French Bulldog Breathing Problems: Causes & Solutions (Vet Advice)

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With bat ears and flat-face, French Bulldogs are indeed unique looking and are bundles of energy and fun. If you are a proud owner of a French Bulldog, you must be aware that it is a sensitive breed, and many owners struggle with French Bulldog breathing problems in these dogs, which can be quite alarming.

Wheezing, Snoring, and difficult or labored breathing are all signs of concern and can be due to physical causes, environmental factors, and lifestyle habits.

In this post, we’ll look at the root of French Bulldog breathing problems and how best to prevent them so your pup can stay healthy and active. Let’s dive in!

Why French Bulldogs Are Prone to Breathing Problems

French Bulldogs have been bred to look a certain way, having a flat face and short muzzle. These physical features where give them their unique, squished-in face look and child-like appearance but also leave them with severe respiratory issues. Their facial structure reduces the size of the nostrils and narrows the trachea, which causes snoring, wheezing, panting, and exercise intolerance.

Other than physical factors, environmental factors such as heat stress and lifestyle habits can also add to the severity of breathing problems of a French Bulldog. Some medical conditions in French Bulldogs, such as cherry eye and entropion, can further lead to respiratory problems.

French Bulldog Breathing Problems are attributed to their unique, physical features.
French Bulldog Breathing Problems are attributed to their unique, physical features.

 Anatomy of a French Bulldog’s Respiratory System

To properly understand the respiratory issues of your Frenchie, you will have to look at its air canal, which is significantly different from that of other dogs. It is important to remember that this breed has been developed by artificial selection by breeders.

Because of its special facial features, it has a short snout and narrow nostrils, which are not by any means ideal. It has the same amount of tissue in its mouth as any other dog, but its shorter snout means that there will be less space for it to pant or breathe properly.

Selective breeding has left it with a narrower trachea and a small chest size. which means it can intake less amount of air per breath. This anatomy makes French Bulldogs prone to breathing difficulties that can be exacerbated by exercise or excitement.

An illustration demonstrates the relationship between the external craniofacial ratio
Source: Cambridge BOAS research group

Normal Vs. Abnormal Breathing Patterns in French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs are heavy breathers. Their breathing sound can be pronounced loud, and some of them snore. They usually breathe faster, but it’s a normal characteristic of this breed. As a Frenchie owner, it is important to be on the lookout for how your dog is breathing.

Normally your dog should take even and regular breaths. Breathing should be deep with abdominal movement as the dog inhales and exhales. When at rest, it should be breathing easily without panting or gasping for breath.

If your dog is breathing rapidly, accompanied by coughing or wheezing, you should be concerned. The following signs indicate abnormal breathing.

  • Shallow breaths
  • Snoring
  • Gagging
  • Open-mouth breathing

Common French Bulldog Breathing Problems

Breathing problems in French Bulldogs can be caused by a variety of issues. Allergies, infections, structural abnormalities, and obesity can cause respiratory issues, but the most common and observed issues are due to their flat-face appearance.

With proper care and monitoring, these issues resolve easily. Here are some of the common breathing problems that a Frenchie may face.  

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS)

Brachycephalic airway syndrome is a set of medical conditions that can affect punch-faced dog breeds. The word brachycephalic is greek for “flat-faced.” As a consequence of their unique appearance, they have to face difficulty in breathing properly because their airway is compromised, and they have to struggle more to stay oxygenated.

The abnormalities of this passageway are cumulatively called “Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome” or Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. Following are its symptoms.

  • Reverse sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Gagging or vomiting
  • Excessive Salivation

According to a study, 93% of French Bulldogs with BAS also had gastrointestinal signs. 

Moreover, according to a study by Fasanella et al (2010), French Bulldogs were the fourth most common breed to be affected by brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome.

If left untreated, this condition can lead to exhaustion and abnormal fatigue. In serious cases, it can also cause heart disease. Such dogs are exercise intolerant and are more susceptible to heatstroke.

Stenotic Nares

Stenotic nares, also known as pinched nostrils, are malformations of nostrils that are either too small or the cartilage in the nose is bent inwards, making it difficult for bulldogs to breathe through them properly. Stenosis can range from mild to severe.

This is a genetic defect that is present in brachycephalic breeds, including French Bulldogs. Most dogs can live with it without any health concerns. If the condition is severe and the dog is breathing abnormally, then medical treatment is required. Dogs with stenotic nares can exhibit the following signs.

  • Restlessness
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Paralysis

Soft Palate Elongation

Soft palate elongation is a very common abnormality among brachycephalic breeds. It is a congenital issue in which abnormal soft palate tissue is present that obstructs the airway causing difficulty in breathing. It can also be fatal if there is a complete blockage of passage. The following signs are usually observed.

