French Bulldog Breathing Issues: What You Need to Know - TomKings Puppies Blog

French Bulldog Breathing Issues: What You Need to Know

French Bulldogs, with their adorable flat faces and affectionate personalities, have stolen the hearts of many. However, their distinctive looks may come with a set of challenges, particularly when it comes to breathing. Understanding French Bulldog breathing issues is crucial for any current or prospective owner, so in this article, we share expert advice on how you can recognize and manage them in your Frenchie.

Understanding French Bulldog Breathing Issues

French Bulldogs are adored worldwide not only for their affectionate nature but their characteristic short snouts. Being a brachycephalic dog breed, their short skull and flat face leads to narrowed airways, making their breathing a lot different than in longer-nosed breeds. As a result, Frenchies naturally produce a range of distinctive sounds while breathing, such as snorting and snuffling. 

Claribel, available French Bulldog puppy at TomKings Puppies
Claribel, French Bulldog puppy at TomKings Puppies (She has no breathing issues)

The loudness of these noises among individual Frenchies can be influenced by various factors, like their overall health, level of physical activity and body weight. Though they may seem excessive for someone who is not familiar with the breed, these sounds are generally not a cause for alarm if the pup is otherwise healthy and active. The truth is, many Frenchie parents come to cherish these quirky sounds as part of the breed’s charm. 

On the other hand, it’s essential to consider that this distinctive Frenchie trait comes with its own set of health implications. Notably, the Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (also known as BOAS) is a condition that many Frenchies are prone to developing at some point in their life. BOAS is combination of anatomical abnormalities including narrowed nostrils, elongation and thickening of the soft palate. In more serious cases, it involves the collapse of the larynx or inherent narrowing of the airways.

It’s important to note that breathing difficulties are not necessarily hereditary. Because of their anatomy, any French Bulldog can experience these issues even if their parents are free from BOAS. Nevertheless, responsible French Bulldog breeders must prioritize the careful selection of their breeding dogs and only include Frenchies in their breeding program who are free from this condition. That is the only way to reduce the likelihood of BOAS as much as possible.

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How to Recognize French Bulldog Breathing Issues?

Many Frenchie parents find it difficult to determine when their Frenchie is struggling and when their breathing is considered normal. Learning how to identify severe breathing problems in Frenchies is crucial for ensuring a comfortable life for them. So, let’s see what are the symptoms that you should look out for.

Symptoms Indicating Breathing Issues

French Bulldogs may show several symptoms of respiratory distress that as a Frenchie parent you should be vigilant about. Exercise intolerance is the most telling sign. If your Frenchie has trouble keeping up with routine physical activities like walking, or if they pant excessively and need to rest immediately after playtime, these are signs that their breathing might be compromised. 

Black French bulldog - TomKings Puppies
A happy TomKings pup 🙂

Regurgitation is another common symptom that may come hand-in-hand with breathing difficulties. So, if your Frenchie is struggling with digesting their food, that requires immediate attention. Finally, while some level of snoring and louder breathing is normal for Frenchies, if you observe any abnormal breathing patterns that were not typical of your Frenchie before, that’s another sign that a vet visit might be necessary.

Consulting a Veterinarian

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential to take your Frenchie to a vet as only a professional can accurately assess their condition. While narrow nostrils can be identified during a physical examination, internal abnormalities like elongated soft palates and narrow airways require more thorough examinations, such as neck and chest X-rays or endoscopic evaluations.

Veterinary experts can determine the severity of your French Bulldog’s breathing issues and suggest the most appropriate course of treatment. This could range from lifestyle adjustments to surgical interventions, depending on the individual case. The ultimate goal is to ensure your Frenchie leads a comfortable and happy life, free from the distress caused by breathing difficulties.

Is It Possible to Prevent Breathing Problems?

Breathing difficulties in French Bulldogs are a concern for many owners, given the breed’s predisposition to respiratory issues. While it’s impossible to guarantee that a Frenchie will never experience breathing problems, there are several steps you can take to minimize the risk and ensure your pet leads a healthy and comfortable life.

Black and tan French bulldog - TomKings Puppies
William, French bulldog puppy at TomKings Puppies

Weight Management

One of the most effective ways to prevent breathing difficulties in your Frenchie is by diligently managing their weight. Obesity can worsen respiratory issues by putting additional pressure on the airway and chest, making it harder for your pup to breathe. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular, moderate exercise is crucial. Be mindful of your Frenchie’s calorie intake and ensure they’re getting the right balance of nutrients to support their overall health.

Appropriate Exercise

Due to their compact size, shorter snout and legs, Frenchies are not as athletic as larger breeds. It’s important to recognize their physical limitations and avoid over-exertion. Intense or prolonged physical activity can lead to respiratory distress, so it’s advisable to keep exercise sessions short and sweet. You should opt for several brief, leisurely walks throughout the day rather than long, strenuous hikes, especially in warm weather. Other activities such as short play sessions and indoor games can provide the necessary physical and mental stimulation.

