Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS)

BAS_19.jpgThat’s a great big mouthful, but if you have a French bulldog or any smoosh-faced breed, you should know about it. We’ve lost more than a few fosters and grads to BAS, and if you get a group of 20 bulldog and pug owners together, you will hear at least a half dozen stories of close calls. What is it? 

BAS is a constellation of problems in smoosh-faced dogs, including very narrow nostrils (stenotic nares) that make breathing through the nose difficult or impossible; an elongated soft palate that partially covers the opening of the trachea; a narrower trachea than usual; and sacs inside the voicebox or larynx that get pulled into the airway with the effort of inhalation, narrowing the airway further and making breathing harder than it is for their snootier dog friends who have shorter soft palates and more open nostrils, the better to take in air and to cool the air they do take in.


Though some Frenchies don’t make any breathing sounds, many Frenchie owners are familiar with the grunting, snorting, snoring sounds Frenchies make while awake or asleep. Many of us get so used to it, the sounds are a comforting background noise, but owners should be aware those noises may indicate one or more of the symptoms of BAS. Some dogs are so seriously affected they can’t exercise much, or they vomit or cough after exercise or exertion. Heat and humidity makes their symptoms much worse. 

BAS_20.jpgBAS puts strain on the heart so that, eventually, exertion of any kind is exhausting, and BAS can also cause laryngeal collapse, which will mean near total or total obstruction of airflow. Some dogs live with a tracheostomy after a laryngeal collapse, but as you can imagine, caring for a dog with a tracheostomy can be difficult and even stressful, and for many dogs the prognosis for a long life with a tracheostomy is poor. Dogs with allergies on top of limited airflow may have an even greater likelihood of long-term damage to the airway and possible laryngeal collapse. One of our volunteers has a dog that had surgery to correct what could be corrected, but nothing could be done for the very narrow trachea her dog was born with. Her vet explained that breathing for her dog felt similar to what it would feel like for a human to run while trying to breathe through a straw. 

Owners usually discover that their dogs are having an unusually hard time breathing when their dog is younger than 3, and the best treatment for moderate to severe BAS is surgery. If you read our available dog bios often, you will have read that this or that dog had his nares (nostrils) widened or his soft palate reduced or shortened. Our available dog, Wren, has BAS. If your dog has BAS, you should avoid taking him on any more than a short walk in temperatures over 75 degrees and never in the full sun or on especially humid days—let him stay home in the air conditioning. Keep your dog’s weight down to the point that you can’t see his ribs, but you can feel them if you run your hands over them. You should not allow your dog to get stressed or excited. 

BAS_15_use.jpgDon't be complacent about your smoosh-faced dog. The fact that your Frenchie has never made those sounds is not a guarantee that your dog won’t develop symptoms. If you have a Frenchie who has never shown signs of BAS—he’s never made those snorty noises or seemed to have any problems exercising—but one sunny day while you are having a picnic or you are watching a softball game or you are on a hike and he starts panting heavily, maybe coughing or vomiting, get him to the nearest water you can and run it over his tummy. While you are doing that, find the nearest vet. If your dog doesn't recover quickly or if he is blowing mucus or coughing, pile everybody and the dog in the car and zippy over to have him put in an oxygen crate. There’s a good example of just this sort of thing happening and what Cosette’s mom did to save her life.

Not every smoosh-faced dog will show signs of BAS. But virtually every smoosh-faced dog is at risk of panting too hard on a hot day and causing the airway to swell. The photos accompanying this piece were provided by knowledgeable Frenchie owners in response to a request for photos of what a too-hot dog looks like. When your dog looks like the dogs here, it’s time to take 5 and cool off.


Spine-injured, Disabled, and Cart dogs


If you’ve followed FBRN for a while, you will have noticed that the number of dogs on our roster who have spinal injuries has increased. The reasons for that increase don’t have to be spelled out (let’s just say it’s a really good idea to research your breeder, learn lots about Frenchies before you buy one, and be sure to get doggy health insurance if you don’t have $12,000 on hand or available on your credit card. Assume you will need a doggy MRI to the tune of $3,000 -$5,000 at some point in your Frenchie’s life. You should also have a serious internal discussion about whether you can face caring for a disabled frogdog in the event your dog is injured, or develops IVDD and surgery is not successful).

FullSizeRender.jpgOur spine-injured dogs, some of which use carts, so we call them "cart dogs", are happy as clams. They are not in pain. Most of them only use their carts when it’s time for exercise. Inside the house, spine-injured dogs' mobility ranges from wobbly walkers to back-end draggers, but they get around. Likewise, there is a great variation in bowel and bladder control. Some of our dogs have good bladder control but no bowel control, some have bowel and bladder control, and some have neither. You will see that some of our spine-injured dogs wear diapers or belly bands indoors. For dogs without bladder control, the owner gives the dog a helping hand by expressing the bladder. There are videos on Youtube illustrating the method, but your vet will show you how and can correct your form as you learn.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a true cultural shift in dog-owners’ attitudes toward disabled dogs. Where once dog owners saw disabled dogs as unhappy and suffering, and thought the kindest thing to do was euthanize a disabled pet, we’ve seen a sea-change in both owners and potential adopters. Where once a cart dog spent many, many months on the Available page, our cart dogs now spend far less time waiting for their forever families to find them.

