Do American bully have breathing problems?

Introduction to the American Bully Breed

American Bullies of different sizes and colors playing in a park, highlighting their muscular physique and active nature.
Playful American Bullies in a Park: Showcasing Breed Diversity and Vitality.

The American Bully is a dog breed that originated within the last few decades as a compact, muscular dog that is a mix between the American Pit Bull Terrier and other bully-type breeds. This breed has seen a surge in popularity over recent years due to their stocky build, loyal temperament, and cute, tough appearance.

As American bullies were bred to have a shorter muzzle and a more compact frame, they have become prone to some structural issues that can impact their health and quality of life. One of the most common is breathing problems stemming from their squashed face conformations.

This article provides an overview of the common respiratory issues seen in the American Bully breed, the symptoms to look out for, ways vets diagnose these conditions, treatment options available, and measures owners can take to prevent or manage breathing problems. Gaining an understanding of the breathing difficulties American bullies may face will help new or prospective owners properly care for their dogs.

Do American bullies have breathing problems?

Veterinarian examining an American Bully's face in a clinic, indicating labored breathing.
Veterinary Care for American Bully: Focused Examination on Breathing Issues.

Yes, due to their short muzzles, American bullies are prone to a few breathing issues that can impact their health and quality of life. The most common respiratory conditions seen in this breed include the following:

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

This condition stems from anatomical abnormalities caused by the shortened bones of the snout and skull. Key features include:

  • Stenotic nares: Pinched, narrowed nostrils that limit airflow
  • Elongated soft palate: Extra tissue that obstructs the airway
  • Collapsing trachea: Weakened windpipes that can close up

Together, these abnormalities lead to restricted breathing, snoring, exercise intolerance, and difficulty regulating temperature.

Exercise Intolerance

The squat facial structure also reduces lung capacity and causes overheating, making physical activity a struggle for many American bullies. They do not properly regulate their temperature, further compromising their airways.

Snoring and Reverse Sneezing

The narrowed nasal passages cause loud snoring and episodes of forceful inhaling that sound like honking, known as reverse sneezing.

What causes these breathing problems in American Bullies?

Cross-sectional view of an American Bully's head highlighting anatomical concerns like narrowed nostrils and elongated soft palate.
Inside Look: An American Bully’s Anatomical Challenges in Breathing.

The brachycephalic (short-muzzled) head shape that gives American bullies their distinctive look also leads to anatomical abnormalities that obstruct their airways. Some key factors behind their breathing issues include:

Distorted Facial Anatomy

  • The shortened muzzles and flat faces of American bullies leads to crammed nasal passages, elongated palates, and narrowed tracheas, all of which restrict airflow.

Excess Tissue in Airways

  • Extra tissue, like elongated soft palates and swollen turbinates, blocks the airways and complicates breathing.

Heat Intolerance

  • Their scrunched facial structure reduces their ability to effectively cool down through panting and radiation across the skin. This makes exercise challenging and overheating more likely.

Stenotic Nares

  • Pinched nostrils prevent adequate air intake into narrowed nasal passages, which are already crammed with tissue. This airway obstruction can lead to snoring, exercise intolerance, fainting, and loss of consciousness in extreme cases.

At What Age Do Breathing Problems Develop in American Bullies?

Breathing issues often emerge in American bullies at a young age, once they are done growing and their adult facial features and anatomy have fully developed.

6 Months to 2 Years Old

  • Most American bullies develop noticeable breathing issues like severe snoring, exercise intolerance, or bluish gums between 6 months and 2 years old. This timeframe coincides with their adult facial structure taking shape.

Present Soon After Adoption

  • Many new owners report signs of respiratory distress soon after bringing their American bully puppy home. Their breathing problems may start subtly but tend to worsen with age.

Progressive Worsening of Symptoms

  • While some breathing issues show up early on, they tend to progressively worsen year after year. What starts as occasional snoring may turn into gasping fits triggered by mild weather changes. Catching issues early allows for better management.

Symptoms of Breathing Problems in American Bullies

Owners of American bullies should watch out for the following symptoms that signal breathing problems:

  • Excessive or loud panting: Panting is a key way dogs cool down, but excessive panting shows their airways are obstructed and unable to properly radiate heat.
  • Struggling to catch breath: Flared nostrils, chest heaving, head extended forward, and pale or blue gums all point to an American bully having trouble getting sufficient air.
  • Choking, gagging: The extra tissue blocking their airways often leads to distressing gagging or choking fits as they struggle to breathe.
  • Snorting and reverse sneezing: Loud snorting along with honking inhales lasting up to a minute signify airflow issues.
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness: In extreme cases, airway obstruction may cause an American bully to lose stability, collapse, or even faint due to inadequate oxygen.

