Going hiking and camping with your dog is a lot of fun, but have you ever considered the effect that high altitude might have on them? A lot of pet owners don't realize that just like us, dogs feel the effects of altitude sickness. If you know you're going to be traveling to a high altitude area with your pet, you want to make sure that you acclimate them safely.
What defines high altitude? A height ranging between 5,000 feet to 11,000 feet is considered high altitude. Anything above 11,500 feet up to 18,000 feet is extreme high altitude. A human being will experience symptoms such as severe headaches, nausea, sleeplessness and shortness of breath at high altitudes. Your dog may experience the same. So what can you do to manage and prevent altitude sickness in your pet?
Making sure your dog is properly hydrates is pretty much the best way to prevent and manage altitude sickness. Pets don't often drink water as a response to being dehydrated, so you have to ensure that they are consuming more water than usual. Dogs need at least one ounce of water for each pound of their body weight, daily. In higher altitudes, they require at least 1.5 times that. So it's up to you to give them access to clean water at all times. Stay away from dry kibble and switch to high moisture foods. You could even try soaking their kibble in some water and see if they'll eat that. Always bring a water bottle and bowl for your dog when you go hiking. Giving them electrolytes before going to higher altitudes another idea. Stick with natural solutions like simple table salt or coconut water from actual coconuts, not from a can.
Short walks to get acclimatized to the high altitude will help not only your dog, but also you. Every few thousand feet, take five or ten minutes to walk around to help adjust to the thin air. During this time monitor your dog's breathing and energy level, and if you think he is overdoing it, then stop immediately. Stopping several times during your ascent will minimize the effects of high altitude.
If you're going to be spending a few days at high altitude, then you should definitely limit the amount of exercise your dog gets. Even if he is used to hiking with you for miles at a time, doing so at high altitude is a whole different matter. Limit exercise to short runs, and keep an eye on how much he pants.
Signs Of Altitude Sickness
Just like your ears pop when you're up at a higher altitude, the same may happen to your dog. If you notice your dog pawing at his ears, it's probably because his ears are popping. Giving him a piece of bread to chew on could help relieve the discomfort he's feeling. Other more obvious signs of altitude sickness include:
- Excessive drooling
- Pale gums
- Bleeding from the nose and retina (in extreme cases)
- Increased pulse
- Dry Cough
- Swelling of feet and possibly the face
- Sudden collapse
- Lack of coordination
- Lethargy and refusal to move
You can also check your dog for signs. Touch his nose to see if it's wet or dry. A dry nose is an indicator of mild dehydration. Check his gums. Are they pink? If so he's in good health. If they are white or pale and dry, then he's dehydrated. Are his eyes sunken? That's another sign. Finally, pinch a small piece of the skin on your dog's back or head. If the skin doesn't spring back immediately, it's a warning sign of dehydration.
Your dog will get acclimated in a few days to high altitude. However, if you find that he has not acclimated and continues to display signs of altitude sickness, then take him to a lower elevation as soon as possible. If symptoms don't abate, then schedule a vet visit.
We know that you want to take your dog on all kinds of adventures, and that you always have his safety and comfort at the top of your mind. Taking the right precautions will go a long way towards alleviating altitude sickness in your dog, and preventing the more serious symptoms, and ensuring a fun trip.