pet wellness careWhile we love their adorable, squishy faces, brachycephalic breeds (or brachys) have physical limitations that come with their unique features.

Flat-nosed dogs include breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and King Cavalier Spaniels. Although cute, these animals are more susceptible to heat-related conditions due to structural challenges that affect breathing and panting. As a result, owners of flat-nosed dogs should take extra care when heading outdoors in hot, humid weather.

Flat Nose, Short Muzzle: The Health Risks

Hundreds of years ago, humans began selectively breeding dogs (and cats) to produce specific, beneficial traits. Consequently, some genetic mutations occurred more rapidly than they would have naturally, leading to the emergence of certain physical conditions. In brachycephalic pets, this process has impacted their ability to breathe.

For your pet to regulate body temperature, he or she needs to pant. However, for your flat-nosed dog, this cooling system is negated due to shortened tracheas, small nostrils, and other structural deformities. Collectively, these physical limitations are referred to as Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.

Since flat-nosed dogs have trouble breathing and they can’t pant properly, they’re at serious risk when the weather turns hot and sticky.

Protecting Flat-Nosed Dogs from Summer’s Scorch

In light of your pet’s unique challenges, consider the following recommendations:

  • Keep your brachy hydrated by bringing along extra water on car trips, walks, and any excursion in general.
  • Avoid being outside midday. Instead, opt for early morning walks or wait until sunset.
  • Come up with indoor games that allow your pet to get some exercise. Consider tug-of-war, hide-and-seek, or simply walking up and down a few stairs in your home.
  • Keep your pet comfortable by setting the air conditioning to 82 degrees or cooler.
  • Pull drapes or blinds to prevent direct sunlight from warming up your home.
  • Take frequent shade and water breaks when outside with your flat-nosed dog.
  • Monitor your pet at all times, and find a cool location immediately if he or she appears in distress or uncomfortable.
  • Help your pet maintain a healthy weight since obese/overweight pets are more affected by heat.
  • Never leave your brachy (or any pet) in a parked car for any amount of time.
  • Discuss your options to treat breathing challenges (e.g., surgery) with our team.  

Along with protecting your pet from harmful UV rays, it’s important to know the signs of heatstroke in pets:

  • Rapid/shallow breathing
  • Red gums
  • Hot to the touch
  • Distress
  • Drooling

Heatstroke is a veterinary emergency that can be life-threatening. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, please call us immediately.

We welcome questions about how to care for a flat-nosed dog. Please contact us for additional information or to schedule an appointment.