Pets and altitude sickness.

If you have ever ventured up into the mountains, you might have encountered altitude sickness as a human. Can pets get altitude sickness, though? How does altitude sickness affect animals? What are the symptoms? Keep reading and Long Animal Hospital will answer all your questions!

All About Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, aptly named, describes the side effects that we experience when we head into higher altitudes than to which our body is acclimated. In North Carolina, we aren’t very used to high altitudes. The average height in Charlotte is 761 feet above sea level, which makes this one of the lower parts of the United States.

If you decide to travel to higher elevations with your pets, you might experience altitude sickness. This happens in particular when you are taking a quick trip and not allowing your body time to acclimate. In humans, commonly reported symptoms include dizziness, headache, vomiting, feeling tired, being disoriented, and having trouble sleeping. 

How Does Altitude Sickness Affect Animals?

As you might have guessed, altitude sickness can affect animals as well. Symptoms tend to be very similar to those that humans experience, but because our pets don’t complain verbally, often things are much worse before anyone realizes anything is wrong.

Signs that your pet may be experiencing altitude sickness can include:

  • Drooling
  • Heavy breathing or panting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Moving more slowly

If you do not heed early warning signs, things can become more serious. Untreated, altitude sickness can result in brain swelling and fluid in the lungs. 

Helping Pets with Altitude Sickness

If you are taking a trip with your pets, say out west to Colorado where elevations soar over 5,000 feet above sea, you should definitely have altitude sickness on your radar. 

Most people (and pets) only really start to experience trouble at over 8,000 feet. Be sure to research your destination and understand how high above sea level you will be.

Other things that you can do to ensure that everyone stays happy and healthy include:

  • Plan on moving a little slower than normal, especially for activities like hiking
  • Try to spend a little time at high (but less extreme) elevations before heading up over 8,000 feet
  • Keep your pet well hydrated
  • Monitor your pet’s breathing and overall demeanor closely
  • Take extra precautions for pets with special needs such as elderly or brachycephalic animals or those with known cardiac or respiratory issues

Dogs and cats can definitely enjoy heading up into higher altitudes with their owners as long as we stay vigilant and aware of potential problems. Never hesitate to contact us about questions or concerns regarding your pet.