Mouth Breathing is Bull(dog)$h!t

The characteristically short snout of bully breeds is adored by humans the world over. While this breed trait looks cute it comes with a dark history and health problems that can enlighten our own bad habits.

“Bull Baiting”. Frances Barlow 17c.

The Bulldog was specifically bred for a sport called bull baiting. A bull would be tied to an iron stake, pepper was then blown into the bull’s snout to irritate it, and then specially bred “bull-dogs” would attempt to grip the bull by its face and pin it to the ground. Many were lost in the fodder of the fight.

Docile and friendly, the bully breeds have become a widespread source of companionship in modern life. Sadly though, their torrid history has come to bite them in the behind. Short-faced breeds have a host of health issues that stem from the short snout that was once a cheat code for fighting bulls.

Also known as Brachycephalics, short-faced dogs have trouble breathing through their noses and the cascade of detriment goes on from there. It is well-known bullies often snore horribly and suffer from sleep apnea. (My friend Andrew Huberman’s podcast is frequently interrupted by his bulldog Costello’s snoring. So much so it’s nearly a signature feature of the show.)

A simple Google search of “bulldog face issues” will reveal a litany of veterinary help articles and memes for the specialized problems of these breeds.

The shorted facial structure and underbite create malocclusion of the teeth and constant inflammation of the nasal passages. Bully breeds are highly susceptible to rhinitis and upper airway obstruction that can become life-threatening. A simple Google search of “bulldog face issues” will reveal a litany of veterinary help articles and memes for the specialized problems of these breeds.

Shortened nasal turbinates reduce airflow which leads to dyspnea (shortness of breath) and therefore over-breathing to compensate. The constant panting of a bulldog (up to 300 breaths/minute) is due to their difficulty blowing off carbon dioxide and chronically lowers oxygen levels. Incredibly intolerant to heat and exercise stress, high metabolic demand does not fair well for bullies. Hence why they seem so doggone lazy.

Referred to as Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome, the above is a rap-sheet of problems extending from…mouth breathing. In this case, created by selective breeding of dogs by humans.

As a bonus, all of the above culminates in heart and lung disease. Why? When the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is not handled efficiently by the respiratory system the cardiopulmonary system has to compensate forcing the heart to work much harder to deliver oxygen to the body.

So what does this have to do with us?

The same thing is happening to human beings. We are shortening our own faces, weakening our breathing, and as a result creating downstream effects that we still don’t fully comprehend. Breathing matters folks.

The book Jaws: A Hidden Epidemic outlines the massive problem plaguing human beings. Early weaning and soft foods along with over breathing through the mouth all contribute to facial malformation and pulmonary dysfunction in human beings.

Hyperventilation, mouth breathing, sleep apnea, chronic rhinitis, cardiopulmonary disease, as well as exercise, and heat intolerance, and are the order of the day for the average Westerner. All of which can be directly connected to the habit of, drum roll please, mouth breathing.

Isn’t it a bit ironic that humans would create the same unwitting fate for ourselves as we did for our canine wards?

What can we do so we don’t go the way of the bulldog? Do we want to become smash-faced mouth breathers who lay about all day snoring while we wait for a heart attack?

Or do we want to take control of our breath habits? Shut our mouths (with some caveats) and cut the bull(dog)$h!t?

Rob Wilson


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