My French Bulldog is Having a Breathing Attack


Watching your beloved dog as they fight for air can be a terrifying experience. If you’re not used to it, you’d probably be very concerned that they have something seriously wrong with them. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’ll know just what it’s like to feel as if you’re unable to breathe.

This is a fairly common scenario for a lot of these kinds of breeds. Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Shi Tzus are a few of the other types of dogs who regularly suffer with breathing problems. Luckily though, there are a few things that can be done to provide your little buddy with some comfort, and there may not be a need to panic at all.

My French Bulldog is having a breathing attack. What are the symptoms?

One of the most common conditions that these dog breeds often suffer from is Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS).

Brachycephaly is when your dog has a stubby top jaw and nose but the soft tissues within their nose are more suited to that of a regular shaped upper respiratory system, forcing the tissues to be cramped up in a rather tiny area.

Because of this unfortunate setup, your French Bulldog can be affected by a variety of breathing issues including what you may call a breathing attack.

Some breathing problems can amount to little more than an annoyance for your Frenchie, while others can be very detrimental to their health.

Snoring, spluttering, coughing, gagging, mouth breathing, and even vomiting are common signs in dogs who struggle with this condition.

Photo by Gabriel Rodrigues on Unsplash

A veterinarian can be quick to diagnose your Frenchie with BAOS as it’s such a frequent problem in these types of breeds.

However, opting for a more accurate diagnosis can be a tricky situation since part of the process involved in determining whether or not your dog suffers from BAOS includes x-rays and sometimes endoscopy.

These are typically done after your pooch has been placed under anaesthesia, which could be a problem seeing as dogs suffering from BAOS have a greater mortality risk during anaesthesia due to their breathing troubles.

How can I stop my Frenchie from having a breathing attack?

Your ability to prevent or alleviate your dog’s breathing attack will be determined by a number of factors. Doggies with excess fat are more susceptible to breathing problems, so it’s important for you to make sure they’re sitting at a healthy weight. You also need to make sure that your dog’s temperature is being regulated. French Bulldog’s don’t function well when they get too hot. Heat stroke, exhaustion, and the swelling of their airways can contribute to your Frenchie’s respiratory struggles.

Using a harness around your dog’s chest instead of a leash around their neck will mean less strain on their throat.

Using a harness instead of a collar can help
prevent breathing difficulties ³

Allergies are another potential aspect which could cause your dog to battle with their breathing. You should be able to correct this with the help of allergy medication so that your snub-nosed canine doesn’t have to deal with excessive mucous and fluid production. If none of this works, then unfortunately you might be left with surgery as your only remaining option.

  • How To Introduce A French Bulldog To A Cat

Why do French Bulldogs struggle to breathe and gasp for air?

As previously mentioned, the genetic makeup of the French Bulldog creates a lot of difficulties with their respiration.

Having small nostrils doesn’t help with breathing ⁴

Small nostrils make it very easy for their nasal passages to become obstructed, forcing them to sometimes exert extra effort into getting a decent breath of air. Respiratory irritation can get worse with time making it more and more challenging for your Frenchie to breathe without any hassles. As a result, you have to be extra cautious when your dog is doing exercise as they can quickly become exhausted which could lead to some form of breathing attack. If your pooch is having trouble moving about, you might want to take them for a visit with the vet as this can be one of the signs of respiratory inflammation.

What is the cost of breathing surgery for my French Bulldog?

The price to put your dog through surgery varies as there are a few different procedures to consider. Stenotic nares resection can cost you anything from $200 to $1,000, while soft palate resection can set you back between $500 and $1,500 or more depending on how serious your dog’s condition is, the area you live in, and your dog’s overall health as well.

Vets can operate to improve breathing ⁵

This should of course be a last resort though. You should first do your best to improve your pet’s daily routine to reduce respiratory irritation. As well as maintaining an appropriate weight and temperature, monitoring the amount of exercise they get, and doing away with neck collars, you should also attempt to reduce stressful environments for your dog.

A nose cream or “snout balm” can also help for dogs suffering from a dry or sensitive nose. Although surgery can be an immense help, it comes with risks and it might cost you more than just money. However, assuming everything goes well, your furry friend should recover from their surgery relatively quickly.

What is reverse breathing and is it dangerous?

This is when your dog has breathing or sneezing fits but rather than pushing air out, they’re sucking air in. Typically it’s accompanied by head shaking, fluids running from the nose, and a bit of spluttering or coughing.

There is no concrete evidence to suggest that there’s one particular reason for reverse breathing or reverse sneezing. Most likely it is caused by occasional influences and therefore shouldn’t require you to stress too much.

I have written other articles on reverse sneezing. One is about reverse sneezing at night and the other is about reverse sneezing getting worse.

As the seasons change, your Frenchie could battle with allergies just like many other dogs and humans do as well.

