Can Dogs Get Altitude Sickness?

Posted by Stacey Venzel
dog mountain

Just like their two-legged parents, dogs and cats can have complications when they are high above sea level.

Many dogs and adventurous cats join their humans on trail runs, mountain hikes, and backpacking trips at higher altitudes.

However, it's important to know that pets can succumb to altitude sickness with symptoms mirroring that of humans and that physical activity can exacerbate the effects.

dog hiking

Signs of high altitude sickness in pets include:

  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pale gums
  • Excessive panting/ excessive drooling/ soft coughing or persistent cough
  • Facial or limb swelling
  • Incoordination/dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Bloody nose
  • Fever

To prevent altitude sickness, gradual elevation gain is key. If you're hiking up a mountain, consider staying overnight at a higher elevation before heading to the summit to allow time for your pet's body to acclimate. A sudden altitude change can be a shock to you and your pet.

Providing sufficient water is also important. Make sure to carry a dish for your pet with extra water and frequently stop so that he or she can hydrate. Every time you stop for a drink, offer some to your pet, too. If you notice that he or she isn't taking in enough water, it might be time to turn around.

 

On outdoor adventures, be sure to perform frequent tick checks and keep an eye on your pet for heat exhaustion or frostbite. You also want to be aware of your pet's heart and breathing rate. If either of these has sped up, be sure to have them rest, return to lower elevation, hydrate them, and take them to the veterinarian.

If your pet is prone to high altitude sickness, it is best to stick to flat, sea-level hikes without many elevation changes. Although pets make the outdoor life even more of an adventure, their safety comes first which maybe means having adventures at a lower altitude.

Has your pet ever had altitude sickness? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Can Dogs Get Altitude Sickness?