As with all “brachycephalic” breeds, precautions must be taken to ensure flat-faced dogs such as Pugs don’t become overheated. But first, let’s define what brachycephalic means, and which breeds fit this description. In layman’s terms, it refers to those breeds with a flat and wide skull shape, giving the dog a flat-faced appearance. Other breeds in this category include Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Boxers.
All dogs must be kept well-hydrated and cool when the temperature rises, especially if they spend time outdoors during the heat of the day, or are kept in an area without air-conditioning. But flat-faced breeds can be especially prone to overheating. According to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, heat-related canine conditions are serious if left untreated, and can lead to organ failure and even death from cardiac arrhythmias. Unfortunately, it can happen quickly, so it’s important to recognize the warning signs early.
Signs of Flat-Faced Dog Overheating
- Dry mouth, nose, and gums
- Poor skin elasticity (this can be tested by gently pulling up on the skin at the back of the dog’s neck. It should spring back immediately. If it doesn’t, he may be dehydrated)
- Fast, noisy breathing
- Excessive panting or drooling
- Sunken eyes
- Disorientation or staggering
Luckily, preventing overheating is not complicated. But these simple precautions are vital.
The biggest rule: Never leave your dog unattended in a vehicle in hot (or even warm) weather. Repeat: Never. Temperatures inside a car can shoot up to life-threatening levels very quickly. The situation is so serious that it is a criminal offense in some states. If you see a dog left in a parked car in the heat, alert nearby security or call 911 or animal control.
- Always provide access to plenty of fresh, clean drinking water.
- When outside, make sure there is an area of complete shade.
- Encourage your dog to take breaks from exercise.
- Set up a sprinkler or have a hose available for periodic cool-downs.
- Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day. Choose morning or after sunset to walk or exercise with your dog.
- Stay off of hot pavement. A dog’s paw pads more sensitive than you think and can suffer burns.
- Consider purchasing a cooling vest or cooling mat to help your dog cool down.
What to Do If Your Dog is Overheating
If you think your dog is overheating, act quickly. And as always, seek immediate veterinary attention if you suspect dehydration, heat exhaustion, or other heat-related conditions. Here are steps you can take:
- Get the dog to a cool area, particularly one with air-conditioning.
- Offer small amounts of water at intervals. Too much at once can lead to vomiting, which exacerbates dehydration.
- Soak towels in cool—not cold—water and apply to his body. A hose will work, too (as long as the water isn’t ice cold).
- If possible, take your dog’s temperature. If it’s lower than 104 degrees, you can continue to watch him, but call your vet for her input—based on the information you provide, she will advise you about what to do next. If the temperature is 104 degrees or higher, you must get him to a vet immediately. Call ahead so they can prepare.
Lastly: You know your dog better than anyone. Some dogs will not stop chasing that ball or tearing around the yard no matter how hot they are. It’s your responsibility to diligently watch for any of the warning signs above and take action quickly.