different musculoskeletal problems have been reported in DDBs. While it may seem overwhelming, each condition can be diagnosed and treated to prevent undue pain and suffering. With diligent observation at home and knowledge about the diseases that may affect your friend’s bones, joints, or muscles you will be able to take great care of him throughout his life.
Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Dogue’s elbows or hips may become a problem for him, especially as he matures. You may notice that he begins to show lameness in his legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!
Sometimes your Dogue’s kneecap (patella) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation). You might notice that he runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then he kicks his leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and he’s fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.
The cranial cruciate ligament is one of the four tough bands of tissue that hold each knee together. A torn cranial cruciate ligament is a common injury in active dogs, which includes your DDB. Usually surgical correction is done to stabilize the knee and help prevent crippling arthritis. Physical therapy and multimodal pain management are necessary to get the best outcome. Keeping him at the right weight, feeding a high-quality diet, and avoiding too much twisting of the knees (like playing Frisbee) are key in avoiding this painful injury.
Osteosarcoma is the most common bone tumor in dogs. It typically afflicts middle-aged large and giant breeds like your Dogue. Early symptoms include lameness and leg pain. Early detection is critical! Call right away if you notice that your dog is limping. This is a painful and aggressive tumor, and the sooner it is removed, the better his prognosis.
Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Dogues de Bordeaux can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.
Lymphoma or lymphosarcoma is a type of cancer that afflicts Dogues de Bordeaux more than other breeds. This disease makes the body form abnormal lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. Because white blood cells can be found throughout the body, this cancer can show up almost anywhere. Lymphoma is a very treatable form of cancer, with an excellent success rate in dogs receiving chemotherapy. Treatment can be costly, however, and is a lifelong commitment. Luckily, lymphoma is one of the few types of cancer that can often be found with a blood test, so we may recommend a complete blood count twice yearly. Watch for swollen glands (ask us, we’ll show you where to look), weight loss, or labored breathing at home and be sure to call us if you notice any unusual symptoms.
Breeds with a large head and small pelvis are more prone to difficulties during the birthing process. Her pelvis is just too small to pass puppies and a C-section is often required for her health and that of her puppies. If you are interested in breeding your DDB, speak with us first. We can help you make an informed decision based on body conformation of both sire and dam.
There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with Dogues de Bordeaux commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.
Glomerulonephropathy is an inherited disease that slowly damages your Dogue de Bordeaux’s kidneys causing them to fail, often at an early age. Because damaged kidneys leak protein, we may be able to diagnose this disease by testing his urine for excessive protein. We recommend yearly urine analysis because early detection leads to a happier pet and an easier, more affordable treatment plan. We may also recommend a special diet as part of the therapy plan.
Dry, flaky, itchy skin is a common problem for many dogs, but DDBs in particular are prone to a severe flaking skin condition called ichthyosis. Named for the large dry flakes that resemble fish scales, this problem usually arises very early in life, with most affected puppies born with abnormal skin. Several palliative treatment options like special shampoos and fish oils give variable levels of relief, but there is no definitive cure for this inherited disease. There is a genetic test available for many breeds that can determine whether he is clear, a carrier, or affected. This is important information if you are planning to use your friend for breeding, as it is not recommended to breed dogs who are affected or carriers; the goal is to prevent this debilitating disease in future generations.
Dogues are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.
Taking Care of Your Dogue de Bordeaux at Home
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Dogues. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your DDB live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
Brush her coat as needed, at least weekly.
Dogues de Bordeaux generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
She can be sensitive to warm weather; avoid any prolonged exposure and be very alert to the signs of heat stress.
Her deep wrinkles need to be cleaned and dried often to prevent infections.
She can be aggressive – be careful around new pets.
Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Dogue de Bordeaux needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
Change in appetite or water consumption
Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
Itchy skin (scratching, chewing or licking), hair loss
Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
Dry heaving or a large, tight, painful abdomen
Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
General reluctance to run or play
Swollen lymph nodes or glands, unexplained weight loss
Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or excessive involuntary tremors
Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain
Fainting, weakness, cough, or shortness of breath during exercise
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Dogue counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
Bell JS, Cavanagh KE, Tilley LP, Smith FW. Veterinary medical guide to dog and cat breeds. Jackson, Wyoming. Teton New Media; 2012.
Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=dogue-de-bordeaux
23 to 27 inches
Beneath the scowling face there really is a pugnacious nature.
This breed does not take to strangers.
A natural guarding instinct.
Extremely loyal to the person it chooses as its master.
Generally calm and tranquil in nature.
Not a high-energy animal.
Surprisingly agile when aroused.
The Dogue De Bordeaux can trace its ancestry back to the great Mastiff dogs that came across the alps with the Roman legions. From the same stock that produced the Rottweiler, the Dogue obviously has been infused with more than a dash of Bulldog blood, too. For centuries, the dogs served as guards and dispatchers of large, dangerous animals. In temperament and disposition they were meant to be aggressive and surly. This has been a stumbling block to the breed’s popularity today. Some of the fierce nature has been bred out and they are enjoying a new surge in popularity.
A typical dog of the Mastiff family, with a foreshortened muzzle.
Ears are set well back on the head and are small for the dog’s size. They are not altered.
Tail is medium length and tapers. It is carried low and is not altered.
Eyes are light amber to match the coat tones.
An undershot jaw and furrowed wrinkles on the brow impart a characteristic scowl and pugilistic expression.
Short, fine, and soft.
Color is a solid red.
Dark red with warm tones is preferred.
There must be a contrasting face mask of darker tone. In the red-fawn dogs it is a dark red; in the dark-red dogs it is black.
Health and Wellness
Fungal or bacterial infections in deep wrinkles.
What You Should Know
Almost unknown in the United States until 1988 when the movie Turner and Hooch introduced the breed.
The biggest drawback of owning a Dogue De Bordeaux is the slobber.
Snorts, snuffles and spit go with the breed.
Can be fierce with other dogs.
Puppies should be available in most parts of the United States.