At first glance, it may seem like a small French Bulldog is better equipped for the heat than a heavy coated Siberian Husky. But French Bulldogs, along with others like American Bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs, and Boston Terriers, are Brachycephalic dogs. “Brachycephalic” refers to dogs with a short muzzle, and this face shape is a huge disadvantage to dogs in the hotter months since the dog’s main mechanism for cooling down is panting.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS)
Brachycephalic dogs are ineffective panters. Panting is a form of evaporative cooling that helps regulate dogs’ body temperatures in the heat. The shorter, “smushed” faces of brachycephalic dogs are quite cute, but create big problems when it comes to airflow. This causes short muzzled dogs to snort, gurgle, and sometimes have a difficult time breathing.
The tight bone structure of their face makes their airways like a tight maze, so much less air reaches the lungs in a breath than it would for a non-brachycephalic dog. Many short muzzled dogs will breathe through their mouth, but they are still not getting as much air as their longer-snout counterparts. Soft palates in brachycephalic dogs’ mouths block a majority of the air coming in to the trachea, which means your short-snouted dog needs to work even harder just to get a sufficient amount of oxygen in his system.
Imagine trying to breathe while someone is pinching your nose and you have a swollen throat. That is what it can be like for brachycephalic dogs in the summer.
Heat Stroke And Heat Exhaustion
Due to Brachycephalic’s dogs’ inability to pant efficiently, they are at a substantially higher risk for summer health issues such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. They require a lot more TLC in the summer than other dogs to insure they are safe and healthy in the midst of the heat. If you have a brachycephalic dog, be sure to do the following:
Always Have Cool Water Available To Them: Not exactly rocket science, but another way for your dog to cool down is with water. Be sure that cool, clean water is easily accessible to your short-snouted friend 24/7 during the summer.
Take It Slow: Your dog still needs exercise during the summer, but try to do so in a slow, breezy fashion. Take shorter, slower walks during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or later in the evening after some of the heat of the day has burnt off.
Use A Harness: Brachycephalic dogs already have the cards stacked against them when it comes to breathing; don’t add to their obstacles with an airway restricting collar. Use a harness to walk your dog at the appropriate times of the day.
Do NOT leave them outside: Even if you have a shady area in your backyard for your dog to rest, do not leave your brachycephalic dog outside, even if it doesn’t seem all that hot to you. These are not the type of dogs to leave outside, even just for 20 minutes. Dogs with this condition can succumb to the heat in that short of a time period. If you let your dog out in the yard to do her business, bring her back inside as soon as she’s done.
Invest In A Cooling Pad: Getting a comfy cooling pad for your dog to lay on indoors is an excellent way to help your dog maintain a comfortable and healthy body temperature in the heat.
Watch Their Weight: Excessive weight can lead to breathing and other health problems in any dog, but it greatly exacerbates a brachycephalic dog’s inability to keep cool and properly breathe. If you have a short-muzzled dog that has a little too much extra weight, talk to your vet about healthy strategies to help them shed the weight.
Know The Signs Of Heat Stroke: Be sure to educate yourself on the signs of heat stroke. You can use DogTime’s handy guide to do so. If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, cool him down immediately and contact your vet.
Brachycephalic dogs can still enjoy the summer, but they do need to be monitored vigilantly. Do you have any tips on how you keep your adorable, smushed faced pup cool and safe during the summer months? Let us know in the comments.