Dogs – Short Noses And Heat Stroke

Dogs rely on panting to cool off their bodies during periods of high temperatures.  Unfortunately, the brachycephalic breeds are disadvantaged because of the shape of their skulls.  Their  compressed faces are adorable but result in abnormalities of the upper airways restricting air flow.  Specifically, these breeds often have small nostrils, very long soft palates, everted laryngeal saccules and an under-developed trachea. 

If you live with a brachycephalic dog; Boston terrier, Shih tzu, Boxer, Pug, English bulldog, Shar Pei or Pekingese, keep them out of the heat.  I have seen heat stroke develop in as little as five minutes in these breeds.  Watch for rapid respirations, a depressed attitude and dark red gums.  They may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.  If the dog is not cooled off quickly, their condition rapidly deteriorates into bloody vomiting, collapse, bloody diarrhea, seizures and problems breathing.  When the gum color changes into a sick, pale gray I know death is coming.  

To prevent heat stroke, keep your pet at a healthy weight.  Take walks and play ball early in the morning when temperatures are mild.  Limit their time outdoors during the heat of the day to a quick trip to urinate and/or defecate in the shade.  Then, return to air conditioning.  Last, watch their tongues closely for a change in color.  If their normal pink color deepens to purple or lilac, it is time to get indoors.  I know members of these breeds are social and like to accompany their families to soccer and baseball games, but sometimes the safest and most loving thing to do is leave them home.  They can help you celebrate after the event.   

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.