Sedation and Anesthesia

By: Dr. Kraemer |
DVM, Bulldog Specialist Veterinarian

The breeds of English Bulldog and French Bulldog pose a considerable anesthetic challenge due to their inherent risk factors. Their brachycephalic skull shape and narrowed airways make them prone to breathing difficulties, even in normal circumstances.

In bulldogs under general anesthesia, the relaxation of the upper respiratory muscle becomes a significant challenge because they cannot passively maintain open airways like other breeds. Consequently, they necessitate active compensatory hyperactivity of their remaining upper airway muscles to ensure steady breathing.

This heightened demand on their respiratory system increases the risks associated with anesthesia in bulldogs.

  • Vigilant monitoring
  • Specialized techniques
  • Customized anesthtetics
  • Endotracheal intubation

Are imperative to guarantee their safety throughout the procedure.


Anesthesia in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs

Anesthesia in bulldogs and French bulldogs is riskier than in other dog breeds

Anesthesia Safety in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs: BOAS 

Given the additional narrowing and obstruction in their already compromised airways, bulldogs and French bulldogs affected by Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) encounter heightened challenges during anesthesia.

Bulldog BOAS further complicates the anesthetic challenges:

The most common BOAS conditions adversely impacting bulldog anesthesia are:


Bulldogs with BOAS often possess abnormally long soft palates that can partially obstruct the airway, especially when relaxed during anesthesia.

Bulldog breathing problem due to enlarged tonsils


Narrowed collapsed pinched nostrils further limit air intake, increasing the effort required for breathing.

French bulldog pinched stenotic nares


Chronic BOAS can lead to everated air sacs in the larynx, which will exacerbate airway obstruction.

This heightened need puts them at an increased risk for complications during anesthesia, including:

  1. Hypoxia: inadequate oxygen intake due to the increased effort required for breathing.
  2. Hypercapnia: accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood due to difficulty exhaling.
  3. Respiratory failure: a complete inability to breathe effectively.
  4. Reflux and regurgitation: These factors combined can increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening condition where lung inflammation occurs due to the inhalation of foreign material like stomach acid or food particles.

Therefore, bulldogs and French bulldogs with BOAS necessitate even more active respiratory compensation than those without the syndrome.

Due to these considerations, the veterinary anesthetic team must take extra precautions when anesthetizing bulldogs and French bulldogs with BOAS.

Bulldogs and French bulldogs suffering from elongated soft palate,  and stenotic nares,  are at higher anesthetic risk than other bulldogs.

Bulldog Anesthesia Risks: HIGH VAGAL TONE 

Brachycephalic dog breeds like bulldogs and French bulldogs, especially those suffering from BOAS, tend to exhibit a higher vagal tone compared to other breeds. The vagus nerve, a key component of the parasympathetic nervous system, significantly influences functions such as:

  • digestion
  • heart rate
  • respiration

An increased vagal tone may result in a

  1. decelerated heart rate
  2. heightened gastrointestinal motility
  3. bronchoconstriction.


The vasovagal reflex is defined as a reaction prompted by an increased vagal tone and a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Symptoms associated with the vasovagal reflex include

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fainting
  • bradycardia: slow heartbeat

Bulldog BOAS and GI Problems:

Bulldogs are susceptible to a range of respiratory and digestive complications due to their narrowed airways and anatomical constraints.

Symptoms such as vomiting and gagging are common in bulldogs who suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).

They are often provoked by:

  • enhanced vasovagal reflux
  • increased inspiratory effort
  • swallowing difficulties.

Bulldog Vomiting Leading To ASPIRATION PNEUMONIA

Managing regurgitation, reflux, retching, gagging, and vomiting is paramount before any anesthesia procedure in bulldogs, particularly those with brachycephalic syndrome (BOAS).

Bulldog Anesthesia, Aspiration, and Pneumonia:

During episodes of retching, gagging, or vomiting, there is a substantial risk of inhaling foreign material, potentially leading to aspiration pneumonia. This condition poses a life-threatening threat due to the inflammation and infection it can cause in the lungs.

The relaxation of the upper respiratory muscle during anesthesia further diminishes the capacity to clear aspirated material, heightening the risk of pneumonia.

BOAS bulldogs with their narrowed airways and compromised cough reflex, are particularly vulnerable to aspiration and its severe consequences.

