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Is Heat More Dangerous for Brachycephalic Dogs? Vet Approved Facts & FAQs

Keri-Beth Clur

By Keri-Beth Clur

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Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Summer is a wonderful time, but it can also bring along its own set of problems for your pets. When suffering in the summer heat, you may consider long-haired dog breeds, such as Huskies, and how they could be at risk for overheating. Although owners of these beautiful dogs should keep an eye on their dogs on hot days, Huskies adapt well to any climate and are usually okay in the hotter months.

What many people forget to consider are brachycephalic dog breeds. Many assume that they are better equipped for heat because of their short coats and smaller size. However, these flat-faced dogs are the ones that really suffer during the heat, and we’re going to discuss why.

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Why Do Brachycephalic Dogs Suffer in The Heat?

Bulldogs, Boxer Dogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Chinese Shar-Pei, Bull Mastiffs, and Pekingese are all brachycephalic dog breeds, which means that they have short muzzles and flat faces. As sweet as these wide, blunt faces are, they often cause breathing problems and a few other health issues for the dog.

Dogs don’t sweat to cool down but release heat from their nose and paw pads. They also pant because it’s a form of evaporative cooling. However, brachycephalic dogs don’t pant effectively and don’t get as much air passing through as non-brachycephalic dogs, which can lead to overheating. Sadly, brachycephalic dogs have an increased risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and you’ll need to put precautions in place to protect them from the heat.

boston terrier on the grass
Image credit: Tasha Karidis, Shutterstock

What Is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

Dogs with flat faces are the result of selective breeding, but the consequence of their appearance is that most of these dogs suffer from Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.

Although not all flat-faced dogs suffer from Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, many do, and the effects of this syndrome can vary between each dog. Dogs that are diagnosed with this syndrome often have stenotic nares, extended nasopharyngeal turbinates, elongated soft palates, laryngeal collapse, everted laryngeal saccules, or hypoplastic tracheas. They usually have a combination of three or more of these abnormalities.

Symptoms of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome include noisy breathing, gagging, coughing, snoring, difficulty breathing, increased panting, pale gums, and exercise intolerance. Surgery is often an option for these dogs in an effort to open their airways and help them breathe better.

Signs Of Heatstroke in Your Brachycephalic Dog

If your dog cannot get enough air in and out of their lungs when they’re hot, their body temperature may rise too high, which is very dangerous and can cause damage to their organs. Heatstroke can be caused by heat, a lack of shade from the sun, being left in the car without any open windows, or too much exercise.

A few signs of heatstroke include:
  • Frantic panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

Severe cases can lead to acute kidney injury, shock, blood clotting problems, and death, so it’s important to get an overheated dog to the vet immediately, even if you’ve taken measures to cool them down.

A dog that has heat stroke will be treated at the hospital with IV fluids, oxygen, electrolytes, glucose, and various medications. The vet will also actively try to cool them down by using several methods as soon as your dog arrives.

Adorable french bulldog lying down on green grass in a park
Image Credit: Wirestock Pexels

Ways To Keep Your Brachycephalic Dog Cool in The Heat

You need to be aware of the temperature around your dog and take steps to protect them from the heat. Some preventative measures may seem over the top, but it’s better to be safe than have your dog overheat in situations or environments you wouldn’t expect it to occur.

Here are a few ways to keep your dog cool in the heat:
  • Ensure that your dog always has clean water, whether you’re out in the car, at the dog park, going for a walk around the block, or relaxing at home.
  • Make sure your dog has a shaded area outside to sit under.
  • Don’t leave your dog outside for long periods.
  • Never walk your dog during the hottest time of the day or on humid days.
  • Get your dog cooling products such as a cooling mat to lie on, a cooling vest to wear, an elevated dog bed that offers great air circulation, a dog pool to wade around in, and frozen chew toys.
  • Don’t leave your dog in your car, regardless of whether the windows are cracked open or not. Cars heat up quickly, even on cool days. If you must leave your dog in the car, ensure the air conditioner is running and the windows are open slightly.
  • Air condition your home on hot days to prevent it from becoming too warm for your dog.
  • Place your dog’s bed in a well-ventilated area.
  • Pack a spray bottle, cooling products, and water whenever you take your dog anywhere.
  • Learn the signs of heat stroke and how to lower your dog’s body temperature.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Overheating

If you notice signs of overheating in your dog, you need to take them to the vet. However, if your dog is struggling with the heat, there are a few things you can do to lower their body temperature while you prepare to take them to the vet.

  • Move your dog to a cool, shaded area.
  • Spray or gently pour cool (not cold) water over their body, making sure to wet their armpits, belly, paws, and neck.
  • Fan your dog down, place your dog near a fan, or put them in a room that has the air conditioner running.
  • Place wet towels over their body.
  • Use a cloth with cool water and wipe their face and mouth.

If your dog is overheating, it’s natural to want to try and get them cool as quickly as possible. However, placing ice cubes into their mouth or pouring icy water over their body can cause them to go into shock and can make the situation even worse. Stick to cool water as it’s important to bring their body’s temperature down gradually.

chinese shar pei
Image Credit: Zuzule, Shutterstock

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Heat is more dangerous for brachycephalic dogs because they aren’t able to pant effectively and struggle to get enough airflow in and out of their lungs, which can cause overheating. It’s caused by the structure of their abnormal, short muzzles, which is the result of selective breeding. Most flat-faced dogs have Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, which increases their risk of overheating.

Whether you have a brachycephalic dog or a dog that has a long snout, you should watch out for signs of overheating on hot days and take precautions to prevent it.

Featured Image Credit: Patryk Kosmider, Shutterstock

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