COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Dogs getting sick at altitude? It sounds like the stuff of over-protective pet parents but -- as it turns out -- it happens.
"Altitude sickness absolutely is a real thing," says veterinarian Tracy McConnaughey who works at Tender Care Veterinary Center in Falcon.
She says some people might assume that because dogs are closely related to wolves, they're capable of strenuous activity in high mountainous regions.
"We want to think about them like, 'Oh they're like wolves.' They're not. Really they're very domestic and they rely on us," she said.
If your dog isn't used to hitting the trails, it can feel the change in elevation just like humans. And dogs with pre-existing conditions can be at risk.
McConnaughey explains that any dogs with cardiac diseases or challenges oxygenating are particularly susceptible. That includes dogs with flat faces.
"There's a lot of dogs that have the 'smooched' face and so those dogs can be prone to things like altitude sickness and heatstroke because how they cool off is by panting," she said.
Older dogs or dogs suffering from obesity, asthma, or a heart murmur are especially prone to ailments triggered by the elements, altitude, and high temperatures.Heatstroke and other conditions associated with overheating are examples of this.
When keeping an eye out for altitude sickness, McConnaughey says to watch for constant panting or a loss of appetite.
"They might be lethargic all of the sudden. They might vomit," she said.
She urges pet owners to take small steps before taking on a 14er or that extra long hike.
If you plan to take your furry friend with you on a 14er -- or a rough trail -- you should also keep an eye on their paws, which can get cut on rocks and rough terrain. Bring extra water and if your puppy is still under six months, maybe hold off until next year.