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Are French Bulldog Floppy Ears Normal? (And Can I Fix Them?)

Loved for their intelligence, friskiness and affectionate personality, French bulldogs are easily identified by their distinct coloring and stand-up, bigger-than-life ears.

But Frenchies aren’t born with erect ears. Instead, French bulldog puppies have floppy ears until they are around three months old.

Some pups may have one floppy ear and one erect ear for awhile. Other Frenchie pups may have floppy ears until they are nearly a year old. 

So, yes, it is normal for Frenchies to have floppy ears as pups.

Anecdotal evidence from owners suggest that after a French bulldog pup starts getting their adult teeth (between 12 and 14 weeks of age), its ears will start stiffening. Calcium is essential for healthy teeth to erupt in all dogs.

Once a pup’s body no longer needs to redirect large amounts of calcium to teeth development, more calcium is sent to the ears to help cartilage become denser and stronger.

Completely erupted adult teeth is one reason why a Frenchie’s ears are typically standing up by the end of their first year.

If an adult Frenchie only has one erect ear or two floppy ears, it is not something an owner should worry about. Genetics determine when a Frenchie pup’s ears lose their floppiness.

Unless owners know for sure their French bulldog is a pure bred or near pure bred, waiting for the ears to stand at attention after the dog is a year old may be a lost cause.

Why Do Frenchie Pup Ears Lose Their Floppiness?

Floppy ears indicate the cartilage comprising the lower half of a dog’s ear is too short to reach the part of the ear that flops over. Lack of structural cartilage in some canine ears is due to domestication syndrome.

Humans are thought to have begun domesticating wild wolves about 20,000 years ago by capturing wolf pups and raising them to be companions and protectors.

As these domesticated “wolves” bred with other domesticated wolves, their genetic make-up changed dramatically.

Evolutionary biologists suggest that as humans bred selectively for tamer, easier-to-train wolves, these canines lost a great deal of their flight or flight response.

This survival instinct seen in all wild animals relies primarily on release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands.

Domesticated dogs today have much smaller adrenal glands than their ancestors.

In addition, research has shown that cells involved in development of adrenal glands called neural crest cells also contribute to forming certain physical components of the canine body.

These include the larynx, the jaws and external ear cartilage.

Ear Problems in French Bulldogs

Whether floppy or firm, Frenchies tend to be a bit more susceptible to ear issues than some other breeds. Veterinarians blame a Frenchie’s abnormally narrow ear canals for recurring ear infections.

The narrowness of the canal provides a dark, moist environment in which bacteria thrive. Seasonal allergies may swell ear glands, promote ear wax production and encourage ear infections.

In addition, erect ears are more prone to sunburn, especially the insides of the ears. Frenchies also have thin coats which offer little protection for their skin in direct sunlight.

During the summer when the sun is strongest, avoid letting a Frenchie spend more than 15 to 30 minutes in the sun. Some Frenchies will wear a t-shirt and hat without expressing their displeasure.

Even if a Frenchie is protected from the sun, owners should stay vigilant for signs of ear reddening or heat exhaustion.

When Floppy Ears Stay Floppy–Is There Anything an Owner Can Do to Make Them Stand Up?

Frenchie owners offer anecdotal evidence of the following possible fixes to steadfastly floppy ears. However, these suggestions are only intended for French bulldogs between the ages of 10 weeks and eight months.

If a Frenchie’s ears are not erect by the time they are one year old, they’ll likely be forever floppy.

Always consult with a veterinarian before trying to stiffen a Frenchie’s ear. The vet may want to examine the pup first to rule out rare medical conditions that may prevent floppy ears from standing straight up.

Also, never give a Frenchie pup calcium supplements. Ask the veterinarian about calcium injections that may support cartilage growth.

Glucosamine Supplements for Dogs

A naturally produced sugar found in human and canine joint fluid, glucosamine is necessary for making glycosamineoglycan, a compound essential for growth and repair of soft tissues and cartilage.

Some Frenchie owners give their pups glucosamine supplements to support ear cartilage health when a puppy’s ears are still floppy.

Chew Toys and Nylon Chew Bones

Giving a French bulldog pup something to chew on while teething may promote strengthening of jaw muscles associated with helping the ears stand up.

Rope balls, nylon teething rings and tug-of-rope toys are good, chewable items that promote teeth eruption and ease discomfort in teething Frenchie pups.

Ear Taping

Breeders sometimes tape a Frenchie pup’s ears before the pup is two months old if they suspect the ears may stay floppy or one ear seems to be the only ear stiffening.

Breeders will pull each ear upright and gently wrap a piece of masking tape around the base of each ear. Masking tape should NEVER be wrapped tightly around the ear but just enough to hold the ear in an erect position.

Next, they tape (loosely) the ears together across the top of the Frenchie’s head for extra support. After five days, all tape is removed. If ears are still floppy, some breeders may re-tape them.

Others will just accept the fact their French bulldog is destined to be floppy-eared.

Final Word

Whether a Frenchie’s ears stand up or flop over is not something owners need to worry about.

After all, French bulldogs don’t care if they their ears are compared to a bat’s ears or to a basset hound’s ears. All they care about is being loved and loving their owners in return.

Enjoy your cute Frenchie!

image: Deposit Photos

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National Canine Research Association of America