Traveling to the mountains can cause altitude sickness in you and your pet. 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.
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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.
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.