Preventing Overheating

French Bulldogs are particularly susceptible to overheating, which can quickly escalate into a respiratory emergency. During the warmer months, from May to September, it’s best to limit outdoor activities to the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning and late evening. Always ensure your Frenchie has access to shade and plenty of fresh water during outdoor activities. Indoor playtime could be a safer alternative during hot days to prevent overheating and the associated breathing difficulties.

Black and tan French bulldog - TomKings Puppies

Surgical Interventions

When Is a Surgery Necessary?

The topic of nostril and soft palate surgery is still a controversial one within the French Bulldog community. Vets often recommend it to Frenchie parents even if the only issue is the characteristic loud breathing, but it’s important to note that most cases do not require surgical intervention.

We only recommend the surgery when the labored breathing affects a Frenchie’s quality of life and hinders them in their daily activities. We always say that it should be the owner’s decision whether to have the surgery done as they’re the ones who see how their pup is doing day by day.

If you notice that your Frenchie’s labored breathing is causing problems and that is confirmed by a veterinarian through X-ray, then a surgery is justified of course. However, it’s important to understand that even after surgery, a Frenchie will not breathe in the same way as a dog with a longer snout. So, it’s crucial to have realistic expectations about the outcomes.

What Does the Surgery Look Like?

The aim of the surgery is naturally to open up the airways and maximize the amount of oxygen that can reach a Frenchie’s lungs while breathing. It usually involves two key parts. The first is the widening of the nostrils, and second is the shortening of the part of the soft palate that extends into the trachea. These are usually recommended to be done simultaneously for the best results. Considering the procedure at a younger age is also advised, as puppies can usually better tolerate the stress of the surgery.

Nowadays, nostril and soft palate surgeries have become relatively routine. Still, it’s essential to find a surgeon who is well equipped and has plenty of experience with brachycephalic breeds. When performed correctly, these procedures can significantly improve a Frenchie’s quality of life by increasing their physical activity, and even lengthen their lifespan .

Rori, available Fluffy French Bulldog puppy at TomKings Puppies
Rori, Fluffy French Bulldog puppy at TomKings Puppies

Experiences of Frenchie Parents

Naturally, many Frenchie parents have concerns about putting their fur baby under surgery. If you’re in the same shoes, it can help a lot to talk to other parents who have already been through the process. Below, you can read the comments of two Frenchie parents from the TomKings Frenchie Family Facebook group:

Violet“I had to do it on Marcel because he would literally stop on the side of the street panting during our walk and he was just a puppy. I also took him to a second opinion to make sure he really needs it. I have to say it was a little scary but if you go to a reputable place that routinely does this surgery, he should be fine. They usually do the soft palate and the nostrils surgery at the same time. We did it when he was still a puppy and he recovered in less than 3 weeks. Now he is back to normal except he’s making a strange squeaky sound instead of the snorting but still cute!”

Ricci“We did BOAS Surgery for Reyna. They widen her nostrils and shorten soft palette. When she turned 1 yr old she would overheat a lot even on cold days and would throw up in the middle of the night. Her primary vet suggested the surgery. It was a scary thought but it was the best decision we did for her! Day and night difference with her endurance. Do your research and make sure to ask the right questions to your surgeon. 

1. Are you board certified for soft palette surgery?

2. Do you use scalpel or laser? (We preferred the scalpel method)

3. How many frenchies have you done this surgery with?

4. What’s the success rate of your hospital in this particular surgery?

5. What are the complications that could happen?

These are just the few questions I asked our vet. Don’t be scared to ask questions and if you don’t feel like your baby will be in good hands then look for another surgeon!”

How Worried Should Potential Owners Be?

If you’re thinking about welcoming a Frenchie, it’s just natural to have concerns about the breed’s tendency for breathing issues. While it’s true that they are more common in French Bulldogs due to their brachycephalic nature, it’s also important to note that the majority of Frenchies live comfortably without ever needing a surgery. With proper care, they can even exceed the average French Bulldog lifespan of 10-12 years!

French Bulldog - TomKings Puppies
French Bulldog mommy with her puppies 🙂

It is of course crucial for potential owners to understand that a Frenchie will never be able to withstand the same level of physical activity as larger breeds or those with longer snouts. This may be an important factor for those who enjoy strenuous activities such as mountain climbing and long-distance hiking. However, that doesn’t mean that French Bulldogs can’t enjoy a full and active life within their capabilities. 

To sum up, the decision to welcome a Frenchie into your home should be made with a full understanding of their needs to ensure a wonderful life together. With attentive care, regular vet check-ups, and a suitable lifestyle, Frenchies can lead happy, fulfilling lives free from breathing struggles.

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The article is based on the expert knowledge of the TomKings Puppies team who have been breeding French Bulldogs for 13 years on their farm. All the pictures in the post belong to them and their customers, and show puppies from their breed. Check their available French Bulldog puppies, or if you have any questions or comments let us know below the article.

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