flat face dogsThere’s more to that snort than may be apparent.  While dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and St. Bernards are known for their nosy pant, snorting, and wheezing, the root actually stems from their rounded heads, flat faces, and compact bodies making them more susceptible to respiratory problems and heat exhaustion.

Dogs with longer noses, such as Labs, are able to pass air quickly over their tongue causing saliva evaporation, which cools the dog as blood passes through the body.

Brachycephalic, or “flat-faced” dogs, have restricted breathing, which prevents them from panting heat away effectively (for a full list of brachycephalic dogs, click here).  This is due to a variety of genetic differences in these dogs:

Smaller nasal openings limit breathing and cause wheezing.

  1. Nasal passage from the oral cavity is short and may be obstructed or cause snorting.
  2. Narrow windpipe doesn’t allow for air to pass through as freely.

These conditions make panting much more difficult for brachycephalic dogs.  The extra work required to move air can cause the airways to become inflamed or swollen.

While the life expectancy of these dogs is not different than other dogs, special precautions should be taken in the heat to ensure they do not overheat.  Here are a few tips for keeping brachycephalic dogs healthy:

  1. Avoid extreme exercise.  These breeds were made for moderate exercise—walks on cool, pleasant days are enough to keep these dogs fit.
  2. Avoid extreme heat.  These breeds do best indoors.  If taking them outside, consider putting on a cooling layer, such as the Ruff Wear Swamp Cooler™ vest.
  3. Use a harness instead of a collar for walks.  A collar can further restrict the airway and cause additional breathing difficulties.
  4. Maintain an appropriate weight.  Overweight dogs are at further risk of breathing and respiratory problems.

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