Suddenly it seems like rare dog colors are everywhere. Dogs with so-called rare coat colors are often priced higher by breeders simply by virtue of the puppy having an unusual coloration.
This can be confusing even to experience aspiring dog owners. When you are fairly new to owning a dog and are trying to learn the ropes of puppy shopping, hearing about rare colors can feel very confusing indeed!
The French Bulldog is the fourth most popular (out of nearly 200 choices) purebred dog breed in the United States.
What does this mean? It means lots of people are shopping for French Bulldog puppies every day!
This is why we thought we would spend a whole article just talking about the blue French Bulldog, which is a particularly rare coat color that is in high demand right now.
Learn what creates this unusual color in a Frenchie and what you need to know before making a lifetime commitment to a blue French Bulldog.
Blue French Bulldog
The Blue French Bulldog is not a different breed of Bulldog or even a different breed of dog altogether. Rather, when breeders or owners talk about a French Bulldog being blue, they are referring to coat color. The blue coat color often looks more gray or slate than a traditional bright blue. This is because the bluish tinge comes from a mutation of one of the main color pigments that produce straight black.
See a Blue French Bulldog
This short and sweet French Bulldog breeder video gives you a great visual explanation of the differences between several unusual French Bulldog colors – lilac, blue and platinum lilac.
The key to figuring out which is which, as the breeder explains, is the color of the dog’s nose! We will delve into more detail about why the nose is such an important part of determining a dog’s coat color here in later sections.
What Are the French Bulldog Coat Colors?
According to the official French Bulldog Club of the American breed standard, which outlines every aspect of the French Bulldog’s appearance, these are the standard coat colors and color patterns:
- Brindle and white.
- Cream and white.
- Fawn and white.
- Fawn brindle and white.
- Fawn brindle.
- White and brindle.
- White and fawn.
Here, you have probably already noticed something very interesting: “blue” as a coat color isn’t mentioned anywhere in the official breed standard.
It is also worth mentioning before we get too much further along on this topic that blue was originally called “mouse” in the early breed standard.
At any rate, Frenchies with the mouse or blue coats are not permitted to compete in American Kennel Club (AKC) dog shows.
In fact, for Frenchies in particular, at the conclusion of this dog’s official breed standard, blue as a coat color is specifically excluded from the show ring, along with a list of other “non-standard” French Bulldog coat colors.
Why Is the Blue French Bulldog Barred From Dog Shows?
The main reason why the blue French Bulldog is barred from competing in dog shows is that the blue coat color can only occur if the breeder has deliberately bred for the dilute gene mutation.
The dilute gene mutation is a recessive gene that is linked not just with coat color changes but with certain health issues.
It is these health issues that prompt disqualifying dogs with blue coats from show competition. And the disqualification is not just limited to French Bulldogs, either.
French Bulldog breeders that oppose the blue coat color are concerned that blue Frenchies will also inherit the health issues that can arise when dogs are bred for unusual coat colors.
This is not to say that all blue French Bulldogs will have health issues. But there is an increased risk of health problems that comes when a breeder deliberately tries to force a recessive dilute gene to express (show up).
But there is a lot of controversy surrounding this issue of breeding towards a dilute gene for the purposes of forcing an unusual or non-standard coat color for precisely this reason.
The French Bulldog Club of America has even posted an official statement regarding what they call “fad” coat colors, citing similar positions on French Bulldog breed standards from fellow organizations around the world.
What Genetic Mutation Causes the Blue Coat Color in French Bulldogs?
As you might expect, canine genetics is every bit as complicated as people’s genetics.
Many canine biologists and professional dog breeders have spent their whole lives studying canine genetics and still there is so much more to learn.
But luckily, genetic science is sufficiently advanced to where breeders and biologists can at least begin to pinpoint which genes may cause problems from a health standpoint.
This makes it possible to try to minimize the influence of these genes for future generations of French Bulldogs.
Unfortunately, the gene that causes the blue coat color in French Bulldogs is one such gene.
As Dog Coat Colour Genetics explains, there are two main genes that control coloration in canines. Phaeomelanin controls the red spectrum and eumelanin controls the black spectrum.
Eumelanin also controls for nose color, while phaeomelanin controls only coat color.
You may remember earlier when we mentioned that looking at a French Bulldog’s nose color can tell you whether the coat color of that dog is blue, lilac, or some other dilute color variation.
Eumelanin is the gene that determines the nose color and the coat color dilution for any dog.
When eumelanin is expressing in its dominant genetic form, you get the colors black or liver. When eumelanin is influenced by the recessive dilute gene, you get a range of colors from blue to lilac to platinum, as you saw in the YouTube video here earlier.
When the Frenchie’s nose color is blue, this is a clue that the dilute gene is expressing (showing up) in that dog.
yet another change you frequently see when the recessive dilution gene is activated is a change in eye color. For example, a French Bulldog that would normally have brown or black eyes might have liver or blue eyes.
