Paws for Thought | Heat is on for many short-muzzled dogs

Short-muzzled dog breeds like, but not limited to, pugs, French and English bulldogs, pekingese, Boston terriers, boxers, shihtzus and Cavalier King Charles spaniels are called brachycephalic which means ‘short head’.

These completely adorable dog breeds that are becoming more popular since they are generally lower energy pets that don’t demand much exercise, appealing especially to those with restricted available space.

Not all brachycephalic dogs will suffer health problems but many of them do, and unfortunately, as the mercury rises, more of these pets require veterinary treatment.

Short-muzzled dogs are at risk of developing Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. This syndrome makes breathing more challenging as the windpipe is often deformed and narrowed, and the tissue around the nose and throat which is squashed into a smaller space, partially blocking the airway.

It is important to recognise any signs of breathing difficulty in these breeds as early as possible because when the weather heats up, your pet’s respiratory challenges increase.

Signs of your brachycephalic dog becoming compromised include an increase in laboured and noisy breathing, gagging, drooling, and distress with exercise.

Other health issues affecting these breeds include heart problems, skin fold dermatitis and dental issues. Giving birth can also present problems and caesarians are commonly required because puppies large heads make a natural birth difficult.

If you are the owner of a brachycephalic dog, it is very important to seek frequent veterinary examinations to identify ways to help make your pet as comfortable as possible and to generate a plan should they become compromised in the hot weather.

It’s also a good idea to keep them as cool as possible (ideally in the air conditioned indoors during the summer time), limit any exercise to cool parts of the day and to calm and cool your dog with wet towels should they show signs of respiratory stress.

It’s critical to seek veterinary advice as early as possible should your brachycephalic dog develop any degree of respiratory distress.

For those people looking to adopt a brachycephalic pet, it is important to understand their health risk and to prepare for the potential of high level veterinary care.