When I adopted Bark Knight he was 9 weeks old, his breeder assured me that he had “excellent nares” and that he wouldn’t have “any problems”. By the time Bark was 11 weeks old, at the first week of puppy school he got so over stimulated that he was struggling to breathe in my lap and was trying to straighten out his airway by extended his neck to get air in. Around this time he also developed a snore you could hear from across the house, (keep in mind this is a 6kg puppy). This is also around the time our local vet indicated he should have an exercise tolerance test around 6 months old.
He continued to be loud especially when nervous or when he had been playing. The sound was akin to how it feels to breathe through water. When sleeping, if he didn’t change position around every 20 minutes and clear his throat and regularly bring up clear mucus, then he was choke when he woke up and struggle to get his airway clear again.
As he got older and he was keeping up with my Labrador, during a walk he was laboring hard to breathe after only 15 minutes. When he was in puppy school he’d often be exhausted 20 minutes in and just lay on the ground because he just couldn’t get the air in to keep up with the other puppies.
When he was 6 months old I took him for an ‘exercise tolerance test’ with our local vet. The test consisted of a slow jog for 5 minutes. Being an energetic puppy he recovered quickly and they considered his breathing to “not be too loud” and suggested I wait another 6 months and reassess, but assured me that he was fine and wouldn’t significantly benefit from surgery.
Shortly after this he started to bring up fluid more often – regardless of when he was fed or what he was fed. When staying with other people they also commented that they had been concerned he was struggling to breathe when playing with other dogs or going on walks. People had started to comment on his vomiting which would happen after any active period or sleep.
I then took him in to see the Melbourne Bulldog Clinic (also known as Southern Animal Health) for a free one on one consultation on the benefits of BOAS surgery. They explained the surgery in that they would take a look and only operate based on his individual needs. Did you know that a dog cannot be diagnosed properly without examination of their soft pallet? They equipped me with information and guidance on finding a surgeon and urged me to take at least two weeks to think about it before making a decision.
I was nervous about putting through such a young puppy through such a big surgery, however his noise level continued to increase as the weather warmed up and he really started to struggle and I was scared to leave him unsupervised. I spoke to other Frenchie owners at our local park and found many believed that the surgery was not worth the money, however I was uncomfortable that most seemed to feel that Frenchies passing out was just part and parcel of owning the breed.
When it came down to it I didn’t want to lose my dog because I didn’t at least have him checked out properly and so I booked him in just before he was 9 months old to be desexed and have his airway anatomy looked at. I signed off on potentially having all 5 aspects of his breathing looked at, including thinning the pallet and removing the saccules and tonsils. In the end Bark had his nares adjusted, tonsillectomy and his short pallet was both shortened and thinned. In fact it turned out he had a larger pallet than most and this would not be picked up on in an exercise tolerance test. I was informed that there should be improvement in his breathing after a couple of weeks and energy levels within months.
Bark was quite a sad boy on the car ride home however around 6 hours later after a small snack of soft food I noticed that laying on the floor in front of me, Bark wasn’t snoring! For the first time in his life the air was flowing in and out with no sound and he looked comfortable, prior to surgery his breathing was loud and laboured and you could see his torso constricting and expanding to push and pull air out of his body.
Less than 48 hours later he was running around the house with much less laboured breathing, launching all four paws off the ground at once to play with my other dog. A week later once the surgery had settled he did not labour to breathe when playing and would play for much longer periods of time. He can now run for an hour with little rest and without bringing up mucus.
He can now sleep solidly without having to move every 20 minutes and sleeps through the night most nights. He only snores when he sleeps on his back or side and it is a quiet snore – not the snore that had shook the house since he was a tiny little thing.
He is happy and confident just and over a month later he is extremely fit and can keep up with other dogs and I don’t have to worry about him collapsing on the walk home. His quality of life has improved considerably (not to mention my stress levels watching him play and swim especially on those warm days). I don’t have to be anxious to leave him with people as I don’t have to rely on them knowing what to do if he collapses or what is and is not normal breathing and when to pick him up and force him to rest. He can just keep up with all his buddies like any other dog.
– Bark Knights Owner Alyson