Hydration and Hiking with Dogs at High Altitude PLUS my First Giveaway!

This month's PetSafe topic is hydration and they have graciously agreed to help me with my first ever giveaway, a Drinkwell Stainless Steel Pet Water Fountain.  Details below. All this is to remind my readers that keeping your pets hydrated during the hottest summer months is important. Of course, this fact many of us already know.  But few people know how extremely important hydrating is when planning to take yourself and your dog hiking at higher altitudes.

Sitting at the top of the world (in the Eastern Sierras)
This past weekend the group and I hiked with our dogs in the Eastern High Sierras, just south of Mt. Whitney. The backcountry of the Sierras, from Southern California to Lake Tahoe is believed by some, to be the most picturesque and pristine country in the southwest. This is the high country and heart of the John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adam Wilderness where granite peaks mix with evergreen forests.

In fact, much of California's mountains are considered high altitude, which is defined as anything between 5,000 to 11,500 feet (1,524 and 3,505.2 m) above sea level. Anything above 11,500 to about 18,000 is considered extreme altitude.

We camped at 9548 ft to acclimate ourselves to the high altitude. The next day we  hiked up to about 11700ft, just below timberline. Planning was essential because most of the pups had not been up at this altitude (more on the hike in another post).

Guidelines to hydrating before a high altitude hike

You can plan for and prevent dehydration by following these tips provided by the ASPCA 
  • Provide clean water at all times, and change it frequently to ensure freshness. Also, don’t forget to wash your pet’s water bowl every day to prevent bacteria from forming - this includes providing fresh water at the campsite
  • Monitor your dog’s water intake. Generally, a dog needs at least one ounce of water for each pound of body weight per day. If your dog is not drinking an adequate amount of water, seek veterinary advice. 
  • Purchase a water bowl with a weighted bottom to prevent your dog from knocking it over.
  • Bring extra water when you’re traveling or exercising with your dog.
  • If you notice your pet is drinking less than usual, check his mouth for sores or other foreign objects, such as burrs or sticks.
  • Avoid chaining a dog outside, especially out in the summer sun, since he may get tangled up, preventing him from accessing his water bowl.
In addition to the tips listed above, you might want to add some Pedialyte or coconut water (not the stuff in the can) to your dog's water to give them electrolytes and minerals starting a couple of days prior to your trip. Many experts and vets agree that preventing high altitude sickness starts with staying hydrated.  This is true for your dog as it is for the owner.

How do you determine if your dog is dehydrated?
1. Touch your dog's nose.  Is it wet and cold? If it is dry, your dog may be mildly dehydrated
2. Check your dog's gums.  Are they pink? Or are the white/pale?
3. Is your dog exhibiting signs of lethargy, when they are usually energetic? This is a sign of dehydration.

At a recent outing with a local dog group, there was an owner whose dog kept pulling her towards the shade. The owner wasn't really paying attention, and was actually reprimanding the dog for pulling. It was almost noon, about 90degrees out, and since we were near the beach, it was also humid.

One of the trainers in the group notice the dog, a dark colored pit bull (even in dogs dark colors absorb more sun than light colored dogs), and went over to talk with the owner and say "Hi" to the dog. When looking at the dog, noticed the dog was suffering from dehydration. He brought the dog and owner in the shade. Sprayed the dog's tummy and paws with water and had her lay down on a wet towel. He also gave the dog some water. Dehydration during the hottest summer months can happen. Moral of the story, please keep an eye on your dog.

And what about High Altitude Sickness?

Just like people, dogs can get High Altitude Sickness (also known as Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS). In humans, we generally feel light-headed, dizzy, maybe nauseous or have a headache at stage 1.  Generally you can keep hiking at this point.  At stage 2, we may become disoriented or start babbling. We may lose coordination and start tripping.  We may see spots. At this point, you should head down to a lower elevation right away.  I have a friend that tried to summit Mt. Whitney one year, actually succeeded, but wound up in the hospital because she didn't turn around when she should have. As a result, she developed sever high altitude sickness. The rangers had to help her down after she collapsed on the trail and she wound up in the hospital for a couple days.

Dogs manifest high altitude sickness in a different way. They can't tell you if they are dizzy or feel light-headed, so you have to be extra vigilant in watching for signs and keeping track of your dog at all times. While humans can communicate through speaking about how we feel, dogs manifest their symptoms physically. Again, keeping a dog hydrated prior to a high altitude hike, may help keep AMS at bay.  The symptoms may manifest like dehydration, but recall that these symptoms would happen at altitude, not a sea level. Keep a lookout for the following physical symptoms, if you see them you MUST get to a lower altitude, just as you would for a person:

* Excessive drooling
* Vomiting
* Pale gums
* Increased pulse
* Dry cough
* Swelling of feet and possibly the face
* Sudden collapse
* Dizziness
* Fever
* Lack of coordination
* Lethargy or refusal to move
 * Bleeding from the nose and retina (only in extreme cases)

If you feel your dog has develops AMS, you should get your dog to the vet ASAP.  There are prescriptions meds that your vet can provide so that your dog's condition does not worsen.

Dehydration and AMS are serious issues.  But with proper precautions, and as long as you and your dog have trained sufficiently, you CAN hike with your dog to into the high county!  It is such a wonderful time to speed with your dog. Imagine the world that you could visit with proper care of yourself and your dog. Just like you shouldn't push yourself past your limit, you shouldn't push your dog either.

There are many wonderful places to hike to that are higher in elevation. Cottonwood Basin is definitely one of them. It is possible for a responsible dog owner to take their dog, as long as they plan appropriately. Talk to your vet before you take an older or out of shape dog or a dog with a physical limitation.  Or you could just leave dog at home and go with your friends (a couple hikers in our group did just that).

How do you keep your dog hydrated and cool in the summer months? Leave a comment!

The Giveaway

This week, in conjunction with PetSafe Pet Products and pet hydration month, I am offering my first ever giveaway product: a Drinkwell Stainless Steel Product.  How does this work exactly?

Start your entry below.  With each step you do, you earn a number of raffle tickets. At the end of the giveaway term, a name will be pulled at RANDOM. The winner will be notified via the email that they enter below. If the winner does not respond within 2 days, I will re-draw for a winner. The pet fountain will be sent directly from PetSafe, the manufacturer, to the giveaway winner.

This giveaway will start on Sunday, July 13 and will end on August 2, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway