Health and care of the Bichon Frise dog
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Health and care of the Bichon Frise dog

Dogs
Health & Safety

The Bichon Frise is a small lapdog breed that originated in France, and is now one of the most popular of all of the small companion dog breeds owned in the UK. They share some similarities with many other small white dog breeds, including the Maltese, miniature Poodle and Bolognese dog, and are classed as a member of the toy dog grouping for showing.

The Bichon stands up to 12” tall and can weigh up to 20lb, and they have white, fluffy coats that naturally grow rather long and are often seen groomed and clipped into various different standard styles. Because they share some traits of the Poodle when it comes to their fur, such as closely curled hair that does not shed overly much, they are often grouped in among dog breeds that are said to be hypoallergenic, being a good choice of pet for people who potentially suffer from allergies to dogs.

The Bichon Frise is an incredibly popular pet, and one of the best choices for people looking for a small, entertaining and lively companion toy dog. However, the Bichon breed as a whole can be prone to certain health problems within their breed lines, and in this article we will look at some of these in more detail. Read on to learn more.

Bichon Frise longevity

The average longevity for the Bichon Frise breed as a whole is 12-13 years, which places the Bichon in the middle to top of the group for longevity rankings of dogs of a similar size. It is also considered to be rather longer than that of purebred dogs of all breeds when viewed as a whole. It is not uncommon for Bichons to live past 13 years, with some dogs reported to live to over 16, and the oldest recorded Bichon reaching 19 years of age.

The Kennel Club surveyed Bichon owners in 2004, and produced some figures for the main causes of death across the sampled section. Old age was given as the leading cause of death, with this cause given for 23.5% of dogs. Cancer came next at 21%, unknown causes at 14%, and haemolytic problems at 3%.

Haemolytic problems are something that affects a significant proportion of Bichon Frise dogs within the UK, which we will look at in more detail later on.

Bichon Frise liver problems

One of the hereditary problems that the Bichon Frise can be prone to is liver shunts, which often do not become apparent until the dog is mature, and too late for successful treatment. Liver shunt can lead to liver failure in the dog, and dogs that are underweight, react poorly to high protein food or are small at birth are most prone to the condition.

If detected and diagnosed early enough, the condition can be surgically corrected, but the longer it takes to reach a diagnosis, the less likely it is that treatment will be successful. Diagnosed shunts for which surgery is not considered to be viable can be partially controlled by a combination of medication to support liver function and a low protein diet, but nevertheless, without surgical correction, affected dogs rarely live beyond 4-6 years of age.

Symptoms to be aware of include excessive thirst for water, very dark urine, lethargy and loss of appetite. The condition can also be accompanied by seizures, but these might not always be obvious to the owner when present.

Haemolytic problems in the Bichon Frise

There are two haemolytic conditions that also affect the Bichon Frise breed more than most other dogs, and these are known as AIHA (autoimmune haemolytic anaemia) and ITP (immune-mediated thrombocytopenia) respectively. These two conditions are responsible for a significant number or early deaths in the Bichon breed as a whole, and all owners should be aware of their symptoms.

AIHA causes the immune system of the dog to turn on its own red blood cells, which causes severe anaemia that can prove life threatening. Symptoms of AIHA include weakness and lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and an overly fast breathing and heart rate. It also causes the urine to become darker than usual, and can lead to a yellowing of pale appearance to the gums.

ITP often, but not always, accompanies AIHA, and ITP causes the platelets of the blood to be destroyed in large numbers. Platelets assist with blood clotting, and when the blood is too thin or fails to clot properly, can cause haemorrhaging of the mucous membranes of the dog, and of the skin itself.

Bichon owners should be aware of the symptoms of AIHA and ITP, and act quickly to get veterinary care if they suspect that their dogs are affected. Both of these conditions can be very quick in onset, and prove fatal equally fast, with a mortality rate of between 20%-80% being reported across the two conditions.

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