  • Hyperventilation
  • Shock
  • gagging

Tracheal Hypoplasia

It is a congenital anomaly in which the windpipe(trachea) is narrower than normal. It can be of varying degrees depending on the diameter of the trachea. If it is mildly narrow, the dog can live a normal healthy life. In severe cases, it can be fatal.

Exercise Intolerance and Heat Stroke

A French Bulldog, because of its squished-in face, has a compromised respiratory system. It cannot well oxygenate its body, and to counter it, it breathes rapidly, which gives loud sounds. It is because of this that French bulldogs cannot well tolerate exercise stress.

The main source of ventilation in dogs is panting, and French Bulldogs, like all other brachycephalic breeds, are not good at it. They can become overheated easily, which can be even fatal for these dogs.

Solutions for French Bulldog Breathing Problems

French Bulldogs commonly suffer from breathing difficulties ranging from mild to severe – but luckily, there are treatments! Home remedies and preventive measures can provide relief, while seeking professional medical advice is recommended when symptoms worsen.

 We have explained some here, do read on!

Medical Treatments for French Bulldog Breathing Problems

The nature of medical treatment depends on the cause of the respiratory problem in French Bulldogs. Some can be controlled by mere medication, while others can require surgical intervention. The prognosis of these treatments is usually good, with high chances of recovery.

Surgery 

It is the treatment of choice if the airway of your dog has been narrowed by other tissues, such as brachycephalic airway syndrome, stenotic nares, and elongated soft palate. The excessive tissue is excised and removed to make the passage clear so your dog can breathe easily.

Medications

Bulldogs with respiratory issues may need meds, ranging from cough suppressants to bronchodilators, expectorants, and decongestants. These medications can provide symptomatic relief for your dog’s condition but may not be a permanent solution.

Oxygen Therapy

During heat stroke or after exercise, if your dog is breathing abnormally or losing consciousness with gums turning blue, there is a possibility that it is facing oxygen deficiency

Oxygen therapy is indicated in this situation in which oxygen is provided to the body. When the body has oxygenated, the severity of stroke is reduced significantly.

Home Remedies and Prevention Tips For French Bulldog Breathing Problems

Here are some cool tips and management advice that you can follow to reduce and prevent respiratory issues in your dog.

Weight Management

Overweight dogs are more prone to respiratory issues. Keeping your dog’s weight within the recommended range can help manage these problems.

If you’re looking for a simple way to help your French Bulldog lose weight, we recommend Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Chicken Adult Small Breed Formula Dry Dog Food, along with regular exercise.

Purina Pro Plan Weight Management – Chicken – Adult Small Breed

8.9 out of 10
218814 MAIN. AC SL1200 V1649131010

This dog food is specially designed for small-breed adult dogs (like Frenchies) with weight management needs. The formula contains high-quality protein from real chicken to help maintain muscle mass while promoting healthy weight loss. It is also formulated with natural fiber to aid in digestion and keep your dog feeling full.

Quality
9.2 out of 10
Taste
8.9 out of 10
Ingredients
9 out of 10
Price
8.6 out of 10

Pros

Specially formulated for small breed adult dogs with weight management needs

High-quality protein from real chicken to help maintain muscle mass

Natural fiber aids in digestion and keeps your dog feeling full

Cons

Some Frenchies may not like the taste or have allergies to chicken

Some Frenchie Pawrents may prefer a grain-free formula

Exercise And Playtime Management

Excessive exercise and playtime without a rest period cause stress on the respiratory system. Only light exercise should be allowed for such dogs, and playtime breaks should be given to catch their breath. Keep an eye out for signs of abnormal breathing.

Control Temperature And Humidity

Since French Bulldogs can not ventilate effectively, the hot and humid environment should be avoided at all costs. Turn on the AC, or open a window to provide a cooler environment for your dog.

Nasal Drops

Sterile nasal drops and medicated drops are available and can be used regularly for de-congestion and keeping the airway moist. This help reduces inflammation or airway friction which results in better breathing.

When To See A Vet For French Bulldog Breathing Problems

French Bulldogs normally breathe loudly, and mild respiratory difficulty is a normal characteristic of this dog. But as a pet parent, you should keep checking the breathing pattern of your dog. 

If your dog starts to breathe rapidly, a wheezing sound starts, gums turn blue, chokes, or collapses, you should rush to your Vet because it is an emergency situation and may cause the death of your pet. Your Vet will provide emergency medication and examination, and you can discuss your options to improve the situation for your furry friend.

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