Brachycephalic (pronounced: bracky-seh-falic) dogs are short-snouted or flat-faced dogs. Many of these are small breeds of dogs, commonly called lap dogalthough some are larger. The term “brachycephalic” comes from the Greek, “brachy” means short and “cephalic” means head. Of the dogs of this type the most common include:
- boston Terriers,
- yorkshire Terriers,
- English and French Bulldogs, and
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, among others.
They are very popular breeds that are usually pampered by their owners. Many are recognized pedigree varieties. Like all dogs, these flat-faced dogs love to play and romp outside in the summer. However, summer is a time when owners should be on the lookout for potential problems with these breeds. Intense heat and high humidity affect all dogs, but these weather conditions are especially difficult for all brachycephalic breeds.
The problem is one of natural anatomy design. Brachycephalic dogs have an upper respiratory tract that is uncomfortable and downright obstructive. In fact, “obstructive” is the word most often used to describe the peculiarly problematic airway anatomy. This physical characteristic is known as the “brachycephalic syndrome”, which provides a facial design that may be cute, but is otherwise an efficient design for breathing. As a result, a number of problems can occur as a result of extreme temperatures.
Panting is how dogs cool off. It is the way dogs regulate their body temperature. However, due to the anatomical design of their airways, brachycephalic breeds of dogs pant much less inefficiently than other breeds. Air doesn’t go in and out as easily or as quickly. This is why these breeds sometimes sound like they are out of breath for no reason. In addition to this, high humidity impedes your breathing process and can sometimes make your breathing very labored. To complicate this, there is a tendency for your airways to become easily inflamed and swollen under stressful conditions.
Interestingly, the flat face design encourages saliva to evaporate off the tongue faster than it would otherwise. This prevents the cooling effect that the tongue has on the blood that circulates through the tongue. This, in turn, makes the body’s cooling process much less efficient than in other breeds.
Inefficient panting, airway sensitivity, and ineffective cooling design mean that in hot weather conditions, the brachycephalic dog is especially vulnerable to rapid overheating. High humidity complicates this situation. Of all dog breeds, brachycephalic dogs are the most likely candidates for heat stroke, which is an especially dangerous problem.
Summer Safety Tips
You should take special precautions for brachycephalic dogs in hot, humid weather. These include:
* Go for a “walk” on cool mornings and evenings, avoid the midday sun.
* If you must keep your dog outside in hot weather, be sure to provide plenty of cool water and a shady place to rest, making sure the area is shaded throughout the day. This is very important.
*Of course, it is always best to keep brachycephalic breeds indoors with air conditioning during hot weather.
* Also, never leave any pets (or children) in a car on a hot or warm day. Temperatures inside a car can easily rise to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer sun. Even if the outside temperature is only 70 degrees, the inside of a car can cause heat stress and even heat stroke.
While a brachycephalic dog is a joy to own and particularly suitable for apartment living, these breeds have their own unique requirements. However, if you take a few precautions, you can easily avoid a potential danger. But a little inconvenience isn’t a problem when you’re talking about the abundant personality and keen intelligence that make the flat-faced dog so especially desirable and well-liked.