Are Dogs Affected by Altitude Change?

Before traveling with your dog, speak to your veterinarian about preventing altitude sickness.
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Most dogs are eager to join in on the next big adventure with their favorite person. But traveling by plane or in high-altitude areas can pose certain risks for your furry friend. When traveling to higher altitudes, always keep in mind the safety of your buddy.

Veterinarian Advice

Although there isn't any documented medical evidence that higher altitudes affect dogs to date, notes Dr. Christopher Orton's advice. Orton is a professor at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He advises people to watch their dogs carefully and use sound judgement if they believe a change in altitude is affecting their dog. Sometimes slowing down to allow yourself and your dog to adjust to the changes in altitude can help tremendously.

Living in High Altitudes

Dogs who live in high altitudes for extended periods of time may develop breathing and lung difficulties. Dogs who already suffer from a heart or lung condition before living in an area with high altitudes can face an increased risk of developing pulmonary hypertension. Watch for symptoms such as coughing, refusal to eat and heavy, strained breathing. Some dogs who were once healthy and enjoyed long walks may become easily exerted, needing to lie down to rest in the middle of a walk.

Traveling at High Altitudes

When traveling by plane, high altitudes and the air pressure changes that come with it can affect furry friends in big ways. Dogs may lose their balance and coordination, pant, drool excessively, vomit, feel dizzy, run a fever, collapse suddenly, have an increased heart rate and appear very lethargic. Some dogs may also appear to have swollen feet and faces. Pale gums are a sign of illness. When in the air, dogs can become dehydrated and have difficulty breathing due to the high air pressure.

Treating Altitude Sickness

Sometimes, it may be best for Max to stay behind when high-altitude trips are on the books. If he must come with you, try to ascend slowly so your dog has time to adjust to the change. Before traveling, tell your veterinarian about your plans. He may be able to prescribe medication that will work to prevent altitude sickness. Dogs who are suffering from altitude sickness need veterinary attention as soon as possible. Pulmonary edema, a buildup of fluid in the lungs, can result in some dogs suffering from altitude sickness. When available, an oxygen mask can help to relieve some of the difficulty in breathing until you can get your dog to a veterinarian.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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