Hydrocephalus in French Bulldogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Hydrocephalus is a medical issue where there’s extra fluid in the skull, putting pressure on the brain. In severe cases, it can mess with a pup’s development and even threaten its life.

Your French Bulldog might seem fine, but the symptoms can be sneaky. You might notice little things like your dog acting disoriented or not responding as it usually does. Few pups show the signs right when they’re born, while others might only start showing issues when they’re a bit older.

Common symptoms of hydrocephalus in French Bulldogs include:

  • A dome-shaped skull
  • Wide-set eyes
  • Difficulty with coordination and walking
  • Head pressing (pushing the head against a wall or other object)
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Blindness
  • Changes in behavior, such as aggression or timidity

How common is hydrocephalus in French Bulldogs?

Hydrocephalus French Bulldog Symptoms

Hydrocephalus is way more frequent in French Bulldogs compared to other dog breeds. A study in 2017 showed that 18.2% of the French Bulldogs examined had this condition. That’s a big number, especially when you look at the general dog population, where the condition is found in just 0.5% to 1% of dogs.

French Bulldogs have a short nose and skull, a trait called brachycephalic. This can give them a bunch of health issues, including hydrocephalus.

Breeders often aim for a specific look in French Bulldogs, like a big head and short nose. But these features also hike up the risk of hydrocephalus.

So, if you’re thinking of getting a French Bulldog, know the risks and go with a breeder who screens for this and other health issues.

#1 A dome-shaped skull

If a French Bulldog has hydrocephalus, one of the first things you’ll notice is a head that’s shaped like a dome. This shape is due to too much fluid pressuring the dog’s skull. You’ll see this shape from the day they are born. Older dogs might start to show this change as they grow.

Another thing to watch for is a soft area on the top of the dog’s head that bulges out. This area, known as a fontanelle, usually closes in the months after a puppy is born. But for dogs with hydrocephalus, it often stays open. Keep an eye on these signs if you’re thinking about this health issue in your French Bulldog.

How to recognize a dome-shaped skull in French Bulldogs

To recognize a dome-shaped skull in French Bulldogs, you can look for the following features:

  • A head that is disproportionately large compared to the body
  • A bulging fontanelle
  • A forehead that is rounded or dome-shaped
  • Temples that are widely spaced
  • Eyes that are set wide apart

What to do if you think your French Bulldog has a dome-shaped skull

One of the most used treatments is surgery to place a shunt. It’s a small tube that takes the extra fluid from the brain and moves it to another area like the belly. This helps to ease the pressure on the brain and can improve your dog’s condition.

#2 Wide-set eyes

If you see your French Bulldog’s eyes are set more far apart than usual, take notice. This could be another sign of hydrocephalus, a condition where too much fluid puts pressure on the brain. As the brain grows, it can push the eyes to spread apart. In young puppies, you might see this at birth. Older dogs may show this change over time.

To see if your dog has wide-set eyes, look for these signs:

  • The eyes are farther apart than the width of the dog’s nose
  • There’s a clear gap between the eyes

#3 Difficulty with coordination and walking

If your French Bulldog seems unsteady or clumsy, don’t ignore it. Trouble with walking and moving right is another common sign of hydrocephalus. The reason is the fluid build-up in the brain, messing with the nerves that help control movement.

For young puppies, you may see these movement problems from the get-go. In older dogs, this sort of issue could show up more slowly over time.

So, what signs should you look out for?

  • Your dog may seem clumsy, bumping into things.
  • They could stagger around as if they were dizzy.
  • You might see them trip or fall more than a usual dog would.
  • Walking in a straight line might be hard for them.
  • They could also struggle with stairs or getting over small barriers.

#4 Head pressing (pushing the head against a wall or other object)

If you see your French Bulldog pushing their head against a wall or some other object, that’s called head pressing, and it’s often linked to hydrocephalus. This happens because the fluid build-up in the brain causes pressure, leading to headaches and other issues with the nervous system.

Several dogs show head pressing as the only sign, especially when the hydrocephalus is not too severe. In extreme cases, head pressing comes with other worrying symptoms like seizures, sight loss, and problems walking or coordinating movements.

It’s due to the pressure that the extra fluid puts on the brain, causing discomfort or headaches. french puppies might find a bit of relief from pressing their head against something. It could also indicate damage to the nervous system caused by the condition.

#5 Lethargy

If your French Bulldog seems more tired than usual, that could be a symptom of hydrocephalus. The extra fluid in the brain affects how well the brain works, which can make your dog feel really tired.

This excessive tiredness can vary. If the hydrocephalus is mild, your dog might just seem a bit more tired than usual. But if it’s a severe case, this tiredness could be one of many symptoms, like seizures or trouble walking.

#6 Changes in behavior, such as aggression or timidity

If your French Bulldog starts acting differently, like being more aggressive or shy, it might be because of hydrocephalus. The extra fluid in the brain can mess with the parts that control behavior.

These behavior changes can be a symptom whether the hydrocephalus is mild or severe. In a mild case, you might just notice your dog acting a bit off. In severe cases, these changes in behavior could come with other problems like seizures or trouble seeing and walking.

Treatment Options for Hydrocephalus in French Bulldogs

When it comes to treating hydrocephalus in French Bulldogs, you’ve got a few options. The right treatment for your dog will hinge on how bad the condition is and what your dog specifically needs.

Shunt Surgery

The go-to treatment is usually shunt surgery. In this surgery, a tube called a shunt is put in to take the extra brain fluid and move it to another part of the body, often the belly. It’s a complicated surgery but usually does a good job of taking the pressure off the brain and making your dog feel better.


Another way to handle hydrocephalus is with medication. Drugs like corticosteroids and diuretics can cut down on the fluid being made or help it drain out. Meds can also control other problems tied to hydrocephalus like seizures.

Diet and Weight Management

Your dog’s weight plays a role too. Being overweight can make hydrocephalus symptoms worse. So, it’s key to keep your dog in good shape. A balanced diet and enough exercise can boost your dog’s overall health.

Treatment Prognosis

Most French Bulldogs with hydrocephalus get by pretty well if they’re treated right. The outlook is generally positive. But it’s crucial to keep in mind that hydrocephalus is a lasting condition. That means you’ll have to stay in touch with your vet to keep an eye on your dog’s health.


Hydrocephalus is a condition you can’t afford to ignore, especially if you own a French Bulldog. Knowing the symptoms like a dome-shaped skull, wide-set eyes, or changes in behavior helps you catch it early. Immediate vet attention is crucial for diagnosis and to talk over your treatment options.

With proper management, most dogs with hydrocephalus can live long and healthy lives.



  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of bulldogpapa.com. Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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