French Bulldogs have become one of the most popular dog breeds in recent years due to their lovable personalities, compact size, and adorable appearance.
However, many owners may not be aware of the health issues that are most prevalent in this breed, particularly their tendency towards breathing problems.
French Bulldogs, in large part due to their short snouts and flat faces, can suffer from various respiratory issues, such as snoring, snorting, and difficulty breathing.
If fact, most airlines do not allow flying with Frenchies as cargo because of breathing issues concerns.
In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of French Bulldog breathing problems and offer advice on how to manage this condition to ensure your furry friend remains happy and healthy.
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome
All French Bulldogs have this syndrome, but some have worse symptoms than others.
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) is a respiratory condition that affects certain dog breeds with short noses and flat faces, such as English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and of course, French Bulldogs.
These breeds are often referred to as “brachycephalic” or “smushed-face” breeds.
The syndrome is caused by a combination of anatomical abnormalities in the upper respiratory tract, including narrowed nostrils, an elongated soft palate, and a narrowed or collapsed trachea.
These abnormalities can make it difficult for affected dogs to breathe normally, especially during physical activity or in hot or humid weather.
Symptoms of BOAS can include:
- Heat intolerance & cold intolerance
- Gagging might be reverse sneezing
- Loud breathing
- Difficulty breathing, especially during exercise or excitement
In severe cases, affected dogs may collapse or even die from respiratory distress.
BOAS is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, but it can be managed with appropriate medical and surgical interventions.
Treatment may include weight management, exercise restriction, and medication to reduce inflammation or open up the airways.
In severe cases, surgical procedures such as a soft palate resection or a tracheostomy may be necessary to improve breathing and quality of life.
What Are the Most Common Causes of BOAS?
Several factors act together to obstruct airflow into the lungs, causing BOAS.
The primary factor in a dog developing BOAS is simply the shape of the dog’s skull, which is present from a very young age.
Brachycephalic dogs, like French Bulldogs, have a short, wide skull with a flattened face and compressed upper airway.
This skull shape leads to smaller airways, which can make breathing more difficult.
These are the primary factors that contribute to a French Bulldog having BOAS:
- Stenotic Nares
- Elongated Soft Palate
- Tracheal Hypoplasia
- Laryngeal Hypoplasia
- Everted Laryngeal Saccules
Allergies, while not being the most common cause of BOAS, can cause breathing issues in your Frenchie.
Stenotic nares is a common condition in French Bulldogs, which occurs when the nostrils are too small or narrow, leading to breathing difficulties.
This airway abnormality can make it difficult for a French Bulldog to breathe properly, especially during physical activities or in hot and humid environments.
The narrowed nostrils can cause increased resistance to airflow, leading to labored breathing, snorting, snoring, and other respiratory sounds.
Over time, stenotic nares can cause more severe breathing problems, such as the collapse of the larynx or an elongated soft palate.
A veterinarian can diagnose stenotic nares through a physical examination of the dog’s nasal passages.
Treatment for stenotic nares usually involves a surgical intervention to widen the nostrils, a procedure known as a nares resection.
This surgery involves removing a small piece of tissue from the nostril’s edge, creating a larger opening for air to pass through.
In some cases, additional surgical procedures may be required to address other respiratory issues.
Elongated Soft Palate
An elongated soft palate is a relatively common condition found in French Bulldogs and other brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds.
The soft palate is the tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth, and in dogs with an elongated soft palate, this tissue is longer than normal, which can cause a number of problems.
When a French Bulldog breathes in, the elongated soft palate can get sucked into the airway, obstructing the flow of air into the lungs.
Treatment for an elongated soft palate usually involves surgery to remove the excess tissue and help open up the airway.
This procedure is called a soft palate resection, and it can greatly improve a French Bulldog’s breathing and quality of life. Elongated soft palates are typically present in 96 to 100% of French bulldogs.
Tracheal hypoplasia is a condition characterized by a narrowing or underdevelopment of the trachea, which is the windpipe that connects the throat to the lungs.
In French Bulldogs, tracheal hypoplasia is often caused by a genetic defect that affects the development of the trachea during fetal development.
This defect leads to a narrowing of the trachea, which can cause breathing difficulties and other respiratory problems.
Symptoms of tracheal hypoplasia in French Bulldogs can include coughing, wheezing, labored breathing, exercise intolerance, and fainting.
These symptoms can become more severe over time and may require treatment in order to improve the dog’s quality of life.
