Heat Stroke in the English Bulldog
By Betty Fisher
Heat is probably the number one danger to the Bulldog and all of the other flat-faced breeds. A dog’s primary cooling
mechanism is the ability to pant and dissipate body heat. Short nosed dogs have a reduced ability to cool by panting,
coupled with the fact that many of them have a reduced breathing capacity caused by any one or all of the following:
pinched nostrils, elongated soft palette, small trachea or extraneous tissue in the throat. Additionally the Bulldog is a very
heavy boned, dense bodied dog. When this mass becomes overheated it is very difficult to reduce that temperature. Dogs,
in general, are far more susceptible to heat stroke than people.
In view of these facts the best way to treat overheating is to never let it happen! Prevention is by far a safer and more
effective way to combat enemy #1, heat.
Heat stroke is not just the enemy of short nosed breeds. Every summer dogs of all breeds are overcome in cars, herding
bulldogs collapse, dogs playing in the sun can get heat stroke and hunting or field dogs suffer from too much heat, humidity
Heat Plus Excitement
Heat combined with excitement or stress is the biggest danger to our dogs. When our bulldogs become excited they begin to
pant. When they become warm they begin to pant. Since the Bulldog cooling system is inefficient you can quickly exceed
its’ capacity and then the bulldog is in trouble.
How hot does it have to be for the dog to be in danger? The temperature can be down in the 70’s and our bulldogs can be in
danger. Temperature, humidity and the bulldog’s total breathing capacity are all factored in the dangerous heat equation. The
amount of air circulation, whether the bulldog is in the shade or the sun, how stressed he is all make a difference in the effect of
heat plus excitement.
How will I know when my Bulldog is danger?
Some danger signs are:
Unusually sluggish or unresponsive
Pale or dark red gums, may be very dry
In the final stages the dog will suffer convulsions and unconsciousness
If you observe any of these symptoms it is imperative that you take action immediately!
Get your bulldog into the shade and apply cold water or hose gently with a continuous stream of cool water. Submerge in a tub
of cool water if possible.
If possible apply ice packs or cold towels.
If your bulldog is conscious allow him to drink small amounts of water or lick ice cubes. Do not force him to drink.
Get veterinary attention immediately. You may save his life!
Prevention of heat stroke is much easier and very much less likely to result in the loss of your bulldog. Begin by becoming
aware of the weather. Observe your bulldog when he plays or is warm. How does he act? How much does he pant? What
color are his gums when he is panting? The more you know about your bulldog’s normal actions the quicker you will realize
when he is in trouble.
Good heat management will keep your bulldog healthy and safe.
• Be sure there is shade every place you keep your dog.
• Don’t take your bulldog in the car during the warm hours unless absolutely necessary.
• Monitor the dog’s playing, especially with children. Dogs will not stop just because they
are too warm.
• Use fans placed at the dog’s level. If you bulldog still chews protect the cord from his teeth
by placing it under or behind furniture or running it through a piece of PVC piping. You
can also place it behind a gate or exercise pen.
• Give your bulldog plenty of cool water. My outdoor water pan is a cement mixing plastic trough from the home
improvement store. Keeps the water cool and you don’t run out if you should neglect to fill it everyday. Your
bulldog can use it like a wading pool it he wishes.
• Use large indoor water bowls. Never leave your bulldog any place without access to cool water.
• Provide ice cubes on warm days. Not just a few, entire trays of ice.
• Provide a child’s plastic wading pool. The 4’ diameter allows two or three dogs to play and has sides low
enough for bulldogs to go in and out easily.
• Soak your bulldog when he starts to pant. Don’t wait until he is panting heavily. Prevention of heat exhaustion is
far easier than treatment. Put him in the tub or under the hose and SOAK. Many people tell me their bulldog doesn’t like to get wet. Well, tough. You are the caretaker of your bulldog and you are the responsible adult. If
your bulldog needs to be wet to protect him, put him on a leash and soak him down. I praise, saying “let’s cool
down, wow doesn’t that feel good?” Make them believe this is wonderful and give a cookie after you finish.
Yes, he will go back into the house wet. Saving his life is more important than saving the furniture. Put him
in the kitchen with a fan. You can find a way to deal with a wet bulldog.
• Riding in the car takes special preparation. A parked car, with windows open a couple of inches can reach
120 degrees in less than thirty minutes! Carry a gallon-insulated jug of water at all times. Keep water in front
of your bulldog at all times. There are plastic water dishes with a top that prevents the water from splashing out.
One brand is Water Hole. Fill the dish with ice cubes. Put a wet towel down in the car. If your dog starts to
pant, soak him with your water in the gallon jug. I have stopped at a gas station, grabbed the water hose and
drenched a bulldog. Yes he goes back in the car wet. Carry a towel or two to protect the seat cover and also to
use for wetting him if necessary.
• I recently purchased a small oscillating fan at Wal-Mart for less than $10. It plugs into the cigarette lighter
and keeps the air moving when the car is stopped at a light or whatever. There are also battery operated fans
that can hang from a crate or exercise pen.
• If you bulldog does get hot on you and his breathing becomes constricted or he is vomiting up white, thick foam,
a lemon or lemon/lime soft drink will sometimes help loosen up the congestion. If this happens you need to
find a vet, soon!
• Recently I saw a non-bulldog owner using an ordinary garden sprayer, the kind with a 1-2 gallon tank with a
wand sprayer, to mist their bulldog. Of course, the sprayer was new and never used for pesticides. Would be
easy to carry in your car and use wherever you take your bulldog.
• Purchase or make a cool pad. These pads are made of durable material and filled with the water absorbing
crystals found in nurseries. When soaked for 30-40 minutes they will remain damp and cool for up to twentyfour
hours. They are becoming available in bulldog supply catalogs. They can be used in the car, placed in front
of a fan or used in crates or exercise pens.
Common sense and good management will go a long way to keeping your bulldogs safe in hot weather. I live inland from San
Diego in So. Calif. Summer temperature often reach 105 degrees plus and I have no air conditioning. There are fans in
almost every room. The bulldogs have their own set of ice cube trays and often use 8-10 trays a day. On the really hot days I
place wet towels on plastic in front of each fan. By following these practices I have never had a dog get into trouble, but I
do admit to being fanatic about the care of my bulldogs in warm weather.