Acclimating Your Pets to Altitude
Acclimating Your Pets to Altitude-Life of a Newfoundland from Hawaii.
As strange as it may sound, “Samson”, my purebred Newfoundland, was born and bred in Hawaii. His first 5 years of life were spent on the Big Island of Hawaii, with bimonthly grooming to keep him comfortable in the year-round warm weather of the islands. He was not in his “element”, but we made the best of it.
When we decided to move to Summit County in Colorado, we had to consider not only how my wife and I were going to adjust to 9,000 plus ft of elevation, but also how were our animals going to handle the drastic change.
Most of us think of altitude sickness affecting humans but not necessarily our furry friends!! Alas don’t be fooled! If you suddenly have the urge to bring your dog for a hike in the mountains, it is wise to do some research and perhaps some “training” prior to putting on hiking boots on your puppy!
Pets are affected by an increase in altitude in a very similar way as we humans do. They can experience similar symptoms such as:
· Shortness of breath
· Increased heart rate
· Pale gums
· Excessive panting or drooling
· And even Collapse
For us, it meant doing some research and checking in with our new veterinarians at Frisco Animal Hospital. They were very helpful in guiding our pets into a smooth and safe transition to mountain living.
Our two cats became indoor cats, with a much more sedentary lifestyle than their bird catching and mouse hunting antics of the islands. We kept their exercise up by more human driven play time, and thanks to our 3-story rental, adding some stair climbing to their daily activity.
However, for Samson, being in the cold wintery heaven of the Rocky Mountains meant more activity than he ever had in Hawaii. In the first weeks his walks were shorter, yet frequent, and as he got in better mountain shape, they gradually got a bit longer. Keeping his weight down was also important to not put additional pressure on his heart. By the time winter came, he was happy as can be to jog around, play in the snow, and of course, to lay down for naps while being covered in the soft, white blanket of the Rockies!
So, as you consider taking your pets for hikes at higher elevation here are some tips for a healthy and safe experience:
· Gradually increase your dog’s exposure to elevation by starting lower and taking short hikes at slightly higher elevations over the course of a few weeks.
· Dehydration can be a problem for both humans and pets. Bring plenty of water for yourself and your pet and make sure the are drinking as often as you are.
· Bring plenty of snacks for them, best to have leftovers than not enough.
· If it’s going to be cold, bring additional coat or jacket and perhaps consider boots to protect their feet as well.
· If you have a Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed dog, such as pugs, Pekinese, and bulldogs, they are already predisposed to breathing issues that could be made worse by increases in altitude. Monitor them closely!
· Most important, talk with your veterinarian and make sure your pet is in good conditioning before taking them on a mountain hike. What may not seem strenuous to you, may be a little more than what they are used to.
Tune in again soon, And I will share more of “Samson- Life of a Newfie from Hawaii.”