The French Bulldog definitely has their moment in the spotlight. Frenchies have become wildly popular, thanks in part to celebrities flocking to the breed.
Lady Gaga, Taraji P. Henson, Jeremy Piven – even The Rock have chosen the French Bulldog for their canine BFFs.
French Bulldogs also have wonderful personalities and are great dogs for living in small spaces because they don't need a lot of exercises. But there are some known health issues in the breed that include breathing fast.
In this article, learn what you need to know if your French Bulldog has started breathing fast and you are not sure what is wrong. But if your Frenchie is in obvious distress, don't wait – call your dog's veterinarian right away!
French Bulldog Breathing Fast
French Bulldogs breathing fast is a known health concern for short muzzle breeds like the Frenchie, as Vets Now explains.
Sometimes fast breathing is a simple case of your dog getting overheated. They will pant because that is a form of canine sweating to help their bodies cool down.
But sometimes fast breathing can also mean your dog is anxious. Frenchies are prone to separation anxiety because they get so bonded to their people.
And sometimes fast breathing in French Bulldogs is related to their facial structure and anatomy. Their short, cute faces can also mean shorter respiratory passages and narrowed nostrils that make it harder to get enough air in with each breath.
Listen to a Veterinarian Talk About French Bulldog Breathing Problems
In this short and useful YouTube video, you can hear from an experienced canine veterinarian who is treating a French Bulldog puppy with breathing problems.
As you will learn, many of the breathing issues French Bulldogs have are related to their facial anatomy. And some of the problems are fixable with surgery, but since surgery can be pricey it is good to know about these possibilities as early as possible.
In the remainder of this article, we will talk about what causes these breathing problems and your options to make sure your Frenchie stays safe and healthy.
Why Do French Bulldogs Breathe Fast: An Overview of Reasons
As we mentioned earlier in this article, there is a whole range of reasons that might cause your French Bulldog to start breathing fast.
So let's take a look at the main reasons your Frenchie might start breathing fast. When in doubt, always take your dog to the nearest veterinary emergency room!
Brachycephalic muzzle type
As dog expert Stanley Coren, Ph.D., points out in Psychology Today, there are three main muzzle shapes that dogs can have.
The three main shapes are dolichocephalic (long muzzle), mesocephalic (medium muzzle), and brachycephalic (short muzzle). The French Bulldog has a brachycephalic shape.
However, there can be some variation between the three shapes, which means some French Bulldogs may have shorter muzzles than others.
The shorter the muzzle, the less room for everything that needs to fit inside, including teeth, nostrils, nasals passages, tonsils, larynx, tongue, palate, eyes – there are a lot of necessary anatomical parts that have to fit in your dog's head!
Because of this, sometimes all that extra tissue gets bunched up inside the nostrils, which causes them to be smaller and thinner. That makes it harder to draw air in. This can lead to fast breathing or panting in Frenchies.
Obstructive airway syndrome
Because of both their short muzzle shape and a co-occurring unrelated genetic issue, French Bulldogs can develop a very serious lifelong genetic health issue called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, or BOAS for short.
As Discover Magazine explains, this genetic issue basically means your dog spends their life trying to breathe in all the air they need through the equivalent of a drinking straw.
While not all dogs that have BOAS have a short muzzle shape, having the gene that causes BOAS and having a short muzzle can make the health concerns even more worrisome for a Frenchie.
Many people don't realize that dogs don't sweat like people sweat. Dogs can't sweat through their skin. They sweat by panting and through their paw pads.
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains, French Bulldogs can be unusually challenged to keep cool in hot weather and should be kept indoors during the warm hours of the day.
Otherwise, fast breathing may represent a desperate attempt on the part of your dog to stay cool.
As French Bulldogs of Texas breeder points out, French Bulldogs have a tendency to develop separation anxiety.
These dogs just really don't like being left alone! A Frenchie that is expected to self-entertain for hours each day is likely to become very anxious when you leave for yet another long day away from the house.
One of the hallmark symptoms of separation anxiety can be panting and fast breathing. Here, context will help you figure out if separation anxiety could be at the root of your French Bulldog's fast breathing.
French Bulldogs are also quite easily able to get themselves worked up to the point where they get over-excited and start breathing fast.
Something as simple as you coming home or a new tasty treat could send your Frenchie into a tailspin frenzy of activity, with the end result being a dog that is panting to calm down and cool down.
How to Help Your Frenchie Catch Their Breath
There are several steps you can take to help your French Bulldog start to calm down and slow their breathing.
Ignore your dog when you first come home
This can be a hard one, especially since you probably missed your pup as much as they missed you!
But especially if separation anxiety may be at the root of your dog's fast breathing, you need to help your French Bulldog learn how to greet you in a calm way that is not dangerous to their health.
One of the best methods is to simply not act like you coming home is a big deal. Ignore your dog until they calm down and only then greet them. Frenchies are so smart it probably won't take long before your dog catches on and adjusts its behavior.
Be careful not to over-exercise or play in hot weather
French Bulldogs are very vulnerable to overheating, especially when they are outdoors in the warm season.
But since your Frenchie is never going to grasp the need to take it easy, you will have to be the one to moderate your dog's activity level. Limit outdoor activity to cooler hours and make sure your pup isn't playing too vigorously or walking too fast.
Sit down and encourage your dog to sit on your lap
If your French Bulldog is overheated or over-excited, the best thing you can do is model the behavior you want your dog to adopt.
In other words, just sit down and become calm. Your dog will probably want to join you and sit on your lap (most French Bulldogs love to do this).
Speak gently and softly to your dog and give them pats to ease any anxiety or distress they may be feeling.
Talk with your dog's veterinarian about options
While no dog owner loves to hear this, for some French Bulldogs a surgical intervention may be what gives them the best quality of life. It is anxiety-producing when a dog cannot breathe fully – for both your dog and for you.
In some cases, simply removing some of the extra tissue in the nasal passages may help ease your dog's breathing problems.
Your veterinarian may also want to try medications (either over-the-counter remedies or prescription medications) to keep your dog calmer and quieter before recommending surgery.
Talk to your vet and find out what all your different options are so you can make the best decision for your dog.
As The United Kennel Club (UKC) warns, the warning signs and symptoms of BOAS often get more pronounced with time.
So if your young French Bulldog puppy is already showing signs of chronic fast breathing and other BOAS symptoms, the situation is not likely to improve on its own.
You definitely want to get your dog's veterinarian involved from the start to avoid any unpleasant or expensive surprises later on.
The very same qualities that can make French Bulldogs such charming and sociable canine companions can also cause health problems for these naturally excitable dogs.
While French Bulldogs are not known for having a high energy level in general, they can always find the energy to spend time with their people.
This is why, as a Frenchie owner, you will have to make sure you are moderating your own behavior so your dog stays safe and healthy and is able to breathe easily.
By watching for signs of distress, you can give your French Bulldog the best life.
As a freelance pet writer and blogger, Shannon is passionate about crafting knowledge-based, science-supported articles that foster healthy bonds of love and respect between people and animals. But her first and very most important job is as a dog auntie and cockatiel, tortoise, and box turtle mama.