Treatment for tracheal hypoplasia in French Bulldogs may involve medication to help manage symptoms, such as bronchodilators or corticosteroids, as well as lifestyle modifications to help the dog breathe more easily.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to widen the trachea and improve airflow.
Laryngeal hypoplasia is a condition that affects the larynx, which is the part of the throat that contains the vocal cords.
In French Bulldogs, laryngeal hypoplasia is a congenital condition that is characterized by an underdeveloped or malformed larynx.
This condition can cause breathing difficulties in affected dogs, particularly during exercise or in hot weather. The breathing difficulties can lead to respiratory distress, which can be life-threatening in severe cases.
The symptoms of laryngeal hypoplasia in French Bulldogs include noisy breathing, wheezing, and coughing. Affected dogs may also have difficulty swallowing and may exhibit exercise intolerance and fatigue.
Diagnosis of laryngeal hypoplasia in French Bulldogs typically involves a physical examination by a veterinarian, as well as imaging studies such as X-rays or CT scans.
Treatment options may include surgical intervention to alleviate the breathing difficulties, as well as lifestyle changes such as weight loss or exercise restrictions.
Everted Laryngeal Saccules
The laryngeal saccules are small pouches of tissue that sit just inside the larynx.
In brachycephalic dogs, these saccules can evert or turn inside out, which can further narrow the airway and make breathing even more difficult.
Secondary Factors That Can Cause BOAS
Serious health concerns that can be a result of BOAS include the following:
- Laryngeal collapse
- Mucosal hypertrophy
- Enlarged tonsils, and pharyngeal muscles
- Gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux, vomiting, regurgitation, and dysphagia
- Heart failure, breathing difficulties during whelping
- Difficulties with thermoregulation which can lead to heat stroke
One of the biggest problems with BOAS, aside from affecting the individual dog’s health, is how normalized it has become for the breed.
Owners and even some breeders seem to think it is just normal for the breed. In fact, in one study, over half of the owners of dogs diagnosed with BOAS truly believed that their dog didn’t have breathing problems, despite the diagnosis.
The normalization of BOAS within brachycephalic breeds is dangerous in that poor breeding practices will only continue.
Owners will be under-reporting symptoms in their dogs, which leads to under diagnosis and less help for dogs with breathing difficulties.
Caring for French Bulldogs with Breathing Problems
If you own a French Bulldog with breathing problems, there are several things you can do to care for them properly.
Firstly, it’s important to keep them cool and avoid hot temperatures and humidity, as this can exacerbate their breathing difficulties.
You should also avoid strenuous activities and use a harness instead of a collar when taking them for walks to avoid putting pressure on their airways.
Additionally, keeping your pet at a healthy weight, monitoring their environment for irritants, and being aware of signs of distress such as coughing or wheezing are all important factors in managing their condition.
Finally, it’s crucial to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that can help manage your French Bulldog’s symptoms and ensure they live a happy, healthy life.
What Treatments Are Available for BOAS?
There are several treatments available that can help manage BOAS in French Bulldogs.
Some dogs with BOAS may benefit from medications that reduce inflammation and swelling in the upper respiratory tract, such as steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Managing environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and exercise intensity can help minimize breathing difficulties in dogs with BOAS.
For example, you should avoid exercising your Frenchie in hot or humid weather and keep them in cool and well-ventilated areas.
In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct anatomic abnormalities that cause breathing difficulties.
This may include procedures to widen the nostrils, shorten the soft palate, or remove excess tissue in the pharynx.
Final Thoughts on French Bulldog Breathing Problems
French Bulldogs are a beloved breed with a unique appearance and charming personality.
However, their flat faces and short snouts make them prone to breathing difficulties that can lead to serious health issues.
Some measures, such as careful breeding practices and avoiding strenuous exercise in high temperatures, can help mitigate these problems.
However, it’s essential for owners to be aware of the potential risks and seek prompt veterinary care if their pet experiences any breathing problems.
With proper care and attention, French Bulldogs can continue to bring joy and companionship to their owners for many years to come.
FAQs About French Bulldog Breathing Problems
To help your French Bulldog breathe better, you can manage their weight, avoid strenuous exercise, keep them in a cool environment, and use a harness instead of a collar.
Signs that your French Bulldog has breathing problems include loud and labored breathing, wheezing, snorting, and coughing.
French Bulldogs may sound like they can’t breathe due to a narrowed airway caused by their short snouts or due to a respiratory infection or allergies.
Because they suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS)
The cost of French Bulldog breathing surgery varies depending on the type of surgery needed and your location. Generally, it can range from $1,500 to $6,500.