Anesthesia in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs Safety MUST KNOW:

Here is an anesthetic safety shortlist:

Bulldog Anesthetic Safety: VETERINARY TEAM 

Engaging in a detailed conversation with your veterinarian regarding your bulldog’s anesthetic and recovery considerations is crucial for ensuring a safe and successful outcome.

Here are some essential points to cover:

Bulldog Anesthetic Safety: MEDICAL HISTORY:

Provide information about your bulldog’s age, health history, any existing breathing issues, and the severity of potential Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) symptoms.
Discuss any past anesthetic experiences your bulldog may have had and any complications encountered.

Bulldog Anesthetic Saftie: DUE DILIGENCE:

Inquire about the specific anesthetic protocols and medications intended for your bulldog’s procedure.
Seek clarification on the team’s expertise in anesthetizing brachycephalic breeds and their awareness of associated risks, such as

  • Hypoventilation
  • BOAS
  • Laryngeal collapse
  • Gagging and aspiration

Discuss the planned monitoring equipment and techniques to ensure your bulldog’s safety during the procedure and recovery.

Bulldog Post-Anesthetic Saftey: PAIN MANAGEMENT

Understand the post-operative care plan, including strategies for pain management and monitoring for potential issues like extubation, respiratory distress, and vomiting
Discuss discharge instructions and ensure you are familiar with how to best support your bulldog’s recovery at home.


Feel empowered to ask questions and express any concerns you may have.

Clarify any ambiguous information and ensure a comprehensive understanding of the procedure’s risks and benefits.

Remember, proactive communication and informed decision-making are pivotal in minimizing risks, and enhancing your bulldog’s comfort and safety during and after the anesthetic procedure will help you approach the event with confidence and peace of mind.

Select a veterinarian and surgical team you trust, is capable of offering personalized care and addressing your specific queries with expertise.

Bulldog Breathing and Anesthesia Therapeutic Bundle

Anesthesia Safety in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs: TIPS & WARNINGS

Below are a few essential bulldog anesthetic tips and warnings selected by Dr. Kraemer

Bulldog Anesthesia Safety OXYGEN TIP:

Dr. Kraemer’s “Bully Anesthetic Protocol” is a proactive approach to address the specific challenges these brachycephalic breeds face during anesthesia.

  • BOAS Pre-Oxygenzation: Bulldogs, and especially those with BOAS, often have compromised airways and reduced respiratory efficiency. Pre-oxygenation with 100% oxygen helps increase the oxygen reserves in their blood, preparing them better for the potential decrease in oxygen intake during anesthesia.

This can help prevent hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) and its associated complications.

  • Oxygen cage post-anesthesia: Recovery from anesthesia can be challenging for bulldogs due to lingering respiratory depression and airway difficulties. Providing supplemental oxygen in a cage can further support their oxygen levels and help them breathe more comfortably during this critical period.

This can minimize the risk of respiratory distress and hypoxemia.

Overall, Dr. Kraemer’s protocol highlights the importance of:

  1. Tailoring anesthesia for brachycephalic breeds: Recognizing the unique needs of bulldogs and adjusting the anesthetic plan accordingly to ensure their safety and well-being.
  2. Proactive respiratory support: employing strategies like pre-oxygenation and post-operative oxygen therapy to prevent complications and promote smooth recovery.
  3. Individualized care: adapting the protocol to each bulldog’s specific health status and anesthesia needs.

While 100% success cannot be guaranteed in any medical procedure, your veterinarian’s commitment to a specialized protocol for bulldogs demonstrates a commendable level of awareness and care for these special needs patients. If you’re considering anesthesia for your bulldog puppy, it’s worth discussing the bulldog customization approach to anesthesia with a veterinarian experienced in brachycephalic breeds.

Bulldog Anesthesia Safety: ANESTHETIC PROTOCOL TIP

To ensure your bulldog’s safety and comfort, it is critical to address the distinctive challenges and vulnerabilities encountered during anesthesia by brachycephalic breeds

Vomiting and Laryngeal Edema Anesthetic Precautions:

Bulldogs are predisposed to vomiting and regurgitation, particularly due to compromised breathing and relaxed upper respiratory muscles during anesthesia. Our recommended protocol includes the following measures:

  1. Antiemetics and Antinausea Medications: Administration of medications to suppress nausea and vomiting, effectively reducing the associated risk.
  2. Anti-inflammatories: The swelling of the larynx can further obstruct the already narrowed airway in bulldogs. The protocol may involve the use of short-acting steroids and anti-inflammatory medications aimed at managing edema and swelling.

