Keeping Your animals Healthy and Happy Without Overspending
About Me
Keeping Your animals Healthy and Happy Without Overspending

Hello, my name is Catherine. I have long loved animals and have had several of my own over the years. Sadly, I saw two of my cats suffer with feline cancer, one of my dogs had arthritis, and, of course, we faced the usual calamities and injuries pets often face. However, I have had to navigate this on a relatively restricted budget, and through the years, I have gotten quite proficient at that. I work at a library and love doing research on pets and veterinary care as well as a range of other topics. I also love to write so decided to put my info in a blog. Please, explore and enjoy!

Keeping Your animals Healthy and Happy Without Overspending

How to Check Your Dog's Vital Signs

Ellen Lampi

Although your vet clinic will probably provide 24-hour emergency vet services, it's a good idea to know how to check your dog's vital signs yourself. If you know what's 'normal' for your pet, you will be better able to know when something is wrong and the vet will be better able to assess the animal's condition in the event of an emergency by comparing the readings. 

Before you start

When you check your dog's vitals, choose a time when he's quiet and relaxed. Have a notebook and pen to hand, and note down the date and time of your examination as well as your pet's vital readings. All this information will be very useful to your vet in the event that your pet is ill and could also provide you with a heads up that your dog might be sickening for something.

How to check your dog's heart rate

There are two easy ways to check your dog's heart rate, neither of which requires a stethoscope.

  1. Lay your dog on his right side. Place your hand over his chest just behind his shoulder blade and feel for his heartbeat.  Count the beats for 15 seconds (timed on your watch) and then multiply the result by four to get the number of beats per minute.  
  2. Locate the dog's femoral artery by placing your fingers on the inside of his hind leg right up against his body. Take his pulse as described in #1 above.

The normal resting heart rate for your dog is 60–100 beats per minutes (bpm) in large animals and 100–160 bpm in small breeds.

How to take your dog's temperature

The only way to take your dog's temperature accurately is by using a digital rectal thermometer. You can buy one from good pet stores or from your vet clinic, together with a lubricating jelly.

Unless you have a very quiet dog, it's much easier to carry out this job with some help. Ask your assistant to hold your dog firmly but gently with his head turned away from you. Switch on the thermometer and press the reset button so that the display shows zero. Lubricate the thermometer and gently insert the first few centimetres into the dog's rectum. Hold the thermometer in place until it beeps to indicate that the temperature has stabilised. Remove the thermometer and take a note of the reading.

The normal temperature for dogs of all sizes is between 380C and 390C. If the temperature is lower than 360C or over 400C, call your vet immediately as this could potentially indicate a serious health issue.

How to check your dog's respiratory rate

With your dog lying quietly and relaxed, count the number of breaths he takes over one minute.

The normal resting respiratory rate for dogs is between 10 and 40 breaths per minute. If you note that your dog's tummy is expanding rather than his chest, if his breathing is very fast and shallow or if he is making gasping sounds, call your vet immediately.

In conclusion

In an emergency, it is very helpful to your vet if you know what your dog's normal vital signs are and what they were at the time of your emergency call. Practice taking your dog's vital signs once each week and note them down as per the guidelines given above.