A prone French Bulldog poses for the camera.

French Bulldog Breathing Problems: Things to Know

If you are thinking of owning a French bulldog, then you should be aware of French bulldog breathing problems.

The set of their eyes and the reduced muzzle size gives the French bulldog a more human-like appearance. But the face of the French bulldog has not evolved naturally. It has been designed by deliberately breeding together dogs with smaller muzzles. This has caused the French bulldog to experience some very serious health problems.

French bulldog breathing problems can range from moderate to severe. The Frenchie is a loud, heavy breather and most French bulldogs snore. Many owners become concerned when they hear their French bulldog breathing heavily, and this may or may not be normal. It could be due to the physical makeup of the dog’s airway, or it could be a sign of brachycephalic airway syndrome. This is a condition that is common with French bulldogs and other dogs with short airways and scrunched faces. The problem can range from mild to serious with the most serious cases requiring surgery.

Overview of French Bulldog Breathing Problems

Flat-faced dogs are referred to as “brachycephalic”, and this condition is linked to a variety of health issues, including French bulldog breathing problems. These dogs have short facial bones but the same amount of facial tissue as a dog with a normal muzzle length. So there is more tissue inside the dog’s mouth than the muzzle has space for, sometimes blocking the airway so severely that surgery is needed to save the dog from respiratory distress.

Brachycephalic dogs have narrow nostrils, which leads to French bulldog breathing problems. The nostrils on the French bulldog are barely visible. This makes it hard for them to breathe and they cannot get enough air. If your dog can’t oxygenate himself, he cannot effectively cool himself down so he easily overheats. That means French bulldogs can’t run very far and they cannot cope with the weather when it is hot.

Brachycephalic Syndrome is an upper airway abnormality that is commonly seen in flat-faced dogs. The condition can include narrowed nostrils (stenotic nares) and an elongated soft palate. As a result, the dog suffers from breathing problems and symptoms that include exercise intolerance, noisy breathing, snoring, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

All brachycephalic dogs have compromised airways to some degree and many of them suffer severe symptoms. Speak to your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing any symptoms of Brachycephalic Syndrome. There are both surgical and medical treatments to help manage the condition.

If a French bulldog requires surgery, it may be very difficult for your veterinarian to intubate your dog because of his physical attributes.

To learn more about Brachycephalic Syndrome, go to Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs.

What Owners Can Do to Avoid Problems

French bulldog breathing problems are common. When you buy a French bulldog, you should be prepared for the financial and emotional cost of dealing with a breed that has a lot of health issues.

Managing mild cases of heavy breathing can be done by keeping your dog at a normal weight and controlling the amount of exercise your dog gets. If it is hot outside, you should keep your Frenchie inside in the cool air. Keep stress to a minimum. Your veterinarian may also recommend medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroids. Oxygen therapy may also be used for short term treatment of dogs who are in respiratory distress.

Things to Avoid

French bulldog breathing problems can worsen when you do not take the necessary precautions.

Do not over-exercise your dog.

Too much exercise can cause breathing difficulties as the dog is unable to take in the air it needs. Stick to a short 10 to 15 minute walk each day. Be aware of your dog’s symptoms. If you notice that your dog is having trouble keeping up, or if he seems fatigued, pick him up and carry him home.

Avoid walking your French bulldog in heat and humidity. Early morning and evening walks are best. That’s because they have a hard time breathing due to their short nose and compromised airways. Any exercise that increases the demand for oxygen should not be overdone.

The exercise needs of an adult Frenchie and a puppy are quite different. With a puppy, over strenuous walks are unnecessary – and they could possibly harm your pup. As a general rule, walk your French bulldog puppy about two minutes for every month of age. So a three-month-old puppy would walk about six minutes. During the walk, monitor your puppy for signs of fatigue and end the walk if they seem too tired to continue.

Keep your dog out of the heat.

French bulldogs are prone to overheating and breathing issues that are directly related to the structure of their faces. Brachycephalic dogs like the French bulldog are prone to heatstroke because they cannot take in enough oxygen to keep them cool and refreshed. They have trouble regulating their body temperature effectively. So don’t make your French bulldog physically exert himself too much. Go for walks in the morning and evening and avoid the hot temperatures during the day. Keep your French bulldog comfortable by keeping him in a cool air-conditioned environment.

To learn more about owning a French bulldog, read our article Owning a French Bulldog: What You Should Know. If you’d like to read more about the French bulldog, go to Choosing a French Bulldog.