High Altitude and Dogs

For many dog lovers, nothing beats a trip to the mountains.

The fresh, cool, crisp air beckons them. A hike up a mountain with its challenging trails and breath-taking beauty is something that can be hard to resist.

It’s a great outing for a dog: there’s a myriad of smells and sounds he won’t likely encounter in the urban jungle of home. However, the thin mountain air and the change in pressure can cause altitude sickness in some humans, and the combination of exercise and altitude can also cause illness in dogs, especially at altitudes of 8,000 feet or higher.

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

Symptoms that can indicate your dog is suffering from altitude sickness include vomiting, excessive drooling, a dry cough or panting. He may suddenly collapse, be dizzy, suffer from a lack of coordination, or be lethargic and unwilling to move. His gums may be pale, he may have a fever, or his pulse may be rapid. His feet and maybe even his face may swell. In extreme cases he may even bleed from his nose and eyes.

Some dogs may have no problem with altitude; others may exhibit just a few of these symptoms. How fast you ascend may also affect the severity of the symptoms. The slower the ascent, the longer the dog has to acclimate to the altitude.

Is It Actually Altitude Sickness?

How do you know if the altitude is a cause of illness in your dog? The best way to judge is by taking note of when the symptoms occurred. If your dog seemed fine before you left and developed these symptoms on the hike, altitude was likely a factor.

Before taking your dog on a mountain hike, make sure he’s healthy in general. Lung or heart conditions or even allergies can become more severe in higher altitudes.

Cautions and Preventions

Dehydration can make you and your dog more susceptible to altitude sickness, so make sure you both drink frequently as you hike. Be sure to carry more than enough water to keep both you and your dog well-hydrated. If your dog does exhibit signs of sickness, get him to a lower altitude. If he still exhibits symptoms, take him to the vet to be checked out.

If you have a flat-faced breed like a Pug or a Boxer, be extremely careful about taking him to higher altitudes. These breeds are inclined to have breathing problems: you do them no favor by putting them in situations that could aggravate existing conditions.

Be sure to keep an eye open for symptoms of altitude sickness every time you take your dog into the high country. Just because he does fine on one hike, doesn’t mean he won’t have troubles when you return to the same area.

Does that mean if you move to a higher elevation your dog can’t come along? Of course not. But make the transition as easy on him as possible. If you can, stagger your travel so you slowly ascend in altitude. Make sure your dog has plenty of water to drink. Slowly increase his exercise to the amount he’s accustomed to.

Ease your dog into life at higher altitude. Enlist your vet’s help if necessary. Watch for any symptoms of illness and gradually increase his exercise. Your dog will soon enjoy mountain living as much as you do.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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