Pet Wellness Guides > Do French Bulldogs Have Breathing Problems? - Pet Insurance Review

Do French Bulldogs Have Breathing Problems?

Posted: 09/20/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

Do French Bulldogs have breathing problems? The short answer is, yes, they often do. While breathing problems may occur in any dog breed, they are most common in breeds with flat faces, like the Frenchie. 

Healthy French Bulldogs should never experience labored breathing. Those Frenchies that experience fast or heavy breathing may suffer from a breathing condition called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). Sadly, over the years breeders have bred the Frenchie to have incredibly flat faces and that is now causing health concerns. 

Keep reading to learn more about BOAS, what causes it, signs to look for and how you can help your sweet pup.

Key Takeaways

  • Many Frenchies suffer from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), which is caused by facial abnormalities.
  • Due to BOAS, Frenchies and other flat-faced breeds have an increased risk of heat stroke and even death if not treated quickly.
  • It’s important to pay close attention to your pup to notice any signs that indicate a breathing problem.
  • BOAS may be treated through lifestyle changes. More severe cases may require surgery.
  • BOAS surgery costs can range between $1500 and $5,000 depending on severity of the condition.


What is BOAS?

Most Frenchie owners fell madly in love with the breed because of that adorable squished face. Other breeds like Boxers, Pugs and Shih Tzus are also popular because of their flat faces.

While that flat face may make us fall in love, the physiology of French Bulldogs’ flat faces predisposes them to breathing issues like BOAS as well as overheating. It should be noted that BOAS is not one, single health issue but rather an umbrella condition that can take different forms:

  • Labored breathing
  • Loud snoring
  • Inability to exercise for long periods due from lack of oxygen
  • Tendency to suffer from heat stroke because of their inability to pant efficiently

What’s Going on with That Head?

French Bulldogs suffer from breathing issues because they have specific anatomical abnormalities, meaning the shape of their head, nose and mouth are a bit…off. Flat faced dogs have an elongated soft palate that obstructs their windpipe, which is already very narrow. The result is reduced air supply.

To make matters worse, Frenchies have small, narrow nostrils, which also decrease their breathing. And finally, the overall shape of flat faced breeds’ throat makes choking a real hazard.

If you have a Frenchie, understand that all of these facial abnormalities make your sweet pup very vulnerable to hot weather. Because they have trouble panting, and panting is how a dog cools itself, they can quickly overheat. This can become dangerous and turn into heat stroke and even death if not immediately addressed.

Does My Frenchie Have a Breathing Problem? Signs to Look For

If you suspect your French Bulldog has BOAS, watch out for the following signs and symptoms. Should you notice any, contact your vet immediately.

Weird Sounds When at Rest

When your pup is resting, take a good listen to their breathing. Though they may not seem bothered, do you hear any odd noises? If you hear sounds like snoring (they are awake), wheezing, or rasping, your Frenchie may have a breathing problem. And generally speaking, the noisier the breathing, the more severe their condition may be.

Not Fond of Exercise or Play

Pay close attention to your pup during any form of exercise. If they are reluctant to play or go on walks, this may be due to the fact that they struggle to breathe when doing so. If they begin panting with their tongue hanging out after very little exertion on a cool day, they may very well have BOAS. Do not force your Frenchie to walk or play if they seem to exhaust easily.

Gum Color

When your pup isn’t getting enough oxygen, you may notice their lips, gums, and tongue may change color. Healthy gums are a nice pink color. Check your pup’s mouth to see if their gums and tongue are blue, gray, or purple. If so, call your vet.

Other signs that may indicate a breathing problem and/or related heat stroke include:

  • Drooling
  • Glazed eyes
  • Increased pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Staggering

Again, overheating can quickly lead to heat stroke, which can result in death if you don’t act fast. If you suspect your Frenchie is overheating because of breathing problems, move them to a cool place, calmly wet their head and body with cool water, and provide cool water to drink. Call your vet for assistance and further instructions.

How to Help Your Pup

Addressing breathing issues in French Bulldogs comes down to surgery or lifestyle changes. Let’s tackle some lifestyle changes first:

Keep Cool

If your vet has diagnosed your pup with BOAS, you need to stay vigilant about temperature. Be sure to take your Frenchie on walks in the early morning or evening to avoid the heat of the day. 

Keep Calm

Do your best to stop your Frenchie from getting overly excited. The best way to go about this is to model calm behavior yourself. Be still and breath nice and slow. Bring your internal and external energy way down. Dogs communicate to each other often through invisible energy signals. You can signal to your dog how to be calm and zen. Try it. 

Reduce Exercise

Your pup needs some exercise to be healthy, but not too much that they begin to have trouble breathing. Reduce the time to short 10-15 minute sessions. You may also want to consider getting a small dog stroller so if your pup gets tired on a walk, you can scoop her up and push her back home.

Avoid Leaving Them Alone for Long Periods

Separation anxiety can trigger breathing trouble in Frenchies. Try not to leave your pup home alone for long periods. If they are the only pet in the house, consider getting them another dog or cat as a companion.

Control Their Weight

Many dogs diagnosed with BOAS are overweight. You may need to speak with your vet about ways to control your pup’s weight. If exercise is reduced, a new diet may be in order.

BOAS Surgery for French Bulldog Breathing Problems

If your vet thinks your pup’s breathing issues are severe, she may recommend surgery. During this procedure the surgeon may do one or more of the following:

  • Widen your Frenchie’s nostrils
  • Remove excess tissue from their soft palate
  • Remove everted laryngeal saccules (small sacs inside the larynx)

As with any surgery, there are some risks so be sure to speak with your vet and the vet specialist who will perform the surgery.

How Much Does BOAS Surgery Cost?

The cost of BOAS surgery will depend on the severity of your pup’s condition as well as your geographic location. Having said that, the following are some average costs:

  • Surgery consultation: $200 to $750
  • Soft palate resection: $500 to $2,000
  • Stenotic nares resection: $200 to $1,200
  • Overnight care: $200 – $750
  • Aftercare: $100 to $500

Does Pet Insurance Cover the Cost of BOAS Surgery?

As long as the condition isn’t pre-existing, your pet insurance plan should cover surgery costs. This is why it is so important to enroll pets while they are young and before they are diagnosed with anything major.

If you’ve been on the fence about pet insurance and suspect your Frenchie may have a breathing problem, insure them right away.

Final Thoughts

Do French Bulldogs have breathing problems? Sadly, yes, they are prone to breathing problems. Without French Bulldogs are some of the most adorable dogs on the planet, that cute squished face can cause some serious health issues. Be sure to pay close attention to their breathing and have them checked out immediately if you suspect they may have BOAS.

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Liu NC, Troconis EL, Kalmar L, Price DJ, Wright HE, Adams VJ, Sargan DR, Ladlow JF. Conformational risk factors of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) in pugs, French bulldogs, and bulldogs. PLoS One. 2017 Aug 1;12(8):e0181928. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181928. PMID: 28763490; PMCID: PMC5538678. “About BOAS” “Brachycephalic Syndrome”



The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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