What Frenchie owners need to know about BOAS

September 25, 2019

baby girl and her frenchie

BOAS stands for Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome and affects dogs with a smushed face. These dog breeds are popular and include the Frenchie, all types of Bulldogs, Pug, Boxer, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu etc.

While these dogs have an unusually squeezed face, they are loved by many pet owners all over the world. Unfortunately, the physiology of their face predisposes brachycephalic dog breeds to certain health conditions.

In this piece, we cover some special needs of these adorable pups so you can help them have as comfortable a life as possible. 

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

BOAS is the most common health condition in brachy dogs. The condition is not a single health problem, but can manifest in different forms including:

  • Labored breathing
  • Loud snoring
  • Inability to exercise for a sustained period due to reduced oxygen intake
  • Tendency to suffer from heat stroke because of their inability to pant efficiently

Brachycephalic dogs suffer from all these conditions because of the shape of their head. These dogs have an elongated soft palate which obstructs the windpipe which is very narrow in brachy dogs, cutting off air supply from the outside.

The nostrils are miniature and narrow, severely curtailing the dog’s respiration. The shape and morphology of brachycephalic dog’s throat increases the risk of choking.

Further read: The Health Concerns of Breeding French Bulldogs

Eye Challenges

Due to the smushed face of brachy dogs, their eyes have limited socket space. Brachycephalic dogs’ eyes don’t fit their eye socket. Further, the overly exposed eyes of brachycephalic dogs make their eyes dry and irritated frequently.

Any trauma to the head or neck region can cause the dog’s eyes to pop out of the socket, leading to an emergency situation. This is one of the reasons a collar is never recommended for daily walks and could potentially be dangerous especially if your Frenchie dog is a puller.

If you own a French Bulldog chances are you dealt with eye ulcer at some point in their life. This is a very common injury since they don't have a nose to protect their eyes.

Our personal experience with our Frenchie Bluenjy and BOAS

Our French Bulldog Bluenjy was diagnosed with BOAS when he was a little over a year old.  We looked at many hospitals and surgeons. We took him to several surgery consultations until we felt comfortable and confident with the doctor we chose.

Problems with Anesthesia -due to their compromised airways, brachys face a higher risk of complication due to anesthesia compared to dogs with normal facial physiology. The reason is the dog cannot get enough oxygen during the anesthetic and while trying to wake up from the procedure.

Many vets feel jittery to perform surgeries on brachys due to the increased risk of something going wrong during and after the operation. If you own a brachy which needs surgery, make sure the veterinary doctor informs you of the risk involved in the procedure and take necessary precautions.

We asked success rate of each and every surgeon we saw. Please do not be afraid to ask their success rate as well as how many dogs died in their care. This question alone had a huge impact on the surgeon we ultimately chose.

Prior and after surgery we struggled to find a harness that did not choke Bluenjy while walking due to pulling. When using the back D ring in a regular harness the fabric of the neck region would pull him backwards and constricted his neck.

On several occasions we noticed him choking to stop for air with a cough. We couldn't find a single harness on the market that had all the elements we wanted. We wanted a harness that was suitable for his condition and would support his walking/pulling without choking him.

We wanted a harness free of plastic, that we felt was strong and secure. Lastly, we wanted a dog harness that was fashionable to accommodate Bluenjy's sense of style.

After months of engineering, trial and error we developed a Health Harness that is vet approved and supports the emotional and physical well being of our Frenchie Bluenjy.

Bluenjy the best Frenchie reversible health harness

One thing the surgeon or vet will not tell you is that BOAS surgery is not a fix for life. In time BOAS does come back somewhat. The nose and other parts do close up and resort to the genes of the dog.

An owner of a dog with a previous diagnosis of BOAS will never be care free however there are many ways you can help and manage this condition and give your dog the best quality of life possible.

How much does BOAS surgery cost?

The cost of BOAS surgery will depend on the severity and the obstruction of the dog's airways, however here are some rough numbers:

  • Surgery consultation: $200 to $750
  • Soft palate resection: $500 to $2,000
  • Stenotic nares resection: $200 to $1,200
  • Overnight care: $200 - $750
  • Aftercare: $100 to $500

Not all dogs need overnight supervision. Furthermore there may be other charges associated not mentioned above for instance we had to get a cardiovascular assessment and tests prior to the BOAS surgery which resulted in additional costs.

