As soon as the weather turns a bit warmer most of us can't wait to get outside and bask in the delights of nature. Unless you happen to be a flat-faced, brachycephalic dog, that is. For the brachy breeds, summer can be miserable or, sadly, even deadly.
First, admit, embrace, and be empowered by knowing your dog's structural limitations.
By acknowledging your flat-faced dog's limitations and not expecting them to handle the heat, you will be better prepared to care for them properly.
Our flat-faced dogs are NOT built to be an everything dogs.
They don't have the body type to be a running companion any more than a sumo wrestler will win the Boston Marathon. They need and crave exercise, but appropriate activity for their body type.
Their flat faces create breathing issues. We, as in humankind, have squashed the breathing structure of a dog's head like a German Shepherd's into a virtually round ball.
Of course, this causes breathing struggles and has led to the term Brachycephalic Syndrome being part of our canine lexicon.
They Trust Us To Keep Them Alive
Our responsibility is to take care of our flat-faced dogs appropriately for their physical type. Think of them as permanent, dependent toddlers.
Our Frenchies, Pugs, Bulldogs, and any flatter-faced dogs cannot be expected to handle conditions they are not physically built for.
All Flat Faces Are Not Created Equally
Early dog breeders used more than Bulldog genetics to create flatter faces.
Those desiring a more powerful bull-baiting dog bred for a flat face with wrinkles so the dogs could hang onto an angry, bloody bull and still breathe. Not dog breeders' finest achievement, I agree.
Those breeding for flatter-faced pets, as favored by Queen Victoria, used Pugs, Pekingese, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, and other flatter-faced breeds from the Far East to shorten faces.
Those breeds did not have the extra throat tissue, so today's Affenpinschers, Brussels Griffons, English Toy Spaniels, Japanese Chin, Pekingese, and Pugs, while not considered "good breathers," are not as compromised by extra throat tissue.
Why Does Heat Bother Frenchies and Bulldogs More Than Brussels Griffons or Boston Terriers?
The flat-faced dogs with the most significant issues are the bullier breed types with more of the DNA of early Bulldogs.
Bulldogs and French Bulldogs have their roots in the bull-baiting Bulldogs in England. Breeding for the flatter faces and thick necks desired for the original Bulldogs squashed the neck length of a much bigger dog into a very short neck. This created redundant throat tissue.
This redundant throat tissue can cause more problems for our dogs than their flat faces, as the extra tissue swells when they become overheated and inhibits their breathing.
When a Frenchie gets overheated, and their throat starts to swell shut, they panic! Their fear increases the stress as they fight to breathe. Their tension can escalate quickly, as we can imagine!
This info was shared to help us understand how the nuances of our dog's DNA contributes to their lifestyles today.
Tips for Braving the Heat
We get it, our dogs are so cute and fun we want them with us all the time. Between work, side hustle and all the rest, we want to spend more time with out dogs! But, leaving them in the a/c at hime while we run errands is one of those "For Their Own Good (and Yours)" situations.
If temps are over the mid-80s leave your flat-faced dog at home unless it is an emergency vet visit. As we discussed above, they are not built for the heat!
For your flat-faced dog to be safe in a vehicle with outdoor temperatures over even the mid 70s F your vehicle must have reliable air conditioning. We gotta say it, NEVER leave your dog in a car, even with the a/c running, unattended.
Please, if possible, leave your dog at home when the weather is brutally hot. It will be less stress on you and could be life-saving for them.
Flat-Faced Dog Road Trip Essentials
Bliss Tip! Have a Beat the Heat Bag ready to go anytime you are forced to take your FFD with you in hot weather.
Your Dog's Beat the Heat Bag
• Ice packs or bag of ice
• Two towels - Size for your dog
• Water bowl & bottles of water (dependent on size of the dog)
Have the car cooled off before y'all get in. Put your dog in the prime spot with cold, icy air blowing right on them.
If crated, put a damp, cool towel in the floor of the crate. If needed, put frozen 2 litre water bottles along the edges of crate. If not crated, wrap a towel around a 16-32 oz frozen water bottle and put it where they are sitting.
If Your Dog Gets Too Hot
If your dog shows signs of over-heating you must cool them down ASAP. If you're alone in the car, pull over, safety first.
• Offer them water to drink
• Wipe their ears, belly/groin and throat with wet towel
• Encourage them to lie on the wet towel (some dogs won't), if not drape the damp towel over them
• Wrap your ice packs in the other towels and tuck them around your dog
If your dog is severely overheated, get to the vet ASAP, call so they know you're having an emergency.
These tips may seem melodramatic, but we promise they are not. After having had FF Dogs for 30+ years, it is terrifying to have one over-heat.
Planning and common sense can save your dog's life and you a lifetime of regrets!