Dogs get heat stroke when their body temperature rises above 104° F. It can be fatal if you do not treat it immediately. Short-muzzled dog breeds (Brachycephalic breeds) are more susceptible to heat stroke.
How Dogs Regulate Their Body Temperature
Dogs don’t sweat like we do because of their insulating coat. Their coats help keep them warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Dogs have sweat glands located in the pads of their feet and ear canals, but their sweat glands play a minor role in regulating body temperature.
When the temperatures get very hot or hot and humid, a dog will respond by seeking a cool place in the shade to lie down to absorb the coolness. Their blood vessels will dilate in their skin and tongue, bringing hot blood close to the surface. They will seek out fans or breezes to blow air to transfer the heat from their body to the air. Most importantly, the dog will pant to bring air into the upper respiratory system to evaporate water from the mucous membranes. Your dog will drink lots of water to replace the evaporated water.
Short-Muzzled Dog Breeds Have a Higher Risk for Heatstroke
French Bulldogs, American Bulldogs, Chow Chows, Pekingese, Pugs, and Boston Terriers we call Brachycephalic dogs. The word “brachycephaly” is ancient Greek for ‘short’ and ‘head.’ Such dogs have shorter muzzles than other breeds such as Labradors and German Shepherds. This condition makes them more prone to heatstroke because it affects their ability to pant efficiently.
Their shorter faces cause them to snort, gurgle, and sometimes have difficulty breathing because less air reaches their lungs with each breath than it would for a longer-snouted dog.
They also have softer palates that block most of the air coming into the windpipes, so they must work even harder to get enough oxygen in their system.
So, short-muzzled dogs can have a tough time cooling down when summer temperatures heat up. For this reason, pet parents of short-muzzled dogs must be even more alert to preventing and knowing the signs of heatstroke!
Eight Tips to Preventing Heat Stroke in Short-Muzzled Dogs
1. Make sure they always have access to cool water.
Provide several large bowls of drinking water for your dogs around your home and yard, making sure to check and refill them (at least) daily. Be sure to place them where your dog can easily reach them. Keep the outside bowls in areas with reliable shade. You can also add ice to the water to keep it cooler.
2. Do not leave your dog outside for long periods.
Remember, they cannot cool themselves down like other breeds can with panting. For this reason, you cannot leave them outside for long. Of course, you can let them out to do their business but then bring them back inside.
3. Walk your dog in the morning or later in the evening.
When the weather is hot, it’s best to avoid walking your dog during the hottest part of the day. Walking them in the mornings or evenings will be more comfortable for you and your furry loved one. Take extra care to avoid the midday sun, as this is when they’re most at risk of overheating. And make sure not to overdo it. Let them walk at a pace that is comfortable for them.
4. Use a harness instead of a collar leash.
According to PETMD, one of the most significant ways to protect your short-muzzled dog is to use a dog harness instead of a neck collar. A neck collar only adds strain to the already compromised airways of short-muzzled dog breeds.
5. Don’t leave your dog alone in the car!
Unfortunately, too many people do not realize how fast a car can heat up, even on a mildly warm day. As we covered in our last blog, on an 85-degree day with the windows opened, your car can reach 102 degrees in just 10 minutes! So, never leave your dog in the car. And, if you are planning a road trip this summer but missed our travel tips blog, please read the tips here
6. Treat your pup to a Cooling Pad.
Cooling pads for dogs can help regulate their body temperature while providing a cushioned place for them to lie down. You can put them in your dog’s favorite spot to hang out. People.com provides reviews for the eight best cooling pads for dogs.
7. Keep your dog at a healthy weight.
Excessive weight in any dog can lead to health problems. But specifically in short-muzzled dogs, excess weight can increase the risk and further complicate difficulties with their breathing. The extra weight may cause rapid breathing that their obstructed airway cannot manage. These problems worsen in warm, humid weather, leading to excessive panting.
If you think your dog has a weight problem, please contact us so we can work with you to properly manage their weight.
8. Check Your Dog’s Body Temperature Regularly.
You should check your dog’s body temperature every hour while he is outside. Knowing his body temperature will help you determine whether he needs to drink more water or if his body temperature is rising too quickly.
Know the Signs of Overheating
The first thing to understand is how easily a short-muzzled dog can get overheated in hot weather. Any dog can suffer from overheating at home, during a walk, or even on a short car trip. Here are symptoms of overheating to watch out for:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Erratic pulse
- White or pale gums that seem dry
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Confusion, low energy, or sudden lack of coordination
- Rectal temperature of more than 103°F
If you see any of these symptoms, do not hesitate! The sooner you act, the faster you can bring your pet’s temperature down.
Cool Down Your Dog Quickly!
To cool down your dog quickly:
- Use cold water and ice packs if you have them.
- Place them under their armpits, behind their ears, and along the spine. You can also place a wet towel between his legs to help keep him cool.
- Give them plenty of fresh, clean, cool water to drink.
- Call us to see if you should bring them in.
All pets are special to us here at Aspen Veterinary Clinic. But we understand that short-muzzled dogs have special needs. But they can still enjoy the summer if you stay vigilant to prevent overheating and heatstroke.