Heart Rate, Breathing Rate & Temperature – What Is Normal in Dogs?

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By knowing what’s normal in your dog, like body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate, you can better tell if your dog needs medical care. Here are some normal parameters to consider:

Normal Dog Body Temperature

The most accurate way to take a dog’s temperature is rectally. The normal body temperature for a dog is 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog has a temperature less than 99 or over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Mucous Membrane Color

The most commonly examined mucous membranes are the gums. The color of the gums is a good indicator of blood perfusion and oxygenation. The normal gum color is pink. If your pet has pigmented gums, lowering the eyelid can also give you an indicator of mucous membrane color. Pale, white, blue or yellow gums are cause for concern and you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Capillary Refill Time

Briefly apply pressure to the gums and release.  This is commonly done by lifting up the lift and applying gentle pressure to the gums with your finger. The area should blanch and rapidly return to the normal pink color. This test is referred to as the capillary refill time and is a crude method of assessing circulation. Normal refill time is 1 to 2 seconds. If the refill time is less than 1 second or over 3 seconds, immediate veterinary care is recommended. To practice, you can do a quick capillary refill test on yourself. Press down on the tip of your fingernail. The pink skin underneath the nail will blanch. When you release the fingertip, the color rapidly returns to normal.

Normal Heart Rate for Dogs

You can feel your dog’s heartbeat on the left side of the chest at the area where a raised elbow will touch the chest. Your dog should be calm and quiet. Place your hand over this area of the chest and feel for a heartbeat. You can also use a stethoscope if you have one. Count the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4. Be aware that a dog’s heartbeat will normally slow down and speed up with each breath. This is not an abnormal heart rhythm and does not require veterinary care.

If you cannot determine your dog’s heartbeat, you can try to determine the pulse rate. The easiest pulse to feel is the pulse associated with the femoral artery, which is best felt inside the back leg in the groin area. Place your first two fingers up high on the inside of your pet’s thigh. Slowly feel the area until you can detect a pulse. This method may take some practice and you may want to ask your veterinarian for guidance during a routine exam.

For dogs, a normal heartbeat varies on size:

  • Small dogs and puppies normally have heart rates of 120 to 160 beats per minute.
  • Dogs over 30 pounds have heart rates of 60 to 120. The larger the dog, the slower the normal heart rate.

    If your dog has a heart rate outside the normal range, contact your veterinarian immediately.

  • Normal Respiratory Rate for Dogs

    Counting the number of breaths per minute and determining the breathing pattern can be very important in an emergency. Learn the normal breathing rate and pattern for your dog.

    Count the number of breaths your pet takes in one minute. Avoid counting when your dog is panting. A good time to count the normal breathing rate is when your dog is asleep.

    Normal respiratory rates:

  • For dogs: 10 to 30 breaths per minute. Dogs can also pant normally up to 200 pants per minute.

    Determining the breathing pattern is also important. In a normal breath, the chest expands as the breath enters the chest. The chest then sinks as the breath leaves the chest. Exhalation requires no effort. If you notice your dog using his abdominal muscles to breath, gasping, making loud noises, taking shallow breaths, panting excessively or exhalation seems to be difficult, consult your veterinarian immediately.  

    If you are unsure if your dog is breathing, place a cotton ball or tissue immediately in front of the nose and mouth. If you see movement of the cotton or tissue, your dog is still breathing. Another method is to use a mirror. Place the mirror in front of the dog’s mouth and nose. If you see condensation on the mirror, your dog is still breathing.

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