Looking after your brachycephalic dog in the heat

With their shortened noses, brachycephalic dogs aren’t so great at panting. This means that in hotter weather, they can overheat quite quickly.

If you have a brachycephalic dog – such as a boxer, bulldog, pug or shih tzu – it’s really important that you take extra care of them in the heat of summer.

Why does a brachycephalic dog struggle to pant in the heat?

When it’s hot, dogs with a longer nose and more conventional face use panting to good effect, cooling themselves down quite efficiently. The shorter nose and smaller airways of brachycephalic dogs mean that they need to put much more effort into panting, which can lead to overheating and breathing difficulties.

Brachycepahlic dog strggles to pant in the heat

Signs of heat stroke

With their ineffective panting, brachycephalic dogs are at a much higher risk of heat stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition, so it’s important to know the signs to look out for:

  • Distressed breathing
  • Panting that seems to be excessively laboured
  • Difficulty walking
  • Vomiting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Constant snorting

If you think your dog may have heat stroke, you need to try and cool them down as quickly as possible and call your vet for advice. Move them into air-conditioning, and if possible, place them in a small amount of water in the bath. Only allow them to drink small amounts of water at a time to minimise any choking risk.

Exercising in summer

Any excess weight can add to breathing difficulties, so it’s important that you continue to exercise your brachycephalic dog, even in the heat of summer. However, it’s important that you exercise them safely.

  • Go for walks in the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or in the evening
  • Take it slow, and allow for plenty of breaks during your walk
  • Opt for two shorter walks rather than a longer walk
  • Use a harness instead of a collar to avoid putting any further pressure on your dog’s airways
  • If you have the space inside your house, opt for some indoor games with your dog, such as modified versions of fetch

Keep them cool

The best way to avoid your dog overheating is by keeping them cool. Keep them inside during the hottest parts of the day and maintain a cool temperature in your home with fans, air-conditioning and keeping the blinds closed. Always ensure your dog has ready access to fresh, cooled water – whether at home or out and about. A nice refreshing swim in a pool (or paddle pool) is also a great way to keep them nice and cool.

Brachycephalic dog swimming during heat of summer

And it goes without saying, but never leave your dog in the car. Even if you have the windows down and are parked in the shade, your car will heat up incredibly quickly.

Need more tips about caring for your brachycephalic dog?

Brachycephalic dogs are popular choices for pets thanks to their sweet nature and oh-so-innocent faces. But with their shorter noses and smaller airways, they are prone to more health issues, including overheating.

If you are ever concerned about what is “normal” for a brachycephalic dog, especially in the heat of summer, please get in touch. You can book an appointment at our small animal clinic in East Gawler via our website, or by phoning 08 8318 1801.