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Navigating Hong Kong's Outdoors with Flat-Faced Dogs: A Responsible Adventure Guide

As a veterinarian deeply engaged in the world of pet travel, I've been witnessing or experiencing both the challenges faced by overheated Frenchie's and other flat-faced breeds during the scorching Hong Kong summers and been deeply involved in the critical evaluations required to determine their fitness for air travel. Breeds like bulldogs, pugs, and boxers, with their endearing short, broad skulls and flattened faces, may exude cuteness, but these features can lead to an array of health issues, notably breathing difficulties.

In today's landscape, airlines have introduced BOAS (breathing) tests as a prerequisite for flat-faced dogs intending to fly, a testament to the growing awareness of safety and responsibility. Drawing from my experiences, I'm compelled to delve into the subject of how to venture into the great outdoors with your flat-faced companion, maintaining a safe and responsible approach, as many of the considerations remain consistent.

Begin by assessing the degree of airway compromise your dog faces, consulting a veterinarian or perhaps a very experienced pet owner before embarking on an extensive hike. These dogs are susceptible to brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). Let's explore how a vet would evaluate a dog's respiratory system:

  • Examine the size and shape of the nostrils and their functionality.

  • Consider other factors such as underlying health conditions, ongoing medications, and weight management.

  • Observe the level of noise generated within the throat and windpipe during breathing, indicating the degree of obstruction.

Understanding your dog's unique conditions empowers you to discern what outdoor activities are suitable and what should be avoided. As dogs pant to lose heat, any difficulties with the airways mean that heat loss is not possible and so the heat danger risks worsen.

Guidelines for exploring the outdoors safely with your flat-faced dog

These are particularly applicable to Frenchie's and other breeds with similar characteristics. Be aware that maybe many individuals of these breeds should not be taken on hikes entirely, and hikes are perhaps best for the cross breed dogs born and brought up in the villages of Hong Kong and used to our steamy Summers!

1. Choose the Right Time - Opt for outdoor adventures during cooler hours, steering clear of the heat peak between 9 am and 5 pm especially.

2. Stay Hydrated - Ensure an ample supply of fresh water to keep your dog hydrated throughout the outing.

3. Mindful Walks - Recognize that brachycephalic dogs cannot endure strenuous activities as well as other breeds. Keep walks and activities concise and less intense.

4. Breathing Monitoring - Stay attentive to signs of breathing distress, including heavy panting, pronounced snorting, or excessive drooling.

5. Rest and Shade - Offer frequent breaks in shaded areas, permitting your dog to rest and cool down. Given their heightened vulnerability to heat, avoid direct sunlight.

6. Surface Awareness - Protect your dog's paws from burns by avoiding hot surfaces like pavement and sand. Opt for grassy areas instead.

7. Harness Usage - Opt for a harness over a collar to alleviate pressure on the windpipe, promoting easier breathing.

8. Energy Levels - Keep an eye on your dog's energy levels. If they exhibit fatigue, slowing down, or signs of exhaustion, it's time to head back.

9. Trail Selection - Opt for easy, level trails with minimal inclines to prevent undue strain on your dog's respiratory system.

10. Overheating Indicators - Familiarize yourself with signs of overheating, such as excessive panting. Sometimes what looks like gastroenteritis can also be heatstroke.

11. First Aid Preparedness - Carry a basic pet first aid kit to address any unforeseen situations promptly.

Incorporate these insights into your outdoor escapades to ensure a secure and enjoyable experience for both you and your beloved furbaby as you explore the vibrant landscapes of Hong Kong. Your dog's safety and well-being should always be the foremost consideration, allowing for cherished memories and wonderful adventures together.


About the Author

Dr. Matthew Murdoch is Veterinarian & Director of Ferndale Kennels and Cattery where he works extensively helping these flat faced dogs fly around the world. To learn more, visit their website or follow them on Facebook for more.

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