Endotracheal Intubation:

The placement of a breathing tube directly into the trachea helps bypass the upper airway and ensures adequate ventilation.

Pain Management:

Proper pain control is essential not only for the bulldog’s comfort but also to minimize the requirement for deeper anesthesia, which can further depress their respiratory system. The protocol likely includes customized pain medication for the specific procedure.

bulldog pain relief supplement

Anti-Anxiety Medication:

Anesthesia can be a stressful experience, particularly for bulldogs with respiratory difficulties. Anxiety can exacerbate respiratory issues, and anti-anxiety medication can contribute to calming your bulldog and promoting a smoother anesthetic experience.

V4B StressLess for Bulldogs and French Bulldogs soft chews are suitable for long-term use.

In summary, Dr. Kraemer’s Bulldog Anesthetic Protocol reflects the unique challenges bulldogs encounter during anesthesia and how best to address them by integrating these preventive measures and proactive management strategies.

Bulldog Anesthesia Safety ECG & LAB TIP:

Conducting pre-anesthetic screening tests reflects a strong commitment to minimizing risks and ensuring the safety of bulldogs, particularly those with special needs, during anesthesia. Here’s a breakdown of the specific tests and their benefits:

bulldog pre Anesthesia ECG diagnostic workup

Heart-Healthy Screen Electrocardiogram (ECG):

This test evaluates the heart’s electrical activity, identifying potential rhythm abnormalities or underlying heart disease. Early detection of heart issues is crucial before anesthesia, as complications could be amplified during the procedure.

Cardiologist Report: Having a cardiologist interpret the ECG and provide a professional evaluation adds an extra layer of assurance and expertise, particularly for bulldogs predisposed to certain heart conditions.

Pre-Anesthetic Blood and Urine Lab Work:

This examination of blood and urine values offers vital information about your bulldog’s overall health and organ function. It can uncover issues such as anemia, kidney or liver disease, and electrolyte imbalances, impacting anesthesia safety and recovery.

bulldog pre anesthesia lab tests
Blood pressure monitoring:

Blood pressure is crucial for bulldogs, especially those with potential respiratory difficulties; monitoring blood pressure is essential. Elevated blood pressure can exacerbate existing breathing problems and pose additional risks during anesthesia. Knowing your bulldog’s baseline blood pressure and closely monitoring it allows for prompt intervention if significant changes occur.

testing blood pressure on a french bulldog before anesthesia

Chest Radiographs for BOAS Cases:

In bulldogs with Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), chest X-rays offer valuable insights into the severity of airway narrowing and associated anatomical abnormalities.

Early identification of pre-existing health concerns allows for optimizing the anesthetic plan and implementing necessary supportive measures during the procedure.

This information will help the medical team tailor the anesthetic approach and implement specific strategies to manage your bulldog’s breathing during and after the procedure.

In summary, Dr. Kraemer’s comprehensive pre-anesthetic screening procedures recommendations demonstrate the meticulous and responsible approach to bulldog anesthesia. These thorough evaluations offer several key benefits:

  1. Early identification of potential underlying health issues allows for proper management and optimization of the anesthetic plan.
  2. Minimization of anesthesia risks: addressing pre-existing conditions and potential complications significantly reduces the risks associated with anesthesia, ensuring improved safety and comfort for bulldogs by tailoring the anesthetic approach to their specific needs.

Bulldog Anesthesia Safety/SEVOFLURANE TIP:

Advantages of sevoflurane for bulldogs:

  1. Swift induction and recovery
  2. Reduced respiratory depression
  3. More predictable depth of anesthesia

Most veterinary hospitals use isoflurane for their anesthesia due to the vapor’s low cost. While the cost of sevoflurane is a consideration, Dr. Kraemer’s vapor choice underscores the importance of:

  1. Prioritizing patient safety and well-being: Opting for the anesthetic with the best safety profile for bulldogs, even if it incurs higher costs, demonstrates a commitment to ethical and responsible veterinary care.
  2. Customizing anesthesia to breed-specific needs: Acknowledging the unique challenges of bulldogs and adjusting the anesthetic plan accordingly to minimize risks and ensure optimal outcomes.
  3. Continual improvement in veterinary practice: Incorporating newer and safer medications like sevoflurane showcases the dedication to staying abreast of the latest advancements in anesthesia, ensuring the provision of the best possible care for his patients.

