Do French Bulldogs Overheat? (Plus Tips For Keeping Them Cool)

French Bulldog in grass pantingIf you’re considering bring a French Bulldog into your home or maybe you already have, you should be aware that you have a relatively high-maintenance (but amazing) dog on your hands. This breed is vulnerable to a number of different health problems, and overheating is one of them. As such, you need to familiarize yourself with the causes and effects of overheating as well as the solutions that can be practiced.

Do French Bulldogs overheat? Yes, Frenchies can easily overheat. While any dog might have this problem, French Bulldogs are particularly prone to overheating. Because this breed has a very short snout, they also have very narrow and constricted nasal passages. Normally, dogs pant (breathe heavily) as a way of regulating their body temperature. French Bulldogs simply cannot do this to the same extent that other breeds do.

So just be aware your favorite pup will require some special attention. Frenchie owners would agree that they are more than worth it. Read on, and you just might learn a few things.

Brachycephalic Dogs And Their Respiration Issues

The French Bulldog is an example of a Brachycephalic breed. This is just a fancy way of describing their shortened snout. All breeds that have this distinctive “pug nose” are considered to be brachycephalic.  So think Pugs, English Bulldog, Frenchie, Boston Terriers and so on.

Although that scrunched-up little nose is cute, it also means that there is less room in the snout for nasal passages. As a result, Frenchies and other pug-nosed dogs often suffer from respiratory issues.

The following study is very informative and should be read by every French Bulldog owner. One of the experiments performed involved putting colored smoke through the skull of a French Bulldog. The skull was encased in glass so that the path of the smoke could be clearly seen. They found that the nasal passages of the French Bulldog were simply not wide enough to allow adequate airflow.

If this dogs’ snout were any shorter, it would be unable to breathe. Therefore, anything that forces them to breathe harder can be problematic. As everyone knows, dogs pant heavily in hot weather, as it gives them a way to cool themselves. French Bulldogs have a much harder time with this because it is so much harder for them to breathe heavily.

What does this mean for the Frenchie?

All of this adds up to one simple fact: French Bulldogs do not do well in the heat. If you live in an extremely hot climate, you need to be sure to take this into account. Why is this the case? Because hot weather makes them breathe harder, and this is not an easy thing to do when you have such narrow airways in your nose.

At this point, you may be wondering why the dog doesn’t simply breathe through their mouth. The answer is that dogs don’t do this under most circumstances. Dogs tend to breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth. Very few will deviate from this pattern, and it would be very hard to train them to do so.

Humidity can also play a role in your dog’s breathing. Wet air is heavier, and is thus a little bit harder for the lungs and airways to process. Once again, anything that strains their breathing (even in the least) may be problematic. For most creatures, this isn’t a real issue, but it is a problem for pug-nosed dogs like your cute little Frenchie.

Signs That Your Dog Is Overheating

If your dog gets too hot, it can literally pass out and die from lack of oxygen. In addition, they are more vulnerable to heatstroke due to their relative inability to regulate their body temperature through panting.

This is why you need to always be on the lookout for the following signs of canine heatstroke:

  • Extreme listlessness
  • Excessive drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Unconsciousness (passing out)
  • Loss of body coordination/motor control

Make sure that you never leave your Frenchie locked in a car during the summer. For any dog, this is a bad idea. For a dog with constricted breathing like the French Bulldog, it can be far worse. Here is an example of what not to do.

Apparently, 23 French Bulldog puppies had to be rescued from a moving truck. The owner had placed them in the back of the truck with no water, and all of them were in poor condition when found. Thankfully, all of these dogs were saved!  That was only because an observant individual was able to see that something was wrong and called the appropriate authorities.

Needless to say, the owner is now in some legal trouble!

How To Keep Your French Bulldog Cool:

There are a number of things you can do to help your French Bulldog to stay cool in the summertime.

  • Hydration – Keep water available. If you’re out and about, consider bringing a portable water bowl.
  • Cool Damp Cloth – Used around his or her neck to cool them down
  • Cooling Vests – A step up from the damp cloth approach is a cooling vest.
  • Use a Harness, Not Collar – Collars can restrict the airway further
  • Cold Packs – If possible have cold packs on hand
  • Frozen Dog Treats – These can help cool her down

Hydration

Although it won’t completely mitigate their breathing issues, good hydration can do a lot to keep a French Bulldogs’ body temperature at a reasonable level. This will, in turn, help to keep them from straining their limited airways through excessive panting.

