Upper Airway Obstructions

There are four upper airway obstruction conditions that commonly affect bulldogs.



First, a bulldog can have nose holes that are too small. We call this stenotic nares. The openings in the nostrils are too small and the sides of the nostrils are pulled in with inhalation making the openings even smaller. With surgery, we make the openings larger.


click on thumbnail images to enlarge

The second upper airway obstruction condition is elongated soft palate. The palate (roof of the mouth) should end in a position where it does not interfere with air passing into the opening of the windpipe. When a bulldog has an elongated soft palate, the palate tissue partially blocks the opening of the windpipe. Many dogs live with this for a while with only excessively loud breathing noises. But when an affected dog becomes hot or excited, the palate swells and more of the windpipe opening is blocked. The dog has difficulty breathing, makes loud clattering breathing noise and can even collapse or faint. Untreated elongated soft palate causes poor quality of life, inability to enjoy normal play and even death.
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The time to surgically correct this is when the elongated soft palate is diagnosed on physical exam (looking in the back of the mouth) and there are any (even mild) signs of difficult breathing.

With surgery, we shorten the palate to its normal length where it does not interfere with breathing. We use a CO2 laser for palate surgery. This results in less chance of complications and more comfortable recovery from the surgery for the bulldog.

When we do palate surgery, we look for everted laryngeal saccules, the third upper airway obstruction condition. Everted laryngeal saccules are tissue from the wall of the larynx that protrudes into the windpipe. If these are there, we surgically remove them, too.

The fourth upper airway obstruction condition is a windpipe that is too small (hypoplastic trachea). This is diagnosed with an x-ray of the chest. This is the only upper airway obstruction that cannot be corrected. Puppies with extremely small tracheas do not live to adulthood. Most adult dogs with hypoplastic tracheas can live with the condition as long as all other airway obstruction conditions are corrected. Most affected dogs respond well to medication to make it easier to breathe.

The earlier that the abnormalities associated with this syndrome are corrected, the better since the condition worsens over time and may cause other abnormalities. Early correction of stenotic nares and/or an elongated soft palate will significantly improve airway function and may prevent development of everted laryngeal saccules.

color chart of the french bulldog

how can color cause health issues?

The color coat DNA of a dog is directly linked to health issues regardless of breed..  If you want a dog that is born healthy and stays health for a long and happy life, make sure both of your dogs parents are not:

  *  Blue -  If a sire and dame are both visible blue then their offspring can have skin issues, allergies, itchy skin, Alopecia (hair loss).  A breeder can produce healthy blue pups by pairing a sire that "carries the blue gene" (but is not blue) and a dame that "carries the blue gene" or either the sire or dame can be blue and the other has to be only a carrier.

  *  Pied - If a sire and dame are both pied then their offspring can be born deaf or blind (or suffer from partial hearing loss or hearing loss in just one ear.  Blindness may have different levels as well and get worse as the dog matures)

  *  Merles - If a sire and dame are both merle than the offspring can be born deaf or blind (or suffer from partial hearing loss or hearing loss in just one ear.  Blindness may have different levels as well and get worse as the dog matures)

Health testing

The sire and dame of a french bulldog litter should be tested for:

1.  CMR1 ...  Canine Multifocal Retinopathy is an autosomal recessive genetic ocular disease characterized by retinal deformation[1]

2.   DM  ... Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that occurs in many breeds of dog.

The disease is an adult-onset condition that has ALS like symptoms: progressive limb weakness and muscle loss, tremors, difficulty rising, and stumbling. Affected animals develop spinal and hind end problems later in life. It is inherited as a recessive disease based on these mutations, but there is also ongoing work to determine other factors that may play a role in severity and age of onset.

3. HU-Hyperuricosuria (HUU)... Inherited hyperuricosuria (HU) causes dogs to produce urine with very high levels of uric acid. This can lead to bladder stones, and less frequently kidney stones. The disease is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait

4.  JHC ... Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts

5.  CHG-Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter in dogs is inherited as an autosomal recessive disease. As with adult onset hypothyroidism, there are a number of metabolic abnormalities seen in affected pups, but there are also additional symptoms such as delayed development, small stature, difficulty nursing and other symptoms collectively referred to as cretinism. The cause of this disease in dogs can be attributed to mutations in the Thyroid Peroxidase gene

It is important for a breeder to do the above test, so they can breed away from these issues for healthier pups that will live long healthy lives.

In addition to the above genetic tests, dogs should be checked for the following before breeding as well:

PATELLAS should be checked for luxation. 

X-rays of the hips and spine. These are to check for anomalies of the spine and for hip dysplasia.