Wheaton_iStock_000044574922_LargeMany of us love those smooshy-faced breeds. From French bulldogs to Himalayan cats, flat-faced breeds are becoming increasingly popular as the It pet to have.

However, brachycephalic dogs and cats (as they are known) have a few unique health challenges. And, the aesthetic we love so much about them: flat, short faces, is at the core of their health challenges.

While flat-faced breeds must already contend with more respiratory problems than the average dog or cat, summer heat risks are an additional concern. Thankfully, heat stroke and heat-related stress can be alleviated or avoided by understanding how to help these sweet pets better cope with summertime temperatures.

Brachycephalic Pets are Most Affected by Heat, But Why?

First of all, what does brachycephalic mean? Essentially, in both brachycephalic cats and dogs the skull bones comprising the facial structure are shorter than other pets, giving the face a compressed look. For most, the nasal passage is narrower and oftentimes abnormally shaped; this results in the respiratory snorting and wheezing that typifies many brachycephalic pets.

Brachycephalic dog breeds include:

  • English bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • King Charles spaniels
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Pugs
  • Boston terriers
  • …Among others.

    Common brachycephalic cats include the Himalayan and Persian breeds.

    So, why are these flat-faced pets more prone to heat-related problems? Essentially, their nasal passages are shorter and more prone to becoming inflamed and swollen, limiting their ability to breathe. Additionally, flat-faced dogs lose the saliva on their tongues faster through evaporation. Since panting is their primary means of cooling down, this limitation makes it harder for them to regulate their body temperature in hot weather.

    How to Help Your Flat-Faced Pet Cope with the Warmer Months

    Helping your flat-faced pets through the summer relies on taking the same precautions you might take for any pet, but with even more vigilance. The best place to start is to learn as much as you can about your brachycephalic buddy and the health issues unique to his or her breed. This article about Frenchies explain a lot about their breathing challenges.

    Here are other great ways to keep your pet safe during the ensuing scorching days.

  • Keep your pets indoors, in an air-conditioned space, during the afternoon heat or on days when the temperatures exceed 90 degrees
  • Take walks early in the morning or evening, when the concrete feels cool to the touch
  • Avoid taking your dog to outdoor events and festivals, since these are often crowded and with limited shade
  • Encourage hydration by leaving multiple bowls of water in the home and in the yard, and carry water with you on walks or drives
  • Use a well-fitted harness rather than a collar to reduce restriction of your dog’s airways.
  • Keep your pet well-groomed in the summer to help him or her stay cooler
  • Maintain your pet’s healthy weight, since obese and overweight pets are at greater risk of heatstroke and heat stress
  • As much as we love their unique characteristics, being the pet guardian to a brachycephalic pet offers some equally unique challenges. Staying ahead of those possible risks to health goes a long way in creating a safe, fun-filled summertime for our flat-faced friends, too.

    If you would like more information on brachycephalic pets and their care, the Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital would be happy to answer your questions.