Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby peter303 » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:01 am

Damn yes! I've seen my share of wheezing dogs on the slopes.

Same problem with infants/toddlers who cant clearly express their distress at their age.

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby edhaman » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:21 am

Snowgirl's post has a lot of good info, and is worth saving for future reference. Are they any other suggestions for contents of a dog first aid kit? As for kids, I'm not an M.D., but I've read that teenagers and younger children tend to be more susceptible to altitude sickness than adults.

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby coloradokevin » Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:33 am

ezsuperkev wrote:
Snowgirl wrote:4. Dog boots made for the rough rocks of the 14ers do a LOT to help prevent any serious injury in the first place-- most commonly sore, bleeding paws.
5. Weather is key. Dogs can only release heat by panting (inefficient at best) and through their paws (very inefficient). Imagine wearing a fur coat and not being able to sweat, and suddenly a 70* day and sun can be quite miserable. I have a coat for Tai


I recently found out about the dog boots preventing the dog from properly cooling off. Our dog was very out of character going up Grays this summer and we turned around. Some vets told us that the dog boots were possibly making him too hot. He is 1/2 husky so this makes sense. It's getting cooler now so I'm going to take him on some smaller mountain hikes to see how he does before hitting a 14er.


Kevin, what your vet said makes some sense to me, since dogs do perspire through the pads of their feet... They can tend to get hot if their feet are constantly on hot ground, and I imagine also if their feet are insulated in booties. On the other hand, they also cool off nicely from standing in a stream.

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby Snowgirl » Mon Sep 27, 2010 10:25 am

ezsuperkev wrote:
Snowgirl wrote:4. Dog boots made for the rough rocks of the 14ers do a LOT to help prevent any serious injury in the first place-- most commonly sore, bleeding paws.
5. Weather is key. Dogs can only release heat by panting (inefficient at best) and through their paws (very inefficient). Imagine wearing a fur coat and not being able to sweat, and suddenly a 70* day and sun can be quite miserable. I have a coat for Tai


I recently found out about the dog boots preventing the dog from properly cooling off. Our dog was very out of character going up Grays this summer and we turned around. Some vets told us that the dog boots were possibly making him too hot. He is 1/2 husky so this makes sense. It's getting cooler now so I'm going to take him on some smaller mountain hikes to see how he does before hitting a 14er.


Correct, it is a catch 22 in terms of having the boots on (less ability to release heat) vs. not and getting scraped paws. I would argue that if it is warm enough that having boots on is making your dog too hot, then it's probably too hot to begin with because the release of heat from the paws is minimal (unless your dog is standing in a cold stream, as has already been pointed out). You can also bring alcohol wipes (as a part of the 1st aid kit) to dampen the pads of their feet to help them cool off (which is what we do in a clinic when a dog comes in with a fever, etc) in a more dire situation. Be careful, of course, that your dog does not have scraped pads already, or applying rubbing alcohol will do more harm than good!

I would say that I see lots of dogs having to be carried down due to bleeding, scraped feet, and a lot of very hot ones inching down the mountain... and both are avoidable.

The compromise I usually use is that for the first part of the approach, or wherever there is a "dirt" or similarly easy trail, and on the descent back to the car, Taiga is bootless. For the rocks, which I know will eventually make her paws sore, I throw on the boots. Either way, having them available in case you need them can be very helpful.
Such things for example as the grasp of a child's hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of a friend or lover...sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind--- what else is there? What else do we need?
--Edward Abbey

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby harrise » Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:50 am

Guess I'll continue this slightly off topic stream. I don't know if my conditioning routine for my dogs is the determining factor or if it's this stuff...

http://ep.yimg.com/ca/I/gundog_2123_104043627

Either way, my dogs have never had pad/paw problems when hiking and I am always going to use that stuff. We do have some seriously slow descents due to heat, but that's mainly because I force my dogs to stop and rest every mile or 30 minutes (whichever comes first) when it's over 55°F. Pre-dawn starts are how I get my furballs up to the summits. Knowing your dogs' tendencies is key. I have two Malamutes, a Husky and a four pound poodle mutt. The sled dogs have over 25 summits each in two summers (12ers-13ers-14ers), and over 150 miles of above treeline hiking under their collars without any issues.

