Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital’s Blog
The Sweet Smoosh: Keeping Brachycephalic Breeds Safe in the Heat
That adorable face looking up at you with total and complete devotion is off-the-charts cute, but the same features that endear brachycephalic breeds are also responsible for certain health challenges. Pugs, Persians, and Pekingese are just a few of these popular flat-faced pets, but all pets with similar facial characteristics are susceptible to respiratory problems – especially when temperatures start to rise.
A Glance at Brachycephalic Breeds
Flat-nosed pets have been selectively bred to have shorter skulls, lower jaws, and smaller nasal passages than their counterparts. As a result, breathing is difficult for brachycephalic breeds. For example, you might notice a brachycephalic pet opting to breathe in and out through the mouth or making noise when eating, sleeping, or exercising.
A Closer Look
Brachycephalic airway syndrome refers to the following types of abnormalities that can affect this breed:
- Stenotic nares – The result of a malformation in the cartilage of the nose, narrow or small nostrils drastically decrease air intake. Surgically removing tissue from the nostrils can help a pet breathe better.
- An elongated soft palate – Responsible for the common snorting sounds, excess tissue at the back of the throat and trachea can block effective respiration.
- Hypoplastic trachea – A smaller than normal trachea can narrow the airway.
- Inverted laryngeal sacs – These small pouches can actually get sucked into the airway and obstruct respiration.
A pet’s breathing may get worse during the aging process, and the larynx can even collapse. Over time, compromised breathing may negatively affect the heart and result in inflammation of other airway structures.
Beat the Heat
Dogs pant in order to regulate body temperature, but due to their breathing challenges, brachycephalic breeds are ill-equipped to handle the heat. Indeed, their anatomy does not allow for easy panting, making it virtually impossible to thoroughly cool down. This places them at risk of heatstroke, but with these summer safety practices, you can keep your flat-nosed pet cool and comfortable:
- Keep outdoor activities to the early morning or evening hours, when it’s not quite as warm
- Regulate weight (symptoms can increase in overweight or obese pets)
- Maintain cool temperatures indoors with air conditioning or fans
- Minimize stress or over-excitement
- Use a properly fitting harness in place of a leash
- Use a dehumidifier to help on muggy days
Your beloved brachycephalic pet may never be your hiking partner, but when summer safety precautions are observed, he or she can remain your faithful friend for many years to come.
When brachycephalic breeds struggle with the heat, we recommend a physical examination. Every pet is unique, and we hope you’ll let us know how we can help your precious pet.