Beat the Heat: What You Need to Know About Short-Nosed Dogs & Summer Sessions

Summer sessions are in full swing–and so is the Pittsburgh heat! With temperatures reaching upwards of 90°, keeping your dog safe and cool during our time together is particularly important, especially if you have a brachycephalic breed, otherwise known as a short-nosed dog. (Brachy means “shortened” and cephalic “head.”)

Is your dog at risk?

Brachycephalic breeds, like Boston terriers, pugs, bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Pekingese, Lhasa apso, and Shih Tzus, are just a few particularly prone to dangerous summer conditions like heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Their cute, smooshy faces that we absolutely adore unfortunately make them more likely to experience these warm weather woes, which is why it is crucial to be aware of indicators suggesting your dog may have had enough heat. With their shorter noses, these dogs are not able to filter or cool the air entering their nasal conchaes as efficiently as dogs with longer noses since brachycephalic breeds’ conchae consumes more of their nasal cavity. So why don’t these breeds just use their mouths to breathe and cool themselves? The answer again is complicated by their soft palates that prevent air from reaching their trachea, which can be roughly 3/4 smaller than those of other breeds.

short-nosed Chihuahua and terrier mix

signs and symptoms

Keep an eye out for symptoms that indicate dyspnea, or breathing difficulties, such as labored or noisy breathing, high-pitched wheezing, choking, or extended periods of open-mouth breathing. Vomiting, excessive panting, glazed eyes, seizures, and difficulty walking are also indications that your short-nosed pup may be in danger.  If you suspect your dog is having trouble withstanding the heat, one of the most important steps you can take is to move him inside immediately.

surviving your summer session

Although Pittsburgh summers can get brutally hot, it should not mean that your flat-faced fur kid should have to skip out on his session. Here are a few suggestions that can help make your summer photography experience safe and enjoyable for any dog.

  • Schedule your session in early evening when it is less humid and the sun is starting to set.
  • Keep your four-legged friend shaded as much as possible.
  • If your dog loves to swim, consider a location that features a lake or pond so he can take a dip and cool off.
  • Bring along a bottle of water and bowl and provide adequate water breaks (but don’t stress if you forget; I always have water in my bag).

This post is a part of the Pet Photography 52 Weeks project blog circle. To see what the next pawesome photographer is sharing for the weekly theme, “By a Nose,” check out Pawparazzi Pet and Animal Photography presented by Shae Pepper Photography. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here.

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21 thoughts on “Beat the Heat: What You Need to Know About Short-Nosed Dogs & Summer Sessions

    1. Thanks, Kim! I have a ton of sessions scheduled over the coming weeks and Pittsburgh isn’t showing many signs of cooling down much. It’s so important that we keep these tips in mind, even though we can become distracted by the fun of a session.

    1. Thanks, Sam! I am aiming to incorporate more cornerstone or “evergreen” content into my project 52 posts that my clients can benefit from as well.

  1. Great info about brachycephatic breeds. Fortunately for me, my shih-tzu doesn’t like going outside, so the heat isn’t too much of a problem for him.

    Another danger to be aware of is that weight gain can cause their already-small nasal passages to get smaller, which can then lead to breathing problems. I have to get Charlie on a diet because this is happening to him.

  2. Great info – it’s very hot and humid in Florida – but most of my dogs have longer noses – not those which make it look like they ran into something 🙂

    1. I have a long-nosed Lab, but I’ve even noticed that he gets this cute little wrinkle beneath his eye when he’s too warm. I can’t imagine how the little smoosh-faces feel with an even lessened inability to cool.

  3. Fantastic advice. I see it all too often uneducated people. They don’t mean to put their dog(s) at risk but it happens. Thanks for educating.

    1. Exactly! It’s so important to just be aware in this heat, and as photographers, it is our job to also keep our clients safe. If that means pushing back a session or rescheduling due to heat, so be it.

  4. That’s a great, informative read. Thanks. I didn’t realise that shorter noses meant it was harder to cool down. I’ve learnt heaps today reading these posts. Love it!

    1. I know! This week has been enlightening learning all these fun nose facts from everyone!

    1. I love summer most, but fall sure does have its perks. I actually can’t wait for autumn colors as well (and no sweating during sessions)!

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