Sevoflurane is the gold standard in human anesthesia and is considered the safest and most reliable inhalant anesthetic.

Bulldog Anesthesia Safety/MONITORING TIP:

During the anesthetic procedure, all our bulldogs are carefully supported and monitored.

  1. IV FLUID: On a constant IV fluid drip to maintain circulatory hydration and perfusion.
  2. ECG MONITOR: Your bulldog will be attached to an ECG
  3. TEMPERATURE MONITOR: Provide a heated table and heated blankets
  5. PULSE OXIMETER: monitoring tissue oxygen saturation.
  6. CAPNOGRAPHY: monitoring of the concentration or partial pressure of carbon dioxide (CO).
  8. PAIN-CONTROL:  pain control helps to maintain safety and comfort.

Among others, pain management helps maintain optimal blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration

Bulldog Anesthesia Safety RECOVERY TIP:

After anesthesia, in contrast to other breeds, we keep the endotracheal tube in place for as long as we can. Bulldogs will tolerate the tube even if it is semi-awake and this will ensure patent airways till the patient is fully awake and breathing on his own

Bulldog Anesthesia Safety POST-OP TEMPERATURE TIP:

For post-anesthesia home monitoring, we advise that you keep your bulldog well-ventilated. If excessive panting is observed, check their temperature. If the temperature is above 100F, I usually recommend that you turn a fan on and position it facing your bulldog.

Your bulldog gums and tongue color rule of thumb: Pink=Good, Blue=Bad

Bulldog Anesthesia Safety CALM & RELAX TIP:

At home, keep your bully relaxed and stress-free. If necessary, ask for tranquilizers.

Bulldog Hemp Calm and Relax for post anesthesia

Bulldog Anesthetic/BOAS WARNING:

During the induction process, we always examine the palate and saccules (refer to BOAS).

If abnormalities are observed, my standard practice is to address them promptly to prevent potential post-anesthesia issues, such as laryngeal edema.

For elective surgeries, they can proceed on the same day as the BOAS surgical correction, or they may be rescheduled for a later date, typically around 2 weeks later.


If there is a history of gagging, vomiting, and, of course, coughing, we always take chest X-rays before putting your bully “under” to rule out pneumonia (see our chapter on Aspiration Pneumonia).

bulldog puppy Pneumonia in oxygen cage


Contrary to what you might believe, my biggest concern is not the duration of time that your bully is under anesthesia but rather the post-anesthesia recovery stage.

Complications like laryngeal edema, pneumonia, pulmonary and cardiac irregularities, typically erupt after extubating and are potentially deadly.

We always keep a “bulldog-certified” staff member seated next to your bulldog for the first hour of recovery to constantly monitor vital signs:

  • color
  • respiration
  • heart rate
  • temperature


For the first 12–24 hours after an anesthetic procedure, I don’t recommend keeping bulldogs unattended.

Recomended by Owners Approved by Bulldogs


By Dr. Kraemer

Dr. R. J. Kraemer: With a specialization in Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and other Brachycephalic breeds, Dr. Kraemer has dedicated his career to educating the bulldog community about the unique medical and surgical requirements of the breed. These encompass preventive care and wellness, customized anesthesia, and employing a multimodal approach to address their unique medical conditions.

Some of the breed-specific medical issues he focuses on include

• Airway obstructive disease
• Orthopedics tailored for the breed
• Ear canal disease preventive care
• Skin and allergy management
• Skinfold Dermatitis and Interdigital cysts
• Eyes and eyelid abnormalities
• Pain and stress control
• Dietary, digestion, and therapeutic supplementation

He is a leading provider of cutting-edge regenerative and alternative medicine, for services such as stem cell therapy, laser, and PRP.

Additionally, he maintains a longstanding relationship with Bulldog Rescue, contributing funds and providing shelter, medical, and surgical expertise.

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The information provided on this platform is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian regarding any medical condition. It's important to always consider professional medical advice promptly and not to delay seeking it based on information you've read on this platform. Any reliance on the information provided here is entirely at your discretion.

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