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Altitude Sickness in Dogs

You may not think that altitude sickness in dogs could be a problem if you live in a mountainous area or you like to take your dog hiking in higher altitudes. But altitude sickness can seriously affect some dogs regardless of breed.

This ailment may become apparent only when your dog is at least 8,000 feet above sea level. Not all dogs will suffer from altitude sickness and it becomes a problem only if the dog needs to climb mountains. Unless you live at an elevation this high or higher, your dog should never encounter altitude sickness unless it is flying.

Altitude sickness in a dog can be serious and lead to life-threatening problems like pulmonary edema which is a buildup of fluid in a dog’s lungs. The lungs of a normal healthy dog have fluid that is moved from the lungs into the internal space of the dog’s body for normal healthy functioning. Any added pressure in the dog’s lungs can lead to fluid buildup. If the excess fluid is not removed, the result is pulmonary edema. If not treated promptly serious damage can occur. And likewise, when treated properly the outcome for the dog is positive.

The symptoms of altitude sickness in dogs are mainly due to the fact that the dog gets dehydrated and is unable to breathe normally. These symptoms of altitude sickness in dogs are different that those of pulmonary edema: Panting, pale gums, refusal to move when ordered, suddenly collapsing, bleeding from the nose, dizziness, excessive drooling, vomiting for no explainable reason, and fever.

The symptoms can be different in any dog and may appear to be less severe depending on how strong or weak the dog is.

Dogs of any age, breed, or sex are susceptible to pulmonary edema. If you take your dog to elevated heights you should watch for these signs in order to recognize the onset of pulmonary edema in your pet.

Why dogs get altitude sickness is not known. A long time ago people believed that altitude sickness was caused by poisonous air existing at high altitudes. This deranged theory was proven wrong a long time ago. Veterinarians believe the problem may actually be due to the concentration of oxygen or possibly air pressure which is different at elevated heights.

The easiest way to prevent altitude sickness in dogs is not to take your pet on hiking trips at high altitudes. If you do take your pet with you, make sure the ascent is gradual to allow the dog to get used to the height. If you live at a high altitude and have a pet dog, it should adjust to the heights after a short period and no longer be subject to altitude sickness.


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