Altitude Sickness: Ski Season and Your Dog (and Cat)

It’s the middle of October. The days are getting shorter and it’s hot in San Francisco (September and October are our hottest months of the year.) That means that ski season is on its way!
I love skiing – there was a time, yes, before marriage, before kids, and before Pet Camp, where I got to be on the slopes about 30 days a year.

Getting Out On The Slopes

Now a good year for me is 15 to 20 days on the slopes and my old legs think a day means 5 hours of skiing, not 8.

One of the things I love the most about ski season is hanging out with my dog before or after a day on the slopes.

For many years, my dog Splash made the trip to Tahoe with me on a regular basis.

She loved the walks in the snow and thought that 33 degrees and a cold rain at lake level was just as much fun as 15 degrees and fluffy powder – she was clearly nuts. But one thing I never really thought about was about how the altitude could impact her.

Dogs and Altitude Sickness

I’ve always been fortunate that altitude never really impacts me. I’ve been skiing all over California, Utah, Colorado, British Columbia and never had an issue so it never even dawned on me to think about Splash, and now Marmalade, might be impacted.

Turns out that dogs, and other animals, can be impacted by altitude just like humans.

They can demonstrate extreme thirst (to deal with dehydration), panting, drooling, vomiting, and in extreme cases a build-up of fluid in the lungs and brain. Many also say that animals can develop headaches, but honestly I’m not sure how this is accurately ascertained.

Interestingly enough, altitude seems to impact dogs only above the 8,000 foot level (way above lake level at Lake Tahoe and only about 1,000 feet below the highest ski levels) while some humans are impacted at only a few thousand feet (especially those who spend their life in places like San Francisco at about 12’ above sea level.)

What To Do

What should you do if you think your pet is suffering from altitude sickness?

Pretty much the same things you do for a person: decrease their activity, make sure they stay hydrated (which for a dog/cat may mean switching them to canned food which has a higher moisture content than kibble), and moving them to a lower altitude and gradually re-introducing them to the higher altitude.

So, if you’re off to the slopes this winter and your pet isn’t staying with us at Pet Camp, make sure you take a moment to evaluate your pet and ensure that your run on the slopes isn’t negatively impacting their health.

Thanks for reading.

Are you a pet parent in San Francisco who loves to escape the City for hiking, skiing, surfing or biking in the amazing area we call home? Make sure that while you’re out and about having fun, your dog or cat isn’t stuck bored at bored. Check out all Pet Camp has to offer your pet: doggie day care, overnight care, training, cat boarding, the Safari Solarium and of course the Pet Camp Express.