Here is a letter from one of our volunteers who is living with a cart dog:

IMG_8828.JPG“If you are considering adopting a cart dog, congratulations and thank you! In the beginning it might be an adjustment, but routines are everything, and now that I have a routine, it's almost like my pup isn't even in a cart. Thankfully, small Frenchies are pretty portable, so I often carry him wherever he can't go in his cart. And he can go A LOT of places in his cart. We live on 5 acres of desert, and he can go most everywhere.

“Dozer is a 7-year-old male Frenchie who went down in his back end 48 hours after sustaining a fall off the bed onto padded carpet one year ago. I have had him since he was 4 months old, so I had already mentally accepted the possibility of his life in a cart even before I knew surgery and other therapies hadn't worked. Never once did I contemplate euthanasia as an option. I feel absolute pride when I take him out in his cart and people see how well he does. Many express feelings of sympathy, but I tell them he's still the same pup, only faster. He still loves to play and has the same spunky personality. Dogs live in 'the now.'

“He has only been in his cart for a year, so I haven't noticed many changes in our routine from the first day to now. It has gotten a little faster/easier because my bladder expressing technique has improved. He has gained strength; he is much more muscular through his chest and forelegs due to the cart, so I massage those muscles frequently to keep them loose and injury free. 

“Finding someone who can express your dog’s bladder while you’re on vacation may be harder than finding an ordinary boarding situation or leaving your dog with family. Thankfully, we have someone we know and trust, but this is a possible major expense ($40-80/day) to keep in mind. But that is really the only majordifference—in the past, my parents watched our dogs at no charge.  

“In terms of his health, I do have to watch for sores from his dragging his body across our tiled floors (no carpet is a MUST with bowel incontinent dogs) but there are "drag bags"—sacks that fit over the lower body--you can easily make or buy to help prevent friction. I would also say providing proper nutrition is vital to ensure muscle health. A couple of nice, thick beds around the house help prevent pressure on his joints when he is lying down.  

“I have been thinking very hard about what I would specifically tell people who want to adopt a cart dog. Since the changes that came with a cart dog have become second nature this past year, I don't find it an inconvenience at all in my lifestyle or routine. Perhaps the biggest change is expressing Dozer’s bladder. My veterinary neuro surgeon only has me expressing his bladder twice a day (which is very convenient for my schedule), and I have not had any issues with urinary tract infections. UTI’s are common and can be more serious in paralyzed pups, so learning the signs of a UTI will be an important new skill if you adopt a cart dog.

IMG_6537.JPG“I do consider myself a very dedicated, committed, and conscientious dog lover, and though I work full time, I can take time for myself—caring for Dozer is not a job that consumes my whole life. While expense may be an issue (as with any dog’s physical affliction, e.g., allergies), I think commitment and patience are especially important qualities to have with a cart pup. More frequent outings for bowel evacuation may be necessary, and there may be indoor accidents, depending on your dog’s injury and condition. My husband wanted me to add: “Be ready to buy lots of baby wipes and stock them in various areas of your house and car for easy retrieval. Preparedness is key for those times they are needed.”  

Dozer’s owners experience is unique, as is every dog owner’s time with any dog. If you are curious about a cart dog, read the bio carefully, address the concerns in the bio, apply, and see what happens. You’ll have lots of opportunities to talk with the foster parent about life with a cart dog during the interview and adoption process.

We have recently taken in 3 dogs whose spine injuries vary from serious to relatively minor. If you have seen a Frenchie, a Doxie, a Corgi—all dogs with a reputation for spine injuries-- or any other dog rolling along at a happy clip in your nearby park, you can see that there’s no reason to pity them or make a sad face as they go by. Dogs enjoy the moment, and cart dogs may have a great lesson to teach us about accepting what is and rolling with what comes.


French Bulldog Rescue Network

dog_of_the_week.jpgZydeco in CA

With a life story like Zydeco's, one would expect him to take himself a little more seriously.  The truth is, however, this one-eyed-wonder's joie de vivre remains intact, despite his unfortunate past.  If you are someone who values character over beauty, courage over youth, Zydeco may be the dog for you.  Pop on over to our Available Dogs page, scroll allll the way down to the bottom, and read about Zydeco, The Most Interesting Dog in the World.


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FBRN's mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home French Bulldogs in need from commercial breeding kennels, import brokers, public shelters, private rescue groups, owners or Good Samaritans. Our organization is comprised solely of volunteers who nurture and foster these dogs as well as provide education and training. Our goal is to place healthy and happy French Bulldogs into forever homes.