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Brachycephalic describes a skull that has a flat, wide shape. Like mine. Beautiful, isn't it? As cute as we are, us flat-nosed dogs have some heath risks associated with the unique shape of our heads and faces. One primary health concern associated with the adorable flat faces of the brachycephalic breeds is breathing difficulties caused by small nostrils and sometimes reduced airflow. This restricted airflow also leads to low heat tolerance. Reduced airflow and low heat tolerance? Sounds like a recipe for disaster! Don't get out the bon-bons and 90210 re-runs just yet - just because there are some health concerns does not mean that your flat-faced friend can't participate in #DogWalkingWeek!
1. Make sure you walk during one of the cooler parts of the day. For example, take a walk early in the morning, or sometime right before sunset in the evening. If you live in a tropical climate like I do, be aware that these times are also prime for mosquitoes. You may want to pick up some natural repellent for your dog - especially if they suffer from skin allergies like me (also a common brachycephalic trait)!
2. Do not walk too far or too fast at first. Pace yourself. Let your dog stop to take a break every once in awhile. Encourage your dog to sit and rest a few times during the walk, and make sure that you monitor your pet for heat exhaustion or difficulty breathing. Return home if your pet begins to show any signs of a struggle.
3. Bring plenty of water!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Living in south Florida, I bring my portable water dish EVERYWHERE. If you choose to bring your dog on a long walk, please PLEASE make sure to pack some water for them. Even if it doesn't seem that warm out to you, your dog can overheat quickly (especially us flat-faced breeds)! This water bottle is similar to the one that I use:
4. Make sure that you use a collar or harness that does not restrict your pet's airway. I use a snazzy collar when my humans take me out front to do my business, but when we go for a longer walk, we switch to the harness. Invest in a harness that is high quality and made out of soft, breathable material. Flat-nosed breeds tend to have very sensitive skin, and any rubbing from the collar or harness can turn into a big problem really fast. This is the exact harness that I use. It is SUPER awesome because it is high quality AND looks like Darth Vader. You can also get this harness at your local Petco.
5. The final step is to HAVE FUN. Go enjoy being outdoors with your buddy!
Remember, I am not a vet - I am a French Bulldog! If you are unsure whether this type of activity is appropriate for your pet, please be sure to ask your pet health professional before engaging your pet in any type of exercise or activity.