Altitude sickness can affect dogs like humans. On Saturday, October 8, two hikers at Crater Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness found themselves in a difficult situation when their sick dog became immobile. The hikers had camped overnight and their dog, an 80-pound Staffordshire terrier mix, was unable to walk from the campsite due to altitude sickness.
One of the campers went out to find cell service and ask for help. The other camper stayed with the dog at their site about 3.5 miles from Monarch Lake.
Grand County Search and Rescue answered the call and seven members responded, including five entering the field at 8:27 p.m. About 4.5 miles later, at 10:30 p.m., the team contacted the dog and the owner.
“The dog was extremely sick and lethargic from altitude sickness. I wouldn’t even raise my head to greet the rescuers,” the rescue operations commander said. “(The team) loaded the dog into our new dog rescue harness and the team split into two to get the dog down as soon as possible. Three members started carrying the dog, two members stayed with the subject to tidy up the camp. The dog was… 80 pounds of pure, super soft muscle. When the dog got to a lower altitude, he straightened up and was able to walk on his own. The team made socks for her sore feet.
The search and rescue team believe this was the right call for their help as the dog would not have managed to get out on its own and the owner would not have been able to do so go out. The friend who went out for help also had altitude sickness. All were safe off the pitch at 1:15 a.m.
Grand County Search and Rescue would like to remind visitors to lower elevations that altitude sickness can affect anyone, including a canine friend, who travels to higher elevations without acclimatization. Also known as altitude sickness, mountain sickness usually occurs when humans or animals travel too quickly to higher altitudes. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and inability to exercise. Lethargy and intense panting or drooling are usually the first sign that a dog is suffering from altitude sickness.
At a more advanced stage, altitude sickness can be life-threatening. The best emergency treatment is to move to a lower altitude. To avoid getting sick, it is ideal to acclimatize for a few days at a higher altitude, while consuming plenty of water and electrolytes.