Brachycephalic breeds are dogs with a short nose and flat face such as British bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs. Due to their conformation these breeds can struggle to regulate their temperature which means they can struggle to cool down in hot weather or after exercise. This can lead to life threatening heat exhaustion.
During the hot weather it is important that we take some measures to prevent our dogs overheating:
1) If your dog is in the garden during hot weather check on them every 30 minutes. If their breathing rate has increased (the chest moves up and down more frequently) and they are panting then move them to a shaded area or bring them inside for an hour to cool down.
2) Avoid any activity or exercise with your dog that will increase their temperature and breathing rate such as a walk or playing fetch or tug. Only walk your dog at cooler times of the day such as first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Use alternative ways to engage your dog such as enrichment games or training.
3) Make sure your dog has access to fresh cold water to drink, it can help to place several bowls in the garden.
4) You can give your dog frozen treats such as doggy ice cream or frozen cubes made with goats milk.
5) You could purchase a small plastic paddling pool for them to cool off in.
6) You can put a cooling shirt or bandana on your dog.
If you do find yourself in a situation where your dog has over heated then there are a few things you can do to cool them down. Firstly, bring them inside to a cool room, the kitchen or bathroom is usually ideal as these often have a cool tiled floor, or you can put them on a cool mat. Offer your dog a drink of water. Take a bath towel, soak it in cold water and wring it out, then place this over your dog's body. You can also use a fan to blow cold air onto them. Following these measures your dog should start to cool down.
If your dog is not responding to the measures above then you must get them to your vet as soon as possible for treatment of heat exhaustion which may include oxygen therapy by mask and intravenous fluid therapy. Some severe cases even need to be intubated. If you notice that your dogs gums or tongue turn a purple or blue colour you must get them to the vet immediately, you may even need to perform CPR on the way.
Dogs that suffer from BOAS or Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome often display much worse clinical signs in hot weather. It is important to be extra vigilant and careful with these dogs. Dogs that are severely affected by BOAS usually greatly benefit from having corrective surgery to remove the excess tissue around the airways that is causing the obstruction.
In summary the best way to treat heat exhaustion is to prevent it happening in the first place by taking sensible steps as outlined above.