Save a Life: Learn How to Detect Your Dogs Vital Signs. Being able to accurately detect and determined your dog’s vital signs can make the difference between life and death! Your dog’s heart health is not only vital to your pet’s life, but it also directly affects your dog’s life span, daily quality of life and overall longevity. Boost your Dog’s Heart Health IQ by learning how to detect your dogs vital signs… it might just save your best friends life!
To begin, familiarize your-self with your dog’s normal vital statistics so that once you are familiar with what is normal, you will be able to detect and identify abnormalities that much more quickly and address them with your veterinarian. Normal Dog Heart Rate in beats per minute (bpm): your dog’s average heart rate is based on the size and/or age of your canine.
Puppies, up to 6 weeks: up to 200 bpm
Small dogs, up to 20lb (9.07kg): 70 – 180 bpm
Medium & large dogs: 60 – 140 bpm
Dog Body Temperatures
Your dog’s normal rectal temperature is 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures from 99 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit are usually considered to be within the normal range. Temperatures below 96 Fahrenheit or above 106 Fahrenheit are considered critical. Pet owners should see their vet ASAP as these temperature extremes may be life threatening and are emergencies.
Dog Oral Mucous Membrane Colors (Gum Color)
Veterinarians use the color of the mucus membranes to get an immediate measure of your pet’s hydration level. While this is not specifically a scientific measurement of pet health, the color of your dog’s gums can help to identify that a problem exists.
Normally your dog’s gum color should be light pink, which is normal.
Gums pale to white in color indicate a lack of red blood cells referred to as anemia which can lead to shock. Pet owners need to address this with their vet immediately.
A bluish gum color is a sign of smoke inhalation or suffocation. This is an emergency!
Bright cherry red gum color is a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning or heatstroke. Both are emergencies and require veterinary care ASAP!
Liver problems may be revealed by a yellowish tint to the gums which is called jaundice. This requires immediate attention from your vet.
Canine Capillary Refill Time
Capillaries are minute blood vessels that lie near the surface of the skin. They are easiest to observe in your pet’s gums, above the upper teeth.
You can judge the condition of your pet’s blood circulation by performing a capillary refill test.
To Perform a Capillary Refill Test on your dog:
1. Lift your pet’s upper lip, then press the flat part of your index finger against the non-pigmented (no color) pink gum tissue
2. Quickly release the pressure and use the second hand of a watch to count the time it takes for the gum color to return to normal in the area.
This is your dog’s capillary refill time.
Canine Capillary Refill Time
If less than 1 second this is an emergency. It may indicate shock or heatstroke.
If 1 – 2 seconds, this is normal.
If 2 – 4 seconds, this is poor and may signal pending dehydration or shock.
If over 4 seconds, this indicates a severe problem such as dehydration and/or shock; this requires a trip to the emergency vet.
Monitoring Your Dogs’ Breathing
When your dog is at rest, anything other than quiet, effortless breathing may require medical attention and possibly artificial respiration.
Effortless breathing, quiet to soundless is normal.
Increased respiratory rate may indicate initial signs of a breathing problem. Call the vet if this if the breathing rate seems to be getting worse.
Excessive panting or gasping is a critical sign of pending respiratory failure. Dogs usually stand with their elbows pointed outward as they try to get oxygen.
Cats often sit crouched with their head and neck extended. This is an emergency and requires immediate attention from your vet.
Labored, open-mouthed breathing with bluish colored gums usually signals suffocation and pulmonary failure. See your vet ASAP!
Slowed, shallow breathing or no breathing signals unconsciousness and respiratory collapse. This is critical, see your vet immediately and prepare for artificial respiration.
Dog Mental Alertness/Responsiveness/ Level of Consciousness
Healthy pets are alert and normally respond to whatever is currently happening in their surroundings.
If there is a problem, the level of your dog’s responsiveness will help you to determine the severity of the condition.
Dogs are normally alert, responsive to their owner as well as to the environment.
For example, if you call your pet for a treat, your dog should respond by coming to you.
Dogs with depressed responses may indicate your dog is sleepy and/or arthritic and reluctant to move.
This is common to many canine illnesses and if this continues for over 24 hours visit your vet.
If your dog is disoriented and/or bumps into objects, stares blindly at the walls, walks in circles, and/or falls over to one side, this is cause for alarm. This may signal a neurologic problem or an inner ear issues causing a loss of balance. See your vet ASAP!
Dogs in a stupor that can only be aroused only by deep pain stimulation, for example by pinching the toe, are not normal. This often indicates a serious neurologic or other internal health disorder which should be addressed with your vet immediately.
Dogs that are comatose, unable to wake up or are having epileptic seizures require immediate attention. This is a true emergency indicating severe neurologic damage or disruption from an injury, a disease, or a toxin. See your vet ASAP!