If you notice any of these symptoms, take your American bully to the vet for prompt diagnosis and treatment to help alleviate their breathing problems. Paying attention early on and following your vet’s care recommendations provides the best chance for managing any issues that arise.

Diagnosing Breathing Issues in American Bullies

Veterinarian conducting a diagnostic test on an American Bully in a clinic, with the dog receiving comfort from an assistant.
Veterinary Diagnosis: An American Bully Undergoing a Health Check.

If an American bully exhibits symptoms of breathing distress, the following diagnostic tests may be used to pinpoint the cause:

Physical Exam

Vets will listen to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope while watching for signs of discomfort, coughing, or bluish mucus membranes. They will also assess body condition, check for dental disease, and evaluate the nostrils, throat, and windpipe.

Imaging Scans

X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and other imaging techniques allow vets to visually inspect the nostrils, throat, windpipes, and lungs for any anatomical abnormalities or excess tissue obstructing airflow.


A tiny fiberoptic camera is inserted into the nose or throat to directly assess these airways for stenosis, elongated soft palates, or other issues.

Allergy Testing

Skin or blood tests check for allergies that may be exacerbating nasal inflammation and airway obstructions.

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Treatment Options for Breathing Problems in American Bullies

American Bully being walked with a harness in a tranquil park, reflecting mindful health care by the owner.
Health-Conscious Walk: American Bully with a Harness in a Peaceful Park.

If breathing issues are diagnosed early, medications and lifestyle changes may be effective. But most cases require surgery to correct anatomical problems for lasting improvement.


Corticosteroids, antihistamines, diuretics, and other drugs help control swelling, mucus, inflammation, and other symptoms.

Oxygen Therapy

Providing supplemental oxygen can aid breathing ability, especially after surgery or during acute attacks.


Surgeries to remove excess tissue and open up restricted nostrils and airways are often the definitive solution, including:

  • Stenotic nares correction – Nostrils are surgically widened
  • Soft palate resection – Removing excess elongated tissue
  • Laryngeal saccule removal – Eliminating small protruding air sacs
  • Tracheal or laryngeal stents – Implanting internal scaffolds

Surgery often markedly improves quality of life. But symptoms may recur over time for some. Close postoperative monitoring is key.

Caring for an American Bully with Breathing Issues

Managing an American bully with breathing difficulties requires attention and adjustments to help them live comfortably. Some tips include:

Exercise Regulation

Closely monitor activity levels to avoid overexertion and overheating. Short, gentle walks are best. Never exercise during hot or humid weather.

Use a Harness

Walk using a harness instead of a neck collar, which further restricts the airways. A harness disperses pressure away from the throat.

Maintain Healthy Weight

Carrying excess weight stresses the body and makes breathing problems worse. Stick to the recommended calorie intake with vet-prescribed weight loss diets if needed.

Keep Them Cool

Due to heat intolerance, ensure your home A/C is in working order and avoid going outside on hot days. Overheating seriously taxes their compromised respiratory function.

Giving breathing-compromised American bullies attentive, customized care greatly improves their wellbeing. Work closely with your vet to tailor an optimal care plan.

Preventing Breathing Problems in American Bullies

Group of American Bullies in a clean, airy kennel with professional breeders, showcasing responsible breeding practices.
Responsible Breeding: American Bullies in a Spacious and Caring Kennel Environment.

While American bullies are predisposed to breathing issues, the following prevention tips can reduce their risk:

Choose Responsible Breeders

Work with breeders who screen for respiratory problems and prioritize health over exaggerated features. Avoid backyard breeders focused only on appearance.

Feed High-Quality Diet

Pick a vet-recommended food for short-muzzled breeds that meets nutritional needs. Avoid fillers that cause rapid growth.

Create Custom Exercise Routine

Work closely with your vet to tailor the type, frequency, intensity and duration of exercise to your dog’s needs and tolerances.

Maintain Ideal Weight

Carrying excess weight strains the airways. Stick to the recommended calorie intake to avoid obesity.

Overall, prevention requires selecting structurally sound, health-focused breeding lines, robust nutrition, lifestyle customization, and close veterinary guidance to mitigate breathing issues common to this breed.

The Outlook for American Bullies with Breathing Issues

Unfortunately, breathing problems cannot be cured given the innate structural limitations of the American bully’s facial and airway anatomy. But the symptoms can often be well-managed with diligent care.

Potentially Shortened Lifespan

Serious respiratory distress can take years off an American bully’s life if left untreated. But prompt intervention and careful management improves longevity.

Symptom Management, Not Cure

Though surgery and other treatments can substantially improve quality of life, issues may recur years later as tissues re-grow. Ongoing observation is imperative.

