When embarking on a health and fitness journey, why not get your pooch to join you? While your Frenchie may love sprinting around the backyard, you may have to think twice before setting out on a jog with your Frenchie in tow!
It is not recommended to run or jog with your French Bulldog. Their narrow airways make them prone to overheating, and overexertion and their stocky build makes them prone to running injuries. Safe exercises for Frenchies include walking, swimming, or short games of fetch.
Even though your Frenchie might think otherwise, they are not the best canine athletes around. They may have won the genetic lottery for personality and cuteness, but they certainly drew the short stick when it comes to athletic ability.
7 Reasons Why You Should Not Take Your French Bulldog Along For A Jog
1. Frenchies Have Very Narrow Airways
All flat-faced dog breeds suffer to a varying degree from a condition known as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). This means that their airways are narrower compared to dogs of the same size with longer muzzles.
There are four main structural characteristics of BOAS that contribute to the narrowing of their airways:
- Narrowed nasal openings (stenotic nares)
- A longer than normal soft palate that results in excessive soft tissue in the back of the throat
- A floppy larynx (voice box) that may collapse during increased breathing effort
- A smaller than normal trachea (windpipe) that may collapse as air moves up and down the windpipe. The average French Bulldog windpipe is much narrower than the average windpipe diameter of a non-brachycephalic dog breed of similar weight.
The abovementioned traits are the most common characteristics of dogs suffering from BOAS, but some dogs may have additional airway abnormalities such as an oversized tongue and thickened tissue in the nasal sinuses.
As you might imagine, anatomical characteristics of the airway of flat-faced dogs do not do well when placed under conditions that increase the body’s oxygen demands.
Just think of how you might feel running 3 miles while only breathing through a straw. You might cope for a short distance, but the longer you exert yourself, the more you will struggle to inhale enough oxygen.
2. Frenchies Overheat Quickly
Dogs do not have sweat glands all over their bodies as humans do; in fact, dogs only have a few sweat glands on the bottom of their feet and some on their noses. Dogs’ main cooling mechanism is panting.
When panting, dogs increase their breathing rate to rapidly inhale air that, as it comes into contact with the lining of the nasal passages and airways, evaporates moisture and then rapidly expel the warmer air again. Panting thus enables dogs to utilize evaporative cooling in their upper airways.
This mechanism works best in dogs with longer muzzles as there is a larger surface area inside the nasal passages for evaporation and, therefore, cooling takes place.
Due to their limited capacity to cool through panting, Frenchies are prone to heatstroke. This is less of a problem if you live in a cooler climate, but this is a massive concern for Frenchie owners living in hot or humid conditions, as hyperthermia can be life-threatening.
Symptoms include difficulty breathing, bright red gums, weakness, confusion, and collapse. If you notice any of these signs, start cooling your dog by wetting them and get them to a vet as soon as possible, as heat stroke can result in organ failure and death.
3. Frenchies Have Fragile Spines
French bulldogs commonly have abnormally shaped vertebra (see the image below). These abnormal vertebra can cause the spine to be unstable in certain areas and may lead to nerve impingement.
In addition to this, more than 90% of French Bulldogs carry the gene for chondrodysplasia which has been closely linked with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). IVDD occurs when the discs between the vertebral bodies become stiff or friable, causing them to collapse or shift and press on the spinal cord.
Excessive physical activity can increase a dog’s risk of developing IVDD, especially if they carry the gene for chondrodysplasia.
4. Frenchies Can Easily Over-Exert Themselves
Despite their anatomy not being well suited for physical activity, Frenchies love to run and play! French Bulldogs get ultra zoomies when they are excited and don’t always know when to stop. This means that they are prone to overexerting themselves in the heat of the moment.
When out on a run, an excited Frenchie is unlikely to stop when they need to, which will lead to overexertion. Overexertion will cause stiff gait and difficulty getting up to muscle soreness and severe fatigue in the days following the activity.
5. Frenchies Are Prone To Tendon And Ligament Injuries
Due to their stockier build, tendon injuries such as biceps tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon attaching the biceps muscle in the front leg to the bone) is common after running longer distances than they are used to on a hard surface. This often presents as waxing and waning front limb lameness after running.