Understanding the D-Locus or Dilute Color Gene
When breeders refer to a dog with a recessive coat type such as a blue coat, it is often called a D-Locus gene expression.
The D-locus gene is the gene that controls how fully eumelanin, the pigment gene that causes the black coloration, expresses in a dog’s eyes, nose, skin, and coat.
There are two levels of the D-locus gene expression in a French Bulldog: Dd and dd.
For simplicity’s sake, you can think of this as follows.
Dd: carrier dog
Dd refers to a dog that carries the recessive dilute gene but has a normal coat color in adulthood.
When two parent dogs each carry the recessive gene but do not express it, this is how a puppy can be born that has a blue coat. The puppy got one copy of the recessive gene from each parent dog and this caused the blue adult (dd) coat.
dd: blue-coated dog
dd refers to a dog that has inherited two copies of the recessive dilute gene and has grown up with blue coat color.
This is also where nose color is a handy telltale sign of whether the dog is a “true” dilute – the nose of a true dilute coat color will be blue.
Is Coat Color Dilution Specific to the French Bulldog Breed?
Because the study of canine genetics, like all genetic studies, is still a young and evolving science, new breakthroughs, and understandings are happening all the time.
There is still so much about gene expression and gene interactions that we simply do not understand.
But there is one fact that canine geneticists have confirmed: expression of the dilute color gene is not limited to the French Bulldog breed.
The Weimaraner is the most famous purebred dog breed that expresses a dilute coat color, and in fact, is the only dog breed for whom having dilute coloration is a hallmark of the breed standard.
But even for Weimaraners, the blue dilute coat color is considered a breed fault and is disqualified from the show ring.
Many other dog breeds can express the dilute color gene in coat color, eye, or nose color. In fact, canine geneticists think that the dilute gene has always been present in the canine gene pool.
What Health Issues Are Associated With a Blue French Bulldog?
As the French Bulldog Club of England explains, the most common serious health issue that can occur in blue-coated dogs is called color dilution alopecia, or blue dog alopecia.
What is color dilution alopecia, you are probably wondering?
Alopecia is a medical term that refers to the loss or absence of hair from an area on the body.
Color dilution alopecia is a type of systematic skin inflammation and hair loss that is linked to the recessive gene that also causes the blue, mouse, or grey coat color in French Bulldogs (and other blue-coated dogs).
As VCA Animal Hospitals (VCA-AH) explains, CDA, or color dilution alopecia, is a genetic heritable condition caused by a recessive gene mutation.
Heritable means the disease can be passed on from parent dogs to puppies. The gene mutation most closely linked to color dilution alopecia is the gene that causes the blue coat color, which is why CDA has been nicknamed blue dog alopecia.
It is not always easy to tell in puppyhood whether a dog has inherited color dilution alopecia. As VCA-AH explains, this is because often the initial puppy coat appears to be normal.
But around six months of age, the puppy coat begins to transition to the full adult dog coat. So color dilution alopecia symptoms may begin to show up as early as six months old.
What Are the Main Symptoms of Color Dilution Alopecia in Frenchies?
These are the main symptoms associated with color dilution alopecia in Frenchies and other dog breeds:
- Hair breakage.
- Thinning hair.
- Bald patches.
- Itchy skin.
- Skin inflammation.
- Skin flaking.
- Skin scaling.
- Bumps or pus on the skin surface.
- Bacterial skin infection (folliculitis).
- Persistent baldness over large patches of skin.
- Underlying skin is normal but affected by the hair breakage and skin flaking.
How Is Color Dilution Alopecia in Frenchies Treated?
If you have just brought home a blue French Bulldog or you are considering adding a blue Frenchie to your family, you may be starting to worry that your dog is going to suffer a lot because of their blue coat.
This is not necessarily the case.
Not every puppy that grows up to have a blue coat develops color dilution alopecia.
As the Dermatology Clinic for Animals explains, the reasons why some blue-coated dogs will develop color dilution alopecia and others will isn’t very well understood yet.
As well, color dilution alopecia can be difficult to diagnose at first. This is because many of the symptoms of blue dog alopecia are similar to those for other skin disorders, especially disorders related to hormone or thyroid dysfunction.
So the first step is always to get a firm diagnosis. Skin biopsy and genetic testing can be helpful to rule out other possible reasons for skin irritation and hair loss.
The good news is, at least for the majority of cases, treating color dilution alopecia is fairly straightforward. While CDA currently cannot be cured, it is usually very manageable.
The best treatments typically involve using very mild shampoos and skincare products and treating skin itching, flakiness, irritation, and infection with topical or oral medications made for dogs.