Sometimes when your hounds get really excited, they experience a minor muscle contraction in their throat which can cause them to reverse sneeze temporarily. A shift in temperature can also have a similar effect.

Nasal mites collected from other doggies in the area can also create a reverse breathing episode.

If this is the case and your dog is experiencing infrequent reverse breathing episodes then it shouldn’t be anything serious to worry about. On the other hand, if it’s a constant occurrence then it’s best that you have your dog checked out by a vet as it could be an indication of an underlying allergy or respiratory issue that may require more delicate attention.

If it really bothers you, there are a few methods you can try to help stop your dog’s reverse breathing fit. Lightly massaging your dog’s throat will help them to clear their airways and hopefully stop the sneezing attack. The attack could be triggered by over-stimulation or over-heating, so you could try to cool your dog down and get them into a calmer more relaxing setting. Lightly pushing down onto their tongue can cause your dog to open up their mouth a bit wider than normal, which should allow for more air to enter the lungs and clear up whatever it is creating the attack. If all else fails, momentarily blocking your dog’s nose (no more than a couple seconds) should encourage them to swallow and hopefully get rid of whatever might be causing the problem in their nasal passage.

What other respiratory problems might a French Bulldog have?

Smushed-face or flat-face dog breeds, more scientifically known as breeds with Brachycephalic Syndrome, are predisposed to suffer from numerous respiratory ailments. Apart from nasal sensitivity and allergies, the general structure of the French Bulldog’s face and neck is less than ideal when it comes to clean and easy breathing. Narrow nostrils (Stenotic Nares) usually result in restrictive airflow which doesn’t help either.

Over time as people continued to breed these dogs to have more of the adorable smushed-face that appeals to so many, the dog’s soft palate didn’t quite keep up with the changes. This left excess amounts of obtrusive tissue all bunched up in the upper airway of the Frenchie’s respiratory system, further restricting proper airflow. Sometimes your dog will breathe in odd bits of matter which shouldn’t be making its way into their lungs, such as vomit. This is known as Aspiration Pneumonia and it can be quite serious as the foreign content typically hosts unwanted bacteria and it can lead to a nasty infection. Also, continued inflammation of the sensitive tissues in their throat can lead to swollen tonsils and make it even more troubling for your Frenchie to breathe properly.

Is it normal for a French Bulldog to breathe fast?

Compared to other breeds of dogs that have longer noses, such as Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs do appear to breathe fast. 

It doesn’t take much for a Frenchie to start breathing fast…⁶

As has already been mentioned, French Bulldogs are not built to breathe easily at the best of times, that stubby nose and short nostrils don’t help. 

You will often see them with their mouths open to help them breathe more easily. 

Even when they are standing still and not moving at all, their breath seems a bit laboured and a bit fast considering that they are not doing anything! 

In contrast, a Golden Retriever that is just standing around will not have its mouth open. 

Not surprisingly a time when a French Bulldog breathes most easily is when laying down and resting. 

In this position, they won’t be breathing fast and it could be one of the only occasions that they have their mouths completely shut! 

For a French Bulldog their breath will get much faster when they start to move or run around. 

Their mouth will be open wider, their tongue will be hanging out a bit and their chest will be moving up and down. 

Although most Frenchie’s love nothing more than charging and jumping around like dogs that are possessed, as an owner you need to keep a close eye on how fast your dog’s breathing has become. 

Make these sessions short and sharp and give your French Bulldog plenty of time to regain its breath in between. 

Also bear in mind that the recommended amount of daily exercise for a French Bulldog is about 1 hour and it is recommended that this time should be split into two or three walks to avoid causing them any breathing difficulties. 

Like most other dogs, French Bulldogs will also be breathing faster and panting more heavily in hot weather. 

This is because dogs pant as a way to cool down. 

Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat as a means to control their body temperature. 

So how can you help your French Bulldog keep cool and breathe more easily in hot weather? 

There are three things to consider. 

  1. Walk early in the morning or late at night to avoid the hottest parts of the day. 
  2. Make sure that they have access to a plentiful supply of fresh drinking water. 
  3. A cool place to relax. Stone or hardwood floors are great and if it by a open window or door, so much the better!

Closing thoughts

Looking after certain breeds can take more time and effort than others. French Bulldogs require you to be much more alert and cautious than you might be with a less sensitive dog. Your Frenchie should be treated like a family member and given the best care available to them. If you spend a lot of time at work and your dog is left to get through the day without a proper caretaker, you may want to consider bringing in a pet sitter to keep your pooch company and make sure that they’re safe while you’re away.

Photo Credits

³ Photo by Petr Urbanek on Unsplash

⁴ Photo by Gabriela Torzsa on Unsplash

⁵ Photo by from Pexels

⁶ Photo by Leandro Lucas on Unsplash