Is Boas hereditary?

Yes. BOAS can be passed on to puppies and is inherited. This is the reason it is extremely important to find a reputable breeder.

Further Read: How do you ensure the health of your puppies ?

Why is my French bulldog gagging?

Gagging, vomiting or regurgitating in Frenchies or other brachycephalic breeds all describe their inability to digest food and water properly due to the shape of their head. This is one of the most common symptom of BOAS.

Further Read:Reverse Sneezing In French Bulldogs

Heatstroke

Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat because they lack sweat glands. The only way dogs release excess body heat is panting. However, brachycephalic dogs have a smaller mouth and inefficient airway, making it difficult for them to dissipate heat.

This weakness makes them susceptible to heat stroke. It is important to know heat stroke can lead to death in brachys, which is why such dogs must never be allowed to become overweight. An overweight brachy dog has more fat that traps in heat, increasing the chances of heat stroke.

Further read: What is the ideal weight of a Frenchie?

Whether you own a French Bulldog, or Lhasa Apso, it is vital to keep your brachy in top shape by exercising the dog regularly, providing healthy and nutritious meals and be on the lookout for any sudden changes in your pet's normal sounds.

How to Keep Your Brachycephalic Dog cool during the Summer

By design, brachycephalic dogs can’t tolerate high temperatures like other breeds with well-shaped skulls. Brachys include breeds such as Bulldogs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, Pugs and Boxers.

The shape of the skull and nose of these dogs make it difficult for them to breathe effectively and dissipate heat. The result is that brachys tend to overheat quickly, putting them at a higher risk of heatstroke, which can become an emergency. Here, we look at simple ways to cool your brachy dogs during the hot months.

Further read: How to beat the heat with your Frenchie

Don’t Leave Your Brachy Dog Outside

Keeping the dog inside will protect them from the high humidity and heat of the outdoors which increases the risk of dehydration and heatstroke. It might be cool and breezy outside, but make sure your brachy dog stays indoors as much as possible during the summer.

Invest in Dog Cooling Accessories

A cooling mat is an effective way to help your brachy dog cope with the high summer temperatures. You can buy a cooling mat at the store or online at relatively affordable prices.

Alternatively, you can make a simple cooling mat by freezing water and wrapping the frozen water inside a heavy towel. Place the towel in the canine's bed but make sure it does not touch your dog's skin directly.

If you want an inexpensive and effective cooling accessory you can place directly on your dog you can purchase Frenchiestore cooling bandana. These pawfect  innovative cooling bandanas are compact, small and effective.  All you have to do is wet it, wring it and place it on your dog. The cooling light mesh fabric will stay cold for hours.

frenchiestore cooling bandana for frenchie

Provide Cold Water

When you get back home from a tiring trek in the sun, the first thing that comes to mind is a refreshing glass of cold water. The same applies to your smushed face pup. During the high heat season, make sure there is always an abundance of cool drinking water in your dog's bowl.

Reduce Physical Activity

While your brachy still needs to exercise during the hot months, you want to reduce the frequency of physical activity to avoid overheating. A good rule of thumb is to monitor the dog's sound.

If the breathing becomes labored or too noisy, let your dog rest immediately. Remember that the head shape of pug face dogs makes it difficult to breath, and physical activity increases the energy needs of the animal. Exercise your brachy during the summer, but in moderation.

Further read: Hiking With Your Frenchie

Get a Pool

Does your Bulldog love spending time outdoors? You can reduce the risk of overheating by providing a kiddie pool to cool down the summer heat. However, the pool must be under a shade and you need to change it whenever it becomes warm or hot. Otherwise, you will end up overheating your adorable pooch.

Invest in a vet approved no choke no pull dog Health Harness

Made by owners who know the struggles of BOAS. This condition affected our family. The Health Harness inspired and created for Bluenjy has been a life saver for us and many dogs around the world.

Invest in a specially designed Health Harness for dogs diagnosed with BOAS. A regular harness will most likely worsen the dog’s respiratory problems, reducing comfort and causing distress.

Further read: Best Frenchie dog gear

Brachycephalic dogs need constant supervision. As a responsible pet owner, know your dog and pay attention to their sounds. Make sure to provide as much comfort and love. Support their physical and mental well being and give them the best quality of life possible. BOAS is not a death sentence, with your help your pooch can live a long and healthy life.


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