And here again, it is important to remember that not all blue French Bulldog puppies will grow up to have health issues related to color dilution alopecia.
Is There a Genetic Test to Predict Color Dilution Alopecia in Frenchies?
According to Paw Print Genetics, there is a genetic test that a breeder can do to verify whether or not a dog carries the Dd recessive mutation for blue coat color.
However, right now there is no specific genetic test that can determine whether a puppy will grow up to develop color dilution alopecia.
The Health of Your Blue French Bulldog Is Most Important
The biggest misconception in the world of dog breeding – or French Bulldog breeding for that matter – is that every single Frenchie ever born with a blue coat (or any other disqualifying coat color or pattern) is going to be an unhealthy dog.
There are many blue-coated French Bulldogs living happily with their families today that are basically healthy and doing just fine.
So if you have a blue French Bulldog puppy or adult dog who seems to be healthy and thriving, there is no reason to suddenly start worrying that your dog is not living their best life.
As we mentioned earlier, the full genetic picture of why and how dogs develop color dilution alopecia is still not completely understood. And even for dogs that do grow up to have CDA, it is a disease that is usually fairly easy to treat.
Other French Bulldog Health Issues to Be Aware Of
Unfortunately, as Breeding Business points out, the French Bulldog breed is not one of the healthier purebred dog breeds overall.
Despite the raging controversy regarding the dilute recessive gene that causes the blue coat color in Frenchies, there are other far more serious health issues the breed faces today.
Many otherwise reputable and responsible dog breeders are failing to take responsibility for the prevalence of a condition called BOAS, or Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, which is particularly common in French Bulldogs.
This is because the Frenchie has a particularly short muzzle. This muzzle shape is called brachycephalic – a term that translates to mean “short face.”
As the United Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) explains, BOAS is actually caused by a skull deformity.
This deformity creates a lack of adequate space in the French Bulldog’s head, jaw, and respiratory passages. Dogs affected by BOAS have trouble breathing. UFAW estimates that all French Bulldogs suffer from some degree of BOAS.
The short muzzle shape means the respiratory passages are shorter than average and often the nostrils are narrowed and squashed in, making it harder to breathe in and out normally.
The teeth are crowded inside a jaw that is too small for everything to fit properly. Dogs with BOAS often have sleep apnea and will snore loudly – a hallmark of French Bulldogs.
BOAS-affected dogs also cannot swim and cannot be exposed to heat without the risk of severe heatstroke. And dogs with the short brachycephalic muzzle shape are often banned from air travel because they can have severe respiratory trouble while airborne.
BOAS, like color dilution alopecia, is hereditary. However, unlike CDA, all Frenchies have some degree of BOAS symptoms.
All this to say, as long as your canine veterinarian examines your blue French Bulldog and says that your dog is healthy overall in every other important way, there is no reason to worry unduly that the blue coat is causing your dog to suffer.
Some Frenchies with blue coat coloration are very healthy overall, while others may have other health issues that may or may not have to do with their blue coats.
Choosing a Blue French Bulldog Puppy or Rescue Dog
The more time you spend becoming informed about the French Bulldog breed in general and the blue French Bulldog in particular, the better care you will be able to take of your puppy or rescue dog.
If you have your heart set on a blue French Bulldog, the best approach is to choose the breeder carefully.
Only work with a breeder that will give you an initial guarantee of good health and will show proof that all required vaccines and pest treatments have been done.
Make sure your breeder does all required Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) database required and recommended pre-screening health tests.
By testing breeding pairs (parent dogs), the breeder can rule out passing along certain serious health issues for which genetic screening tests exist.
For French Bulldogs, these tests include hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, autoimmune thyroiditis, juvenile cataracts, heart, and eye issues.
Be sure to take your new puppy to your own canine veterinarian for a “well puppy” health checkup within 24 to 48 hours after bringing your Frenchie home with you.
Choose your French Bulldog’s food carefully and steer clear of foods packed with artificial flavors, preservatives, fillers, or known allergens such as soy, gluten, and dairy.
Be sure you are feeding an appropriate small breed puppy food that your veterinarian approves of and this will provide complete and balanced nutrition as your puppy grows up.
If you do see any warning signs of color dilution alopecia, don’t panic. Bring your dog to your veterinarian for a checkup and make any changes you need to make to milder shampoo and skincare products to minimize the symptoms.
Should You Get a Blue French Bulldog?
As you are now aware, there is a ton of controversy around the blue coat color not just in French Bulldogs, but in dogs in general.
However, because the whole field of canine genetics is still quite new, there are times even very careful breeders who study dog genetics seriously will end up with a blue French Bulldog puppy in one of their litters.
These dogs may be offered for sale as a pet dog and there is no reason to assume these pups won’t be as healthy and happy as the other puppies in the litter.
A blue French Bulldog can make a wonderful companion canine for the right person or family.