Some of the most popular dog breeds for apartment residents are the most susceptible to breathing problems from the smoke that’s been blanketing our cities.
Vets in smoke-affected areas are reporting an increase in breathing-related issues and nausea, says Nadia Crighton, from Pet Insurance Australia. And ‘flat-faced” dogs like French bulldogs and pugs are most at risk.
“Currently the smoke is choking in some major cities, and our pets will also be feeling the effects of this,” Nadia says. But brachycephalic dogs – whose flatter facial features can lead to restricted breathing – suffer more than most.
“Many brachycephalic dogs breeds may be struggling with the smoke more than other dogs and cats,” Crighton says. “If you are concerned about your pet’s breathing seek help quickly.”
Small dog breeds like pugs, shih tzus, Pekingese, English toy spaniels and chihuahuas are all popular apartment pets but they are also brachycephalic.
And it’s not just the smoke. Brachycephalic dog breeds are also much more likely to suffer from heat-related issues.
Dogs use panting to cool down, and in hotter weather dogs with restricted breathing can have real problems coping with higher temperatures.
This was tragically borne out when a pet boxer dog died after being left too long on the tarmac at Sydney airport on one of the city’s hottest days. Boxers are also brachycephalic.
“Pet owners do need to take some steps to help their pets during this time,” says Nadia.
“Dogs need to be kept inside as much as possible until the smoke clears. If your pet is struggling with the smoke, seek veterinary treatment quickly.
“Pets can also succumb to the heat, and humidity very quickly so pet owners need to be diligent in helping keep them cool on very hot days,” Nadia says. “Keeping these pets cool is very important to prevent health issues.”
Dogs and cats are unable to cool themselves as efficiently as humans. This can lead to overheating, heat exhaustion, stress, and heatstroke.
“Pets get sick very quickly when they overheat,” Nadia warns. “Humidity plays a role in this also, if your pet is every showing signs of over-heating stress veterinary treatment is paramount.”
Cats should also be kept indoors during this time, with plenty of food, water, and a litter tray. PIA also advises wiping down your cat daily with a soft damp cloth to remove any ash or debris from their coats.
“Cats are prolific cleaning machines, removing the ash from their coats can help with stomach upsets during this time,” Crighton says. “Dogs will also benefit from a regular rinse with fresh water.”
TIPS FOR KEEPING PETS COOL
- Provide ample drinking water – out of the sun and not in steel dishes. Pet water fountains are wonderful in encouraging pets to drink. PIA also advises taking a portable pet drinking bottle with you on outings.
- Shade – it’s important to check that your pet has ample shaded areas throughout the day.
- Access – allow access to cool areas in your home; like bathrooms, and kitchen floors.
- Close curtains or blinds and keep your home naturally cool.
- Cool fun – ice blocks or ice-cream containers frozen with water with a few treats added for cool fun play.
- Use cool pads and mats commonly found in pet shops.
- Exercise – Only walk your pet in the cooler times of the day.
“You can really get creative when it comes to keeping pets cool during the summer months,” Crighton says. “It’s important to also remember that some dog breeds can’t swim, so water play must be kept in very very shallow water or puddles.”
TELL-TALE SIGNS OF HEAT STRESS IN PETS
- Pet distress
- Excessive panting
- Copious volumes of saliva
- Bright red or bluish-purple gums
“Use your intuition,” Nadia Crighton says. “If your pet does not seem right, seek help quickly.”