Good Quality of Life Still Possible

While their structural restrictions cannot be fully reversed, an affected bully can still live a largely normal, active, and fulfilling life with vigilant owner care and veterinary oversight.

The prognosis for American bullies with breathing difficulties varies on a case by case basis depending on severity. But enhancing their comfort is achievable through adaptive lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery when warranted.

Keys to Managing Breathing Problems in American Bullies

Coping with respiratory issues in American bullies involves concerted effort and vigilance. Some of the most vital components include:

Work Closely With Your Veterinarian

Maintain a strong relationship with your vet to closely coordinate medications, testing, surgery timing, lifestyle changes, and ongoing monitoring. Adhere to all veterinary instructions.

Learn to Recognize Triggering Factors

Monitor your dog’s breathing episodes to identify potential triggers like hot weather, allergens, overexertion, excitement, tight collars or harnesses, etc. Then make appropriate lifestyle adjustments.

Stick to Recommended Care Routines

Follow all vet recommendations around diet, exercise precautions, skin and dental care, medications, post-surgery care, and supplemental oxygen use to provide optimal daily support.

Invest in Air Purifiers and Humidifiers

Cleaner, more humid air alleviates respiratory distress flare-ups. Consider installing air purifiers and humidifiers.

No two cases are alike – personalized care is key for helping breathing-compromised American bullies live their best lives. Consistent attention and responsiveness to emerging needs makes all the difference.

Finding a Reputable American Bully Breeder

Since American bullies are predisposed to breathing issues, finding a quality breeder is key to reducing risk. Ideal breeders:

Prioritize Health Testing

Reputable breeders health screen their breeding stock for respiratory and other genetic issues before breeding. They provide proof of testing for conditions like brachycephalic syndrome.

Focus on Health Over Looks

Responsible breeders select breeding pairs based on structural soundness and health history rather than extreme features which exacerbate problems.

Use Surplus Oxygen Kennels

Some excellent breeders even raise their American bully puppies in oxygen-rich chambers to aid lung development and make them more resilient against future respiratory distress.

Offer Health Guarantees

Many good breeders guarantee the health of their pups for the first 1-2 years and will take back affected dogs.

Doing due diligence to find an ethical, conscientious American bully breeder minimizes risk of breathing issues. Be extremely cautious of breeders who fail to prioritize health.

I can provide more details on finding breeders, transitioning to a new home, or any other aspects of raising an American bully puppy if helpful!

Bringing Your American Bully Puppy Home

Once you find a quality breeder, here are some tips for transitioning an American bully puppy to your home:

Puppy-Proof Air Dangers

Scan your house for potential respiratory irritants like candles, fragrances, smoking, mold, chemicals, dust buildup, etc. Store harmful items securely out of reach.

Create a Comfortable Climate

Maintain temperatures between 65-80°F across your home so your heat-sensitive puppy doesn’t struggle breathing. Have fans and A/C units installed in advance.

Introduce Them Slowly

Initially keep walks very short (5 minutes) with harness on so your puppy doesn’t overexert themselves. Build up duration slowly only as tolerated. Bring water to prevent overheating.

Make an Air Emergency Plan

Be prepared with emergency vet contact information saved on your phone. Know routes ahead of time in case you need to rush your pup for acute airway attacks.

With preparation for their unique needs, bringing home an American bully puppy can be extremely rewarding, fun and smoother for all. Focus on building a safe, loving environment tailored to their breathing vulnerabilities.


American Bully with a happy family in a cozy home setting, depicting health and well-being.
Family Bonding: American Bully Enjoying a Loving Home Life.

American bullies’ scrunched muzzles certainly give them an endearing look but also predispose them to potentially serious breathing issues ranging from snoring and exercise intolerance to life-threatening attacks. Their structural abnormalities restrict airflow and heat dissipation.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome along with stenotic nares, elongated palates, and collapsing tracheas plague many American bullies, emerging as early as 6 months old once their facial features fully develop. Excessive panting, gagging, wheezing and fainting episodes may result.

Though daunting, these breathing problems can often be managed with surgery to open nostrils and remove excess tissue obstructing airways. Lifestyle adaptations like temperature regulation and harness use also provide significant relief.

Working closely with your vet, selecting responsible breeders focused on health, and tailoring your American bully’s lifestyle to support their respiratory vulnerabilities enables them to live happy, high-quality lives for years to come. Stay attentive to emerging symptoms, keep home environments low-trigger, and be prepared with emergency protocols.

With concerted effort, American bullies’ innate predisposition towards breathing distress does not have to reduce joyful times together. Proper coordinated care makes all the difference.

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