Altitude sickness in pets.

Whether you decide to take your dog on a weekend hike in the mountains of northern New Jersey or are taking your pet to visit your sister in Denver, you may have some questions. Is altitude sickness in pets a concern? If so, what do you need to do? Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital has the answers to all your questions. 

What is Altitude Sickness, Anyways? 

Altitude sickness, as you might venture to guess, results from the effects of venturing into higher altitudes than your body might be used to.

In New Jersey, this typically isn’t an issue. The highest elevation in Monmouth County is 391 feet above sea level at Crawford Hill. Head to the Skylands and you can reach 1,803 feet, though. Venture into the Catskills and you might hit 4,180 feet. Visit Denver, and you are at 5.280 feet even before taking a hike in the Rockies. 

Changing your elevation quickly without allowing the body time to acclimate can have some consequences. Altitude sickness results from the lower oxygen concentrations at higher altitudes, especially at higher levels of activity.

Altitude sickness in humans results in dizziness, headache, vomiting, being tired or disoriented, and difficulty sleeping. 

Altitude sickness in pets is also a real concern. Symptoms are similar to those in people, and just like in people, if they go unheeded, they can progress to more serious consequences like swelling in the brain and fluid accumulation in the lungs. This is a concern as our pets cannot tell us verbally if they start to feel unwell. Other signs your pet may be suffering from altitude sickness might include:

  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Diarrhea
  • Slower activity
  • Heavy breathing

How to Combat Altitude Sickness in Pets

How much do you as a pet owner need to worry about altitude sickness and what can you do about it? The good news is that ill effects from increasing your altitude generally only occur at over 8000 feet, so if you are staying in New Jersey, you really don’t have too much to worry about. 

If you and your pet are venturing up into the sky more than normal, there are definitely things that you can do to avoid trouble: 

  • Take it slow at higher altitudes
  • Be sure to allow everyone to acclimate when possible and even consider a trip to a nearby higher elevation prior to venturing about 8000 feet 
  • Make sure your pet (and you) stay well hydrated
  • Use extra caution for brachycephalic or otherwise compromised animals
  • Monitor your pet’s breathing and activity level closely
  • Don’t attempt a high elevation hike or activity if your pet has not been acclimated.
  • Bring along a first-aid kit

If you have any questions about whether your pet is in shape for a high altitude excursion or how to go about acclimating them, please contact us. Altitude sickness in pets can be a serious thing, and we are happy to set you up for success at high elevations and any other pet travel when needed.