There are sacrifices though. I carry two extra liters of water and one helluva first aid kit, that's nothing but weight. I also avoid routes that get into class 3 unless it's just my Husky and it's on a less populated mountain (i.e. Hagar). But I don't have a big drive to get on those mountains anyway, maybe once or twice a year the itch creeps in.

As far as adding to the altitude sickness thing, bloodshot eyes are another symptom I look for. Get familiar with your dog's individual baseline health (heart rate, breathing rate, temperature, eyes, tongue, gums, and pace) and then it's much easier to tell when something is out of whack.

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby Upstate Hiker » Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:20 pm

My 9 year old Australian Shepherd loves to hike and loves the mountains. We finished our first 14er, and he was still running circles around me. I tried putting sunscreen on his white nose to reduce the chances of burning, but he hated it. Any suggestions? (sorry this is a bit off topic)

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby Snowgirl » Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:32 pm

First, make sure that you are using a "safe" sunscreen, some components can actually be toxic in regular doses. From my vet clinic days, the internal medicine specialist I worked with recommended any product that was more or less straight zinc oxide. I carry this tiny tin just for Taiga's nose: http://www.rei.com/product/679031#prodSpecs. She also used to hate it when she saw me coming for her nose with sunscreen on my fingers... until I made it very clear that sitting still and not fidgeting both before and after equaled TREATS and PRAISE. She still isn't a huge fan, but she tolerates it fairly well.
Such things for example as the grasp of a child's hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of a friend or lover...sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind--- what else is there? What else do we need?
--Edward Abbey

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby Upstate Hiker » Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:06 pm

Thank you! I was wondering if something like that would work better. I'll try the zinc along with a lot of positive reinforcement :D

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby argothor » Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:23 pm

duneclimber wrote:Has anybody brought their "bigger dog" up a 14er? I'm hiking Quandry in a week and want to bring my 3 year old Husky/Lab mix. He's always been a great hiker, and I've had him up to 12,600' with no problems. I understand carrying him down would be difficult if he got sick. I think he'd make it though no problem.


I took my Golden Retriever up 16 14ers, including Quandary.

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby Swissy » Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:33 pm

All of the precaution information is a must. My Greater Swiss Mnt Dog Bridger has already done 10 14ers, and my older one 9, but we are also in the mnts hiking at elevation 3 days per week. He carries his own water at least 6 liters, boots and first aid kit. He usually starts a climb carrying 20 % of his body weight, but drops most of the water by the top. I water him when I water myself with the camel back then resupply with the water he carried. Fall and spring climbs are great for the dogs that don't do well with heat.

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby SharonH » Fri Oct 01, 2010 8:55 pm

Sophie in Backpack.jpg
Sophie hitching a ride down Harvard
Sophie in Backpack.jpg (198.94 KiB) Viewed 1621 times
Sophie , my 37 pound border collie has done 21 fourteeners with no problem. I carry extra water and snacks for her, though I do let her drink out of streams. There is an annual giardia shot for dogs that is well worth the cost.
Sophie is usually on the summit long before I am and chows down on any summit snacks available. These two factors alone lead me to believe she is not short of breath or nauseated.
The one time she stopped on the trail and would go no further was when she was doing a winter climb of Harvard with my brother and sister-in-law. My sister-in-law had to put Sophie in her pack and carry her down the trail. I think this was a function of sore paws from the snow and ice. Dog booties probably would have alleviated this problem.

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Re: Do dogs gets altitude sickness?

Postby Inky6900 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:24 am

sad2 wrote:
I've always wondered...Do dogs get altitude sickness?

Does one need to take precautions when attempting a 14er with a pet?
Hydration, acclimating, etc...


To the first part I would say I don't know if they get altitude sickness. In 10 years of climbing with my dog, Sawyer, he only seemed to be sick once but later I found out at the vet he had a bacterial infection. He has climbed everything I ever have.

To the second part, a huge YES. I will make it short and sweet. Climbing with a dog is by far harder than climbing with other human companions. I will even say it is harder than climbing solo. You have to factor in so many things. The range of things to consider is immense - from carrying extra gear to evaluating the bond and trust level you share with your dog before a difficult climb. For those that think that climbing with a dog is easy - consider that only one dog/man team in history climbed all of Colorado's 14ers - Roger Edrinn and his dog Diente (a little 30 pounder) back in the 80s - more than 20 years ago.
With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

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