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  • A Dog’s Vital Signs


    As humans, we are used to having our vital signs taken and, generally, we have a pretty good idea of where we should be on the spectrum. But what about our canine friends?

    Maria Besteiros, expert veterinary assistant, writes in AnimalWised: “A dog’s vital signs include temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate. Dog vital signs are also commonly referred to as dog tpr (temperature, pulse and respiratory rate). These canine vital signs help us identify whether or not our dog is healthy or suffering from an underlying illness. If you are a dog owner, it’s