Are Dogs Affected by Altitude Change?

by Sharon Harleigh
    Dogs may experience altitude sickness as humans do.

    Dogs may experience altitude sickness as humans do.

    Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

    Traveling to the mountains can cause altitude sickness in you and your pet. Bowser may experience lethargy, queasiness, and dizziness just as you might. According to VetInfo.com, dogs who travel to 8,000 feet above sea level who are otherwise healthy may exhibit symptoms of altitude sickness. Similarities exist between how dogs and humans are affected by high altitudes, including possible dangers for the heart and lungs.

    Causes of Altitude Sickness in Dogs

    The cause of altitude sickness in dogs is not known with certainty. Possible causes of altitude sickness may be due to lack of oxygen, or overly concentrated oxygen. Change in air pressure may also be a contributing cause to altitude sickness. This is true of humans as well, who also may suffer from altitude sickness due to lack of oxygen and change in air pressure. In addition, both dogs and humans may find themselves dehydrated at high altitudes, exacerbating these conditions.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms and severity of symptoms differ from one dog to another. Common symptoms are drooling, excessive panting and a noticeable change or lack of energy in the dog. More severe symptoms can include bleeding from the nose, pale gums, and vomiting. Some dogs exhibit a lack of coordination as well.

    Problems Caused by Altitude Sickness

    As with human altitude sickness, a range of problems from minor to life-threatening are associated with altitude sickness. A dog may suffer from pulmonary edema, an abnormal buildup of fluid around and in the lungs, leading to shortness of breath or pulmonary hypertension. The severity of a dog's symptoms may depend upon the dog's overall health and how quickly the high altitude was achieved. More minor issues caused by altitude sickness include low energy levels, dizziness and lack of interest in eating.

    Remedies

    A slower ascent into a high altitude allows a dog time to adjust to the change more gradually and may prevent or reduce the severity of altitude sickness. It is vital that a dog have plenty of water, because dehydration is common in higher altitudes, both for humans and pets. Your dog may indicate dehydration by panting and drooling. A vet may prescribe medication to alleviate altitude sickness in a dog or may suggest an oxygen mask. If altitude sickness is severe, the dog should be taken to a lower altitude immediately.

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    About the Author

    Sharon Harleigh has been writing for various online publications since 2008. She specializes in business, law, management and career advice. Harleigh is a proud graduate of UCLA and Loyola Law School.

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