Brachycephalic Dogs Are Prone To Heat Stroke

Brachycephalic breeds of dogs are prone to heat related health problems.  The term brachycephalic is used to describe breeds with flattened faces including English and French bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Shih Tzu, Pekinese and boxers. Although the smashed face look is cute, dogs with this condition are prone to the following medical problems: 1) stenotic nares (pinched nostrils) 2) Hypoplastic trachea (small diameter windpipe) 3) Elongated soft pallet (The extra tissue hangs in the back of the throat like a curtain.)  For these dogs, breathing with their mouths closed is like trying to drink a thick malt through a stray.

Bulldog Snip

Panting is the mechanism dogs use to dissipate heat. Because dogs with brachycephalic syndrome have difficulty moving air through their nose, throats and windpipe, they struggle to pant. They are prone to developing heat related illnesses at a much lower temperature than dogs with a normal face structure. I have seen bulldogs develop heat stroke when the room temperature was only 80 degrees F. I have also seen pugs develop hyperthermia (high body temperature) from prolonged anxiety.

The primary goal of treatment is to lower the body temperature.  Move the dog into an air conditioned environment. Soak or spray the dog with tepid water. Use a fan to blow air over the dog to help cool. Monitor the dog’s temperature and stop cooling when their temperature drops below 103.0 F.

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.