French Bulldogs Are Brachycephalic
French bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed. The word brachycephalic describes a type of skull conformation. “Brachy” means shortened and “cephalic” means head, or what I and probably many others commonly refer to them as a “smoosh face.” Persians are an example of a brachycephalic cat breed and a nickname I have cleverly come up with for my Persian Abby is scrunch face. Other brachycephalic breeds include: the English bulldog, Boston terrier, Pekingese and Pug. While brachycephalic breeds are SUPER ADORABLE, it’s important to be aware of the health risks associated with having a shortened head. The downside to having these ridiculously cute faces is that a short muzzle and flattened nose can affect structures of the upper respiratory system, including their nostrils, soft palate, larynx and trachea. Not all brachycephalic dogs have associated health problems, however the brachycephalic conformation puts them at risk for brachycephalic syndrome, which refers to a combination of anatomical abnormalities, including…
- Stenotic nares – narrowing of the nostrils
- Extended nasopharyngeal turbinates – small bones in the nose that regulate airflow extend into the back of the throat
- Elongated soft palate – roof of the mouth is longer than normal
- Laryngeal collapse- collapse of the larynx/voice box
- Hypoplastic trachea – underdeveloped trachea or “windpipe”
- Everted laryngeal saccules – saccules protrude into the laryngeal opening and block airflow
Brachycephalic breeds may have one or all of these abnormalities. The severity of the syndrome will determine the necessary treatment. Treatment options include: weight loss (if overweight), avoiding hot humid conditions, minimizing stress, steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, oxygen therapy and surgery. Surgical intervention may include opening up the nostrils, shortening the palate or removing the everted laryngeal saccules.
Clinical symptoms include: increased respiratory rate and effort, breathing through mouth, noisy breathing, snoring, exercise intolerance, lack of energy, collapse or fainting after exercise, coughing, gaging, retching, vomiting and decreased appetite.
It’s important that brachycephalic breed owners are aware of signs of respiratory distress and avoid situations that can exacerbate symptoms. Certain precautions I recommend include: minimize strenuous exercise, minimize time spent outside and do not exercise in hot and humid conditions, use a harness not a collar, eliminate stress and prevent weight gain or encourage weight loss via diet.
Regarding travel, the safest way for brachycephalic breeds to fly is in the cabin in a well ventilated crate during the cool seasons. However, if possible refrain from bringing them with you as flying is stressful. Prior to planning a trip, speak with a veterinarian for further safety advice.
French Bulldogs Are Easygoing & Highly Adaptable
French bulldogs are a great choice of companion dog for inexperienced owners. French bulldogs are a popular breed not only because of their adorable smoosh face, but because of their gentle nature. Frenchies require a lot of attention, however they do not have high exercise requirements. While stubborn at times, they are rarely aggressive, very affectionate and get along well with children. Like with all dog breeds, they require training and socialization. French bulldogs are well-suited to apartment living as they don’t require a lot of space and do not bark excessively. It’s hard not to smile in the presence of a Frenchie because they are full of love and happiness. Frenchies are highly adaptive and have been described as being shockingly intuitive. On top of their friendliness, adaptability, and low exercise requirements compared to a lot of other breeds, they have minimal grooming needs. As long as you have a flexible schedule and adequate free time, Frenchies are a great choice of companion. In fact, French bulldogs are one of the top ten most popular companion dogs, which says a lot about their character.
French Bulldogs Have British Roots
In the mid-1800s, toy-sized bulldogs were favored by the people of Nottingham, a city in England. At the time, Nottingham was popular for lace making. In fact, these miniature bulldogs became a mascot for Nottingham’s lacemakers. As the Industrial Revolution threatened the livelihood of small business, many of the lacemakers relocated to France with their miniature bulldogs. The popularity of the miniature bulldog spread throughout French countryside. Over decades, the miniature bulldog was bred with other breeds, possibly pugs and terriers. Throughout years of crossbreeding, the miniature bulldog developed the now-signature feature, bat ears or large upright ears and were named Bouledogue Français or the French bulldog. As the Frenchies popularity grew, the breed became recognized in large French cities, including Paris and within no time adapted to city living. The breed quickly was integrated into the French culture as they were associated with Paris cafes, dancehalls and were depicted in famous paintings and theatre productions. The popularity continued to grow and by the end of the 19th Century had spread across Europe and the United States. Interestingly, Frenchies initially faced opposition in England because the English were offended that the French had taken their national symbol, the bulldog and changed its appearance.
French Bulldogs Have Difficulty Giving Birth
French bulldogs are at a high risk of dystocia, which means birthing complications. In fact, 80% of French bulldogs puppies are born via a cesarean section. A research study conducted by Royal Veterinary College showed that French bulldogs are 15.9 times more likely to suffer from dystocia than crossbred females. While French bulldogs are most prone to dystocia, other brachycephalic breeds are at an increased risk as well, including Boston terriers. Compared to crossbred females, Boston terriers are 12.9 times more likely to experience dystocia. Dystocia can result from uterine inertia, anatomy, malpresentation, fetal size mismatch and fetal death. Dystocia in French bulldogs results from anatomical confirmation, which causes obstruction. A study outlined on the Veterinary Information Network compared differences between the natural birth and cesarean birth of French bulldogs. The study concluded that the Frenchies with dystocia had a narrower pelvic canal, the circumference of the head, body and width of shoulders were larger and the pup’s weight in relation to the weight of the mother was much higher. Remember, dystocia is a life threatening situation for both the mother and the puppies and should be taken seriously. If any of the following signs occur during labor, seek immediate medical attention.
- No fetus delivered after 30-60 minutes of active contractions
- Longer than 2-4 hours since last delivery, no contractions and there’s more fetuses in utero
- Partially delivered fetus > 15 minutes
- Dark green, red or brown discharge
French Bulldogs Are Popular Among Celebrities
Since Frenchies are known for their ability to adapt to new environments, it’s no wonder they are popular among celebrities. Reese Witherspoon, most notably known for her role as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde has a Frenchie named Pepper whom she welcomed to the family in April 2016. Singer and actress Hilary Duff’s Frenchie is named Peaches. She posted a picture of Peaches on her Instagram with the caption, “I’m peaches…. I am Beau’s sister and new trouble maker at the Duff house!” Carrie Fisher, whom you may know as Princess Leia from the original Star Wars had a Frenchie named Gary who she would bring with her everywhere, including to the red carpet premiere in London for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Gary now lives with Corby McCoin, Fisher’s former assistant. Lady Gaga’s Frenchie is named Koji, which she stated means “little one” because he’s so small. Other celebrities who have a Frenchie include: Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Madonna (Gypsy Rose), Eva Longoria (Popeye), Hugh Jackman (Dali), Leonardo DiCaprio (Django), Chrissy Teigen and John Legend (Pippa), Christina Perri (Pistachio) and David and Victoria Beckham (Scarlet).