6. Frenchies Are Prone To Paw Pad Injuries
Frenchies who run on hard or abrasive surfaces are prone to getting paw pad abrasions.
This is due to their heavier build and the fact that Frenchies often have softer paw pads due to spending a lot of time indoors or on soft surfaces. Compare this to the german shorthaired pointer who runs around on the farm all day and consequently has thick and hardened paw pads.
7. Frenchies Are Prone To Degenerative Joint Conditions
Older Frenchies, especially, are prone to have degenerative joint conditions such as arthritis in their hips, knees, and elbows.
While strong muscles, and lean body weight aids in supporting fragile joints, high-impact activities such as running can exacerbate pain associated with degenerative joint disease.
Vet-Approved French Bulldog-Safe Exercise
Despite all the reasons you should not go jogging with your Frenchie stated above, your Frenchie still needs some form of physical activity on a daily basis.
Before engaging your Frenchie in physical activity, you need to get the all clear from your vet as the type and amount of exercise that is appropriate for you French Bulldog will depend on their current state of health and fitness level.
As a general rule, 15-20 minute of moderate physical activity daily will be safe for most Frenchies. Remember that, similar to humans, dogs need to start slow and build up their level of fitness.
A few helpful things to keep in mind when considering appropriate physical activity for your Frenchie are:
- Temperature and humidity: avoid hot and humid conditions. A study by Roedler et al. (2013) suggests avoiding exercise when the temperature is above 66°F (19°C).
- The surface area: avoid slippery, hot or rough, and abrasive surfaces. You want to avoid areas where there is a risk of slipping, falling or where the surface area may cause paw pad abrasions.
- Obstacles: avoid areas that will require a lot of jumping or ascending and descending.
The ideal exercising environment for a Frenchie is in cool, not cold, weather on a soft, flat, non-slippery environment such as a large lawn. You should encourage frequent breaks while exercising your French Bulldog.
1. Short Games Of Fetch
Frenchies love to sprint and chase! Playing fetch regularly is a good way to help your Frenchie safely keep fit. Ensure that they get breaks between fetching for their breathing and heart rate to normalise before throwing the object again.
A walk around the block is great for mental stimulation and fitness. Remember that, just like humans, dogs need to start slow and build up fitness. I recommend starting with half a mile and then working it up by half a mile each week until you reach a distance of 3 miles.
Remember that if, for some reason you are unable to go on regular walks for some time, you need to start slow again. This is especially true if you have an older Frenchie or a Frenchie with pre-existing medical conditions.
5. Short Hikes
Hiking can be a fun way to switch up the regular neighborhood walks or games of fetch in the back yard. Just remember to keep the distance short and the terrain not too steep.
Take it slow and don’t take your Frenchie on a hike on a hot day. Remember to take water and take breaks along the way to enjoy the view.
Swimming is a fantastic low-impact activity. Swimming can be especially beneficial as a form of exercise if your Frenchie is suffering from joint or tendon conditions.
Not all dogs love water, though. In fact, some dogs find swimming rather stressful. So, don’t force your Frenchie into the pool if they are not the water-loving kind.
Which Dogs WIll Make Good Running Buddies?
If you can’t take your French Bulldog along for a jog, which dog breed should you get?
As a general rule, look for a dog breed that has a lean and athletic build, with a large narrow chest, long legs and longer muzzle. Examples include:
- Border Collies
- Austarlian Shepherds
- German shorthaired pointers
It is best to avoid running with your French Bulldog. Running for longer than 10 minutes can put them at risk for serious health conditions. Rather engage in safer exercise acitivities such as playing fetch or going for short walks.
If you are looking for a dog breed that would make a good running buddy, get a dog breed with a more athletic build.
- Aromaa, M., Lilja-Maula, L. and Rajamäki, M., 2019. Assessment of welfare and brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome signs in young, breeding age French Bulldogs and Pugs, using owner questionnaire, physical examination and walk tests. Animal Welfare, [online] 28(3), pp.287-298. Available at: <https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/310427>.
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