Altitude Sickness in Dogs

Grom and went hiking around in the mountains of New Mexico while we were on vacation.  He spent quite a bit of time resting under the shade of trees along the trail.  Could he have had altitude sickness?

What is it?

Maximal oxygen uptake decreases significantly at elevations above 5,000 feet. This is because oxygen is at a lower pressure at higher altitudes.  Your body has to work more to move oxygen throughout your body.  It can take 3 to 6 weeks of living at the higher altitude in order for your body and your dog’s body to adjust.

Symptoms

  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Pale gums
  • Bleeding from the nose and retina (only in extreme cases)
  • Increased pulse
  • Dry cough
  • Swelling of feet and possibly the face
  • Sudden collapse
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lethargy and refusal to move

It appears that the symptoms are the same for dogs as they are for humans and look quite similar to those of dehydration.

Treatment

Luckily our ascent was very gradual up the mountain and we only climbed about 800 feet up.  Grom was used to being at sea level on the east coast, but he had been at 5,000 feet for nearly two weeks.  Both the dog and I were quite tired from this change.

If you ever do feel that your dog may be suffering from altitude sickness, the vet has a few remedies.  One is a drug known as acetazolamide, may be prescribed by your vet for treatment.  Oxygen may also help treat a dog for altitude sickness.

Final Word

Simply be aware that high altitude sickness does exist for both dogs and humans.  Take extra precautions when traveling with your dog. The best way to prevent altitude sickness in dogs or humans is to ascend slowly.  Be careful if you are quickly taking your dog to a higher altitude, especially on aircraft that does not have pressurized cabins (helicopters and small aircraft.) Take plenty of breaks, move slowly, and drink more water (lower vapor pressure also causes faster moisture loss.)  Don’t overdo it and you and your canine companion will be fine.

 

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