A good rule of thumb is to take notice anytime your dog begins to pant. Dogs only do this when they are hot, and your little dog can’t do it very well. Any time you see your Frenchie panting heavily, you should (at least) offer them some water and possibly move them to a cooler location.

Cool Damp Cloth

Another thing that you can do is keep a wet cloth around your dog’s neck. A lot of owners like to give their dog a scarf to wear, mostly for decoration purposes. However, a scarf can also serve a practical purpose if you choose one that is able to soak up a lot of water.

If you use this method, it is a good idea to keep a bottle of water so that you can periodically re-wet the scarf. The easiest and most convenient way is to take a small bottle with a wide mouth and fill it about 3/4 from the top with water. Whenever the dog’s scarf becomes dry, untie it from the dog’s neck and stuff it into the bottle. Replace the cap, shake once or twice, and the scarf can be pulled out and replaced.

If you want to take this concept to the next level, you can use a chamois coat that is designed to hold water. You can also use a cloth that has been impregnated with a refrigerant so that it will become colder when wet. These cooling vests (see them on Amazon) are a great solution to keeping your Frenchie cool. Many even have a built-in harness.

Use a Harness, Not a Collar

If your Frenchie is trained to walk on a leash (and they should be), it is important to avoid traditional neck collars, especially in hot and/or humid conditions. An excitable breed like this is bound to pull on their collar and obstruct their breathing. Again, this puts a strain on the already-too-small airways of the Frenchie and can choke them terribly. Use a harness instead, preferably a no-pull harness.

Cold Packs

Instant cold packs can be another way to cool your dog in a hurry. Although they don’t last very long, they can give you a fast and effective way to lower your dog’s body temperature. A bag of ice can also be used. If none of these methods work, you will need to contact a veterinarian immediately.

Frozen Dog Treats

If you are going to be carrying a cooler, you might consider the use of frozen dog treats. You can make these by filling an ice cube tray with canned dog food. Giving your dog a chunk of this frozen dog food can be a pleasant way to lower their internal body temperature.

Can French Bulldogs swim?

No, French Bulldogs certainly cannot swim. Not even doggy paddle.  One look at the proportions of their body should be enough to tell you that they will not float. They are so thick and compact that they will sink if left to their own devices.

Some dog owners might be tempted to try and teach their Frenchie to swim. This is not a good idea and is probably not even possible. If you want scientific proof of this, take a look at this study.

412 different dogs from 21 different breeds were tested to see how they reacted to the chlorinated pool water. Apparently, the researchers didn’t do their homework beforehand, because they included four French Bulldogs in the study. The results found that (after five attempts) about 12% of the dogs in the study could not swim at all, even with help from a trainer. The French Bulldogs were among that 12%.

Related Questions

How Much Difference Will Good Hydration Make?

Obviously, water is one of your best weapons against canine overheating. However, water cannot change the structure of a French Bulldog’s skull, so the root problem remains. Proper hydration will surely increase your dog’s resistance to hot weather, but only to a certain extent.

Are There Surgical Options To Correct This Issue?

Yes, there are certain surgeries that can mitigate or correct the effect of brachycephalic syndrome. However, these surgeries are very expensive and somewhat dangerous. It is much easier to simply keep your dogs out of the heat.

Conclusion

Although overheating is a significant problem for this breed, it isn’t a particularly hard problem to solve. As we have shown, there are plenty of common-sense measures that you can take to minimize the risk of heat-related injury to your dog. We trust that you, the reader, will be smart enough and observant enough to use this information wisely.

This brings us to a final word of caution: Always remember that the signs of heatstroke can be difficult to notice if you are not paying attention. In some cases, the dog may overheat before the owner even knows that a problem exists. This subtlety is why good observational skills are the key to dealing with issues of this sort.

Remember that your dog depends entirely upon you for their survival, and that is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. We wish you and your little friend all the best, and we hope that our advice has been helpful to you.

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