French bulldogs are cute, endlessly sweet pups that make great pets. Although they resemble a standard bulldog in many ways - just a smaller version - their distinctive bat ears make them stand out and as they are not a breed that needs too much exercise, but are very social - they have become one the best loved of the small breed dogs in the world.
There are, as any Frenchie pet parent quickly learns, some inherent downsides to the French Bulldog though, especially when it comes to their health. Because they have such short faces, breathing problems are very common in Brachycephalic breeds like French Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingnese, Boston Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chinese Shar-Pei, Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso, This is because they, and other short nosed breeds - what are also known as breeds - are prone to being born with small windpipes, closed up or stenotic nostrils and excessive amounts of extra oral and respiratory tissues that can clog their airways and make it harder for them to catch their breath.
These traits are partially as a result of the breeding - and in some cases the over breeding - that went into French bulldogs to make them what they are. These days breeders are far more careful and are actively trying to breed some of these traits out, but it may be that the wheezy breathing of a Frenchie is just something their pet parents have to accept will need to be dealt with for their whole lives.
It should be noted that not all French bulldogs have breathing problems as a result of that little cute nose and that some only develop them later in life. For those who do a few preventative measures can often make sure that any issues they do have are not too much of a problem.
Making sure that their walks are not too long and that they are not allowed to overheat are both very important. Very few Frenchies do well in excessive heat and so they do prefer a nice air conditioned room in the summer over spending an afternoon in the sun outside. Careful monitoring as they age is important too, since, as we mentioned, some breathing problems only occur later in life.
Another option that may be available to a French bulldog's pet parent however is nose surgery to help correct the physical 'defects' that cause Frenchie specific breathing problems in the first place.
In some cases, a pet parent may be given the option to consider surgery to shorten an elongated palate and/or widen their stenotic nostrils so that breathing difficulties can be alleviated or prevented in the future.
In the right hands these are actually relatively straightforward surgeries and most healthy French Bulldogs recover well from them after just a few days of recuperation. They are however, also quite expensive and, as is the case for humans, any surgery however minor comes along with certain risks, so the question that many Frenchie pet parents find themselves asking is whether ot not nose surgery for French bulldogs is actually worth it.
The answer to that question is very hard to define. Many pet parents who have opted to have surgeries performed report that they feel that their pup has a 'new lease on life' and seems to be able to breathe better and there is certainly no arguing that that can only be a good thing. For the most part though these are pups that were having problems already, and surgery was decided to be the best course of action to improve the quality of their lives.
The real question however is whether these surgeries should be performed as a 'preventive measure' on a pup who is currently not experiencing and serious ill effects of their stenotic nostrils or soft palate. Often, in these cases, as long as basic, common sense measures like avoiding over exercise and excessive exposure to the heat French bulldogs breathe just fine and may even run around more than other breeds their size. So would it be fair - or even financially sensible - to subject them to a surgery they really do not need at this time in case something happens in the future?
Dogs severely affected by stenotic nares requiring corrective surgery will show some of the following symptoms:
If your Frenchie's stenotic nares are mild you can take certain preventative measures to make him more comfortable.
Although opinion here divides, often among pet parents themselves, most vets and veterinary surgeons prefer to work on a case by case basis and only perform nose surgery when diagnostic testing and examinations have been able to determine that the chances are good that there would be a benefit to the potential patient once all is said and done.
In short, no pet parent should assume that getting nose surgery for their French Bulldog is a must, something that should be done as a matter of routine. Instead they should learn, with guidance from their vet, how to recognize the signs of breathing trouble and respiratory distress in their pup, what they can so to help prevent it and how they should react in an emergency or if problems do seem to be developing as the pup ages.
Diagnosis is pretty straightforward, your pup's airways are assessed under general anesthetic. It is at that point that a vet will decide if corrective surgery is required or not.
A bill's vet for surgery required for enlarging obstructive nasal passages can run up between $200 and $1,000. The cost of surgery varies depending on the severity, where you live, and the dog's general health.
Surgery involves widening the nostrils by removing pieces of the nostril wall.
After stenotic nares surgery, dogs can bounce back to normal within a day or two but will have to be closely monitored for about a week thereafter to ensure stitches don't accidentally come out.
For those who need it, nose surgery can indeed be a real boon for Frenchies. We can only imagine as humans what it must be like for a pup who has been struggling to breathe to finally get more fresh air into their lungs on a constant basis.
But be guided by the experts - your vet and if necessary a surgical specialist - rather than what some people might just think is probably a good idea just because of the breed of dog they are.
If you have any questions or concerns about your pug, french bulldog or any other brachycephalic breed, don't wait.
Call your nearest vet for a check-up and physical examination to see if Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome is affecting your Frenchie or to see if there are any other issues affecting his breathing.