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Walking a flat-faced or brachycephalic dog during the summer means walking a fine line between providing them with enough exercise to keep them fit, and ensuring that they don’t overexert themselves and overheat.
This article will provide advice and direction on how to walk brachycephalic dogs in summer and prevent overheating when you do. Read on to learn more.
All brachycephalic dogs are at higher risk of overheating than dogs with a normal-length muzzle, but how acute this is can vary from dog to dog. The dogs with the flattest faces, shortest noses, and narrowest nostrils are those that will find heat the most challenging and so that will be in the most danger from exertion during summer walks.
Your vet can assess your dog and run tests to determine the grade of their nostrils and propensity to brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, and other information to take into account is how far they have to exert themselves to make audible breath sounds (with extreme examples making snuffling noises even at rest) and the sort of exertion they can cope with normally.
It is really important that flat-faced dogs maintain a healthy weight, as being overweight comes with a greatly heightened risk of health problems in all dogs. In flat-faced dogs though, being overweight can be far more serious, and impact on the dog’s breathing as well as comfort, and ability to stay cool.
Always walk brachycephalic dogs at cooler times of the day
On very hot days, all dogs should be walked outside of the hottest times, which generally means early morning or in the late evening when the sun has gone in a while since. This is especially important for brachycephalic dogs, as even a level of heat that most dogs would be fine with as long as their exercise was moderate can be dangerous for a brachycephalic dog just walking along at a sedate pace.
Flat-faced dogs don’t tend to be the most energetic ones and their general pace and natural activity levels tend to err on the side of slow and sedate, meaning they tend to need fewer walks and these at a more relaxed pace than most other dogs.
However, what constitutes exertion is different for every dog; a slow canter around the park might not even increase the heart rate of the average springer spaniel, but for an English bulldog, they might not even make it all the way around and maintain healthy respiration without needing to stop several times to rest and recover.
This means that whatever your dog’s usual level of exertion is in cooler weather, you will need to curb or moderate this when things heat up, and you do need to be vigilant at all times about how active your dog is and so, how hot they might be getting
The temperature on very hot days might not seem much lower in the shade, but in terms of walking and exercising flat-faced dogs, you should try to stay in the shade as much as possible. This will be a little but more comfortable for your dog, make a small different to their temperature, and reduce the risks of sunburn.
Flat-faced dogs do still need meaningful exercise, but you might need to shorten walks or call more frequent breaks to cool them down than normal. Stop and recall your dog or pause your walk as soon as you can hear or see that they’re starting to get hot or breathe more rapidly, rather than waiting until they’re already overheating.
This will allow you to potentially prevent a problem arising, and requires vigilance on your part; just taking your eyes off your dog for five minutes in the park while they are playing so that you can check your phone could easily be enough time for a flat-faced dog to overheat.
It is a good idea to take water along for your dog on all walks, and in summer, this is absolutely essential. Offer your flat-faced dog water and a pause to drink it at least every ten minutes; and bring the water and a bowl from home rather than taking risks by letting your dog drink from lakes or other unknown water sources, or shared bowls.
Most flat-faced dogs need fairly short walks, and providing several of these is safer and more beneficial than fewer longer walks. In very hot weather, try to avoid getting too far from home or reaching a point at which you get concerned that your dog is getting too hot to walk home.
Finally, cooling vests for dogs hold ice or cooling fabrics that you soak in water, and these can be a real help to prevent overheating in dogs in summer, and this is particularly the case for flat-faced dogs, so consider looking into these.
Remove the vest when you get your dog home if they’re left unsupervised or you’re going out, as otherwise when the water in the vest reaches body temperature or evaporates, it will only contribute to potential overheating. If your dog does wear a vest like this in hot weather, check the temperature and water level every hour; even if you have to set an alarm to remind you!
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