Sleep Apnea In Bulldogs And French Bulldogs

By: Dr. Roy Kraemer |
DVM, Bulldog Specialist Veterinarian

“Dr. Kraemer I am worried about Bulldozer. His sleep has been anything but peaceful lately. His sleep is a symphony of loud snoring, occasional gasps for breath, and moments where he seems to pause, only to wake up with a start. It’s heartbreaking to witness, and it leaves me feeling helpless. Bulldozer restless sleep and the visible signs of struggling for breath have become all too common. I’m reaching out for advice because I want to ensure that he gets the quality rest he deserves. 🐾💤 #BulldogSleepApnea #FurryFriends #BulldozerTheBulldog”

Bulldog puppy with sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is rare in most canine breeds except for the flat-faced ones, such as

Bulldog Sleep Apnea 5 X MUST KNOW

  1. Sleep apnea is rare in most canine breeds but common in bulldogs
  2. It is mostly associated with the breed brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS)
  3. Loud snoring, poor blood oxygenation, chocking, and sudden awaking are common
  4. Care includes weight management and the timely repair of BOAS.
  5. Prevention and Care includes Dr. Kraemer’s Sleep Apnea Bundles 

Members of this bulldog community prefer prevention over RX

bulldog Sleep Apnea Ultimate Bundle

Sleep Apnea Health Concerns in Bulldogs

Just like us, your bulldog and French bulldog require a healthy dose of sleep to function at their best.

While the typical canine clocks in around 12–14 hours of sleep (including those midday naps!), bulldogs, with their unique physicality, require even more.

Sleep isn’t just a chance for them to catch some zzz’s; it’s vital for their mental and physical rejuvenation and essential for their long-term well-being.

Think of sleep as your bulldog’s internal repair shop. During those precious snooze sessions, their bodies:

  • ENERGY: Refuel their energy reserves
  • IMMUNE: Boost their immune system and help fight bacteria and viral infection, pre-cancer, and cancer.
  • ENDOCRINE: Regulate their hormones; sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining hormonal balance, impacting everything from
    • mood
    • appetite
    • stress levels
    • digestion.

Sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep can have immediate and long-term consequences for your bulldog.

sleep apnea in bulldogs

Sleep Deprivation Impact on Your Bulldog Health:

  1. IMMUNE WEAKNESS: With less time for repairs and reinforcements, your bulldog becomes more susceptible to
    • infections
    • illnesses.
  2. BEHAVIORAL: Sleep deprivation can manifest in
    • irritability
    • anxiety
    • aggression
    • grumpy
  3. PHYSICAL: Sleep deprivation can manifest in physical problems such as
    • weight gain
    • diabetes
    • and heart disease.

Dr. Kraemer V4B Fr. Bulldog Hemp Relax & Calm Therapeutic Supplement handout


Because chronic sleep apnea reduces your bulldog’s quality of life and life expectancy, it should be addressed as soon as possible.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in Bulldogs

For bulldogs and other “smooched-face” breeds, the unique structure of their airways, known as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), often leads to a specific type of sleep apnea called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This means that during sleep, their airways can narrow or even collapse, making it difficult to breathe freely.

Bulldog Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and REM Sleep

One particularly troublesome aspect of OSA in bulldogs is its tendency to worsen during REM sleep, the dream stage.

This is because, during REM sleep (rapid eye movement), the muscles that control the airways relax, making them even more vulnerable to collapse. As a result, these dogs often experience oxygen deprivation, even if they appear to be sleeping peacefully.

Bulldog Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Blood Oxygenation

Research suggests that bulldog sleep apnea can significantly impact oxygen levels in the blood. These low oxygen levels can have a range of negative consequences, affecting everything from energy levels and mood to organ function and overall health.

Oxygen blood saturation appears to be lower in bulldogs suffering from sleep apnea 

Pulse Oximeter Bulldog Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs/Presentation:

  • Snoring: load
  • Breathing: Frequent gasps with breathing pause
  • Choking: during sleep
  • Restless: restless sleeping
  • Waking up: sudden waking
  • Behavioral: irritable, depressed, tired, stressed
  • Day Sleep: decreased alertness and longer and more frequent sleeping during the dapy
  • Sickness and Illness: respiratory  and heart disease, as well as high blood pressure (hypertension)

Sleep Apnea in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs/CAUSE:

  • Obesity
  • BOAS
    • Elongated Soft Palate
    • Pinched Stenotic Nose
    • Hypoplastic Trachea
    • Everted Laryngeal Saccules
    • Prolapsed, Swollen Tonsil
    • End Stage: Atrophied Laryngeal Collapse
  • Swollen Nasal Turbinate
  • Obstructing Aberrant Nasal Turbinate’s (CAT)
  • Laryngeal Obstruction
  • Oropharyngeal Narrowing
  • Parapharyngeal Tumors
  • Sinusitis
  • Allergic Rhinitis
  • Hiatal Hernia
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
  • Allergies

The flat-face brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is the biggest contributor to sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea in Bulldogs: Diagnosis

  • Home-made Video: Real-time video taken by owner
  • Visual Exam
    • Oral Exam:
    • Visual Laryngeal Exam
    • Visual Pharyngeal Exam

WARNING: proper exam can only be done under anesthesia and sufficent illumination

  • Imaging:
    • Radiographs
    • Dental Radiographs
    • Rhinoscopy
    • MRI
    • CT

Bulldog Sleep Apnea: PREVENTION & CARE

  1. Weight Loss: for overweight pets
  2. BOAS surgical Repair
  3. Allergy Control: antihistamines
  4. Anti-inflammatory: short-term steroid to reduce laryngeal swelling
  5. Anti-Anxiety: reduce stress
  6. AC: air conditioning in a hot area
  7. EPA air purifier
  8. Neck position: prep the head to help stretch the neck.
  9. Sleep Schedule: a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it, even on weekends.
  10. Cozy Sleeping Conditions: provide a comfortable, quiet, and dark sleeping space
  11. Stimuleus and Activities: avoid excessive exercise and stimulus close to bedtime.


You can try placing an inflated donut-shaped cone to keep the neck stretched while asleep.

You can also tape to it a pulse electromagnetic loop (tPEMT) to help with inflammation.

PEMT donut for bulldog sleep apnea

You can place a pillow under the chin. It will help extend the bully’s short neck and airways and reduce obstructive soft tissue.

Sleep Apnea in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs Donut Buster Collor

Bulldog Sleep Apnea Therapeutic Bully Supplements

You should always consider RX therapeutics; examples are

Immune Boosting for Sleep Apnea

Help support the immune system in fighting infections, immune-mediated conditions, chronic disease, and cancer

Improved Digestion for Bulldog Sleep Apnea

Help improve your bulldog’s digestion and elimination, increase fiber, improve motility, and prevent dysbiosis and leaky bowl

Calm and Relaxation for Bulldog Sleep Apnea

Can help reduce anxiety and enhance the calm state of mind to naturally help a restful sleep and rest

Sleep Apnea in Bulldogs: ONDANSETRON

While Ondansetron (Zofran) is known for its anti-nausea and anti-vomiting properties, it can also help bulldogs suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) breathe easier.

It is a serotonin 5-HT3 receptor antagonist that helps increase serotonin levels and maintain normal airway function, especially during sleep. This, in turn, reduces the narrowing of airways and the frequency of apneas, allowing bulldogs to breathe better.

As it’s still an emerging area of research, just like any prescription medication, side effects should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Ondansetron can help keep serotonin levels high during sleep and, improving airflow and reducing obstructive apnea.

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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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