Heat Intolerance in Short Muzzled Dogs

You may have heard recent reports that short nosed dogs are more likely to die in airports. Why? First, air travel for pets may be hazardous in itself. Approximately 5,000 animals are lost, injured or die each year because of dangerous conditions in aircraft cargo holds. Many cargo holds lack climate controls exposing pets to dangerously high temperatures. Dogs cool themselves by panting however extremely high temperatures can overcome this self preservation mechanism. Short nosed dogs are at even greater risk in these conditions because of their physical characteristics and here’s why.

Think of your dog’s nose as your car’s radiator. When your car’s engine begins to overheat it circulates this heat into the radiator where it escapes. Your dog’s nose works the same way. Blood vessels in the nose carry heat away where it’s dissipated into the air. Size matters. Larger radiators (noses) can give off more heat and there’s why short nosed (muzzled) dogs are at a disadvantage. Short nosed dogs can’t cope with the heat as well which places them at higher risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Wait! There’s more! short nosed dogs may have nasal passages that collapse during inspiration. This completely shuts off nasal air flow and any cooling benefits through the nose. Short nosed dogs may also have extra tissue in the back of their throat which makes breathing difficult especially with they are in distress. Short nosed dogs also experience a vicious cycle of worsening breathing when distressed (i.e. extreme temperatures). The throat and nose and mouth become swollen from various causes. One, extra blood is sent to these areas in attempts to cool down the body. Two, rapid movement of air during breathing irritates the airways. The irritated upper airways begin to fill with foamy secretions hindering air movement.

Does my dog suffer from short muzzle symptoms? Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boxers and Bulldogs are breeds known to have short muzzles (brachycephaly) however other breeds may be affected as well. Your veterinarian can assess your pet’s risk of brachycephaly. Early diagnosis is important as this condition can lead to further respiratory and even heart complications.

What symptoms do short muzzled dogs have?

  • becomes short of breath for no apparent reason
  • snores
  • noisy breathing
  • gagging, retching
  • heat intolerance