Brachycephalic dog breeds are those that have shorter than normal muzzles, producing a flattened appearance to the face – and these are some of the most popular breeds in the UK, such as the French bulldog, English bulldog and pug.
However, owning a brachycephalic dog also comes with some challenges and additional care considerations, and these are most acute when the weather is hot and dogs are at risk of overheating. Brachycephalic dog breeds like the French bulldog, pug and English bulldog are often very sensitive to the heat, and have higher risk factors for heatstroke than other breeds. If you own a dog of this type or are considering buying one, it is important to understand these challenges and take steps to keep your dog safe in hot weather.
In this article we will explain why hot weather can be such a challenge for brachycephalic dogs, and share some tips and advice on keeping your dog safe and comfortable during the summer months. Read on to learn more.
Why are brachycephalic dogs more at risk in hot weather?
Heatstroke poses a threat to the health and comfort of all dogs when the weather is hot, but as long as you take some basic, sensible steps to keep them safe, most dogs – even those with thick coats – should manage the summer without major issues. However, brachycephalic dogs are more at risk of heatstroke than other breeds, and this is because of the ways in which dogs moderate their own temperatures and keep cool, and the conformation of the face and muzzle of brachycephalic dogs themselves.
Dogs don’t stay cool in quite the same way as we do – they don’t sweat much, and instead rely much more on panting to exchange warm air for cool air and keep the body comfortable, as well as drinking water to cool the body down from the inside out.
The reason why this is more of a challenge for brachycephalic breeds, and why they are so sensitive to the heat, is because their abnormally shortened muzzles and faces make it harder for them to effectively exchange hot air for cool, and keep the body temperature comfortable.
Brachycephalic dogs can be quite variable in terms of the degree of flatness of their faces and corresponding shortness of their muzzles – which means that some brachycephalic dogs will tend to cope reasonably well in the heat, whilst others will find even a slight uptick in temperature a challenge.
The flatter the dog’s face, the shorter their muzzle is, which can also result in narrowing of the nostrils or nares – making it harder for the dog to draw in breath to pant, and reducing the surface area of the inside of the mouth and throat and so, reducing the dog’s ability to exchange warm air for cool.
How to keep your brachycephalic dog safe in hot weather
Keeping a brachycephalic dog safe when the weather is hot is something that you should be vigilant about – the goal is to keep them cool and comfortable, and minimise the risks of your dog becoming dangerously hot or approaching the first stages of heatstroke.
This requires a lot of vigilance and planning, because dogs can overheat very quickly, this is especially true for brachycephalic breeds.
Here are some of the things you should do to keep your brachycephalic dog cool, comfortable and safe.
• First of all, learn to recognise the signs and causes of heatstroke in dogs. This will help you to prevent problems from arising, and teach you to identify the early symptoms of the condition if it does arise.
• Never leave your dog alone in your car – even for a few minutes, and even if you leave the air conditioning on or a window open. Heatstroke can develop quickly and become acute equally fast, and even now in 2018, dogs still die of heatstroke due to being left in hot cars.
• Walk your dog in the early morning or late evening when the weather is cooler – don’t encourage or enable exercise during the warmer hours of the day.
• Work on providing a cool environment for your dog to access at all times, and never leave them out in a hot garden or home without somewhere they can go to cool down easily accessible.
• Provide shade for your dog, and try to keep up the airflow with fans to help your dog to stay cool.
• Ensure that your dog has access to cool, fresh water at all times – and change the water or top off the bowl regularly throughout the day. Place several bowls of water around the home so that your dog can always find a drink when they need one.
• Consider providing your dog with a paddling pool or regularly sponging them down with cool water when it is hot.
• Offer cooling treats like frozen gravy ice cubes and chilled snacks to help them to maintain a comfortable temperature.
• Consider investing in a cooling vest or jacket for your dog, which can be filled with water and worn by your dog to keep them cool. Remember that when the water warms up or dries out, the jacket or vest will not only fail to cool your dog down, but also provide an additional layer of insulation that will warm them up. Check the vest or jacket regularly and remove it when it starts to dry or heat up.
• Keep your dog’s weight under control throughout the year dogs that are overweight are at a higher risk of overheating.
• Finally, it is a good idea to talk to your vet about the added summer risks for brachycephalic dogs, and ask them to examine your dog and assess their conformation to determine the risks. Dogs with a highly exaggerated degree of flatness to their muzzle often struggle to breathe comfortably and get enough air year-round, and some dogs may benefit from corrective surgery to ease this issue and make them better able to handle the heat in comfort and safety.