Understanding BOAS: Is Your Frenchie Getting Enough Air?

understanding BOAS French bulldog

Understanding BOAS – Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome in French Bulldogs

If you own a French Bulldog, it’s crucial to understand a common health issue that might affect them: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). This condition is prevalent among brachycephalic breeds – dogs with a shortened skull and flattened face. French Bulldogs, with their squished faces and compact skull structure, are particularly susceptible.

We chose to get our Frenchie, Leia, done last year as the hotter temperatures were causing her issues. More on our story later in the post.

Understanding BOAS – What is it?

BOAS is a serious health condition that affects the quality of life of dogs like French Bulldogs. The term “brachycephalic” comes from Greek words meaning “short” and “head.” This structural conformation leads to various anatomical abnormalities in the nose, airway and throat, challenging normal breathing, especially in warmer weather.

Recognising the Signs of BOAS

understanding BOAS french bulldogs

Your French Bulldog might show signs of BOAS, ranging from mild to severe. Some of the symptoms to watch for when understanding BOAS include:

  • Noisy breathing or snoring even when awake
  • Apparent difficulty in breathing, especially during exercise or heat
  • Frequent panting, which may seem like an effort to catch a breath
  • A tendency to gag, especially while eating or drinking
  • Episodes of blue gums indicating decreased oxygenation
  • Intolerance to exercise and heat, leading to potential heatstroke

Understanding BOAS Causes

The primary cause of BOAS is the breed-specific facial structure. In French Bulldog breeding over time, the desire for flat faces has compressed the nasal passages and airways. Key structural issues include:

Narrowed Nostrils (Stenotic Nares) 

This makes it difficult for your dog to breathe through its nose. See above, on the before image.

Elongated Soft Palate

The soft tissue at the back of the mouth may extend too far, partially blocking the entrance to the windpipe.

Hypoplastic Trachea

A narrower windpipe restricts airflow to the lungs.

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Managing and Treating BOAS

Understanding BOAS  is essential for your Frenchie, and the Vets have become experts in these flat-faced breeds, due to the volumes of these breeds they are now dealing with. If you notice breathing difficulties in your French Bulldog, consult your vet.  They will discuss and then recommend several management strategies or treatments to you for your Frenchie:

  1. Surgical Interventions: Procedures to widen the nostrils or shorten the soft palate can significantly improve breathing.
    This is the choice we made with Leia (see story below).
  2. Weight Management: Keeping your French Bulldog at a healthy weight reduces respiratory effort.
    We have managed to maintain Leia’s weight the same for 3 years, through diet and exercise, but even then she needed the operation.
  3. Controlled Exercise: Exercise is important but should be moderate and monitored to avoid respiratory distress.
  4. Avoiding Heat Stress: Be mindful of hot weather, as it can exacerbate breathing difficulties.
    This was the deciding point for us as temperatures have been rising which made for difficulties in the summer.

We spent a Year understaning BOAS with Leia

We spent a year Living with Leia – our French Bulldog – understanding BOAS, and we managed this carefully for her best and comfortable life. Here are some things we did to make things more comfortable:

  • We kept our home cool and well-ventilated. The best thing we did was to get her a floor fan, which she would go and lie in front of.
  • We bought a sturdy paddling pool for her to cool off in, although she has never laid down in it – she just stands in it!
  • We have always used a harness instead of a collar to avoid pressure on our dog’s neck.
  • We constantly monitored Leia and in the end, decided the time for the operation had come. 

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Leia BOAS Story

Leia Sunbathing

Leia is a blue fawn French Bulldog from a line of 5 generations, who hadn’t had any issues with  BOAS, so we were not anticipating any issue. However, by the end of her second summer, we started to get a little concerned with her recovery breathing, after running or playing (or even Zoomies!)
We started to explore the idea of BOAS  early last year and spoke to the Vet several times about the options. Fortunately, we had French Bulldog insurance coverage, so we got a referral to a Veterinary Practice near us that had a good reputation for successful BOAS operations on other Frenchies.

After an examination, the surgeon recommended Leia have Nostril Widening (Alarplasty), which involves removing a small wedge of tissue from each nostril to make the openings larger. The post-op picture of her nostrils further above, shows the big difference that is made. This allows for better airflow through the nose, which can immediately ease breathing difficulties. He also recommended Soft Palate Resection. Many brachycephalic dogs have an elongated soft palate that obstructs the airway. In this surgery, the excessive length of the soft palate is trimmed to prevent it from blocking the trachea during inhalation.

Note: other common procedures with BOAS are the removal of everted laryngeal saccules, which are small sacs within the larynx that can turn outward and obstruct airflow, or in severe cases, Trachea surgery is needed. Luckily Leia didn’t need these done.

Post BOAS Surgery

Leia Post BOAS suregery
Leia After BOAS Surgery

The operation was a success and we picked her up after a nerve-wracking wait. Her healing time was amazing and within days she was her normal self, aside from her blue dissolving stitches in her nostrils, you wouldn’t have known she had major surgery!

We noticed a big difference last summer, and she was able to recover her breathing so much better. She was a much happier Frenchie.

BUT. If you believe that having a BOAS operation stops their snoring, don’t believe a word! She still snores as loudly as she did before the operation – just like Frenchies are famous for! Check out her crazy snoring below!

If you want to see more Frenchie videos check out and Subscribe to our Frenchiechat YouTube Page where you will find our latest video with Leia Breakdancing.

Surgery can provide significant relief for French Bulldogs suffering from BOAS, but they are not without risks. There are Anesthetic Risks as brachycephalic dogs are particularly sensitive to anaesthesia due to their compromised airways. Careful consideration, thorough pre-surgical evaluation, and diligent postoperative care are essential to maximise the success of the treatment and to improve your dog’s overall quality of life.

Our advice from our experiences is to fully understand BOAS and search out the right Veterinary Practice with experience operating on brachycephalic breeds to do the BOAS surgery. 

 

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