BLACKSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Experts say the effects of climate change have become increasingly prevalent in recent years and may become a problem for some canine breeds if seasonal changes prolong.
Meteorologists are worried about rising sea levels along with record-breaking temperatures, as seen in places like Phoenix, Arizona which saw 110 degrees on 54 separate days of the year.
Dr. Lisa Gunter, an assistant professor for the School of Animal Science at Virginia Tech, is a former longtime Phoenix resident and remembers the terrible heat.
“Everyone’s like why would you live there?” Gunter said. “I think it can be a really challenging place to live.”
Gunter says as the earth continues to warm up, conditions can be very challenging for certain breeds of dogs such as brachycephalics — breeds with flattened or squished muzzles — such as bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs.
Though their funny faces may make them cute they can also make it hard for them to breathe.
“They have narrowed nostrils,” said Gunter, “They have these elongated soft palates, and then they also have narrowed windpipes.”
Gunter adds this means brachycephalic dog breeds are more susceptible to heat stroke and the added breathing troubles could limit the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream which can lead to heart complications.
Experts predict more warm and humid days are ahead so, pet owners should be aware of how much time they spend with their pets outdoors.
“Owners of brachycephalic dogs need to be much more aware of the heat and its devastating effects than typical dog owners,” Gunter said. “Seemingly routine activities with brachycephalic dogs, like a mid-day potty break in the backyard or coming along on a car ride, can be deadly in extreme heat if they’re accidentally forgotten about or closed in a space without air conditioning for just a few minutes.”
Gunter says it’s important for dog owners to monitor pets closely watching for severe panting, drooling and any difficulty in basic mobility.
Canine owners should also pay attention to their respective scheduling of dog walks and the length of time. Because certain canine breeds have a short life span, Gunter recommends owners help their dogs maintain a healthy weight and identify any problems that may require veterinary attention.
For those who have retrieved their canines from a breeder, Gunter stressed the importance of making sure they are screened for brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome or BOAS. Ultimately, she says adopting a rescue animal is a great way to help a dog in need.
To help with respiratory issues that may arise, surgery options are available to widen the nostrils and shorten the soft palates of canines.
“Once you get over 100 degrees, or 105 degrees…110 degrees, [it] kind of doesn’t matter what your face looks like. It’s going to be hard to breathe,” Gunter said. “But these guys are going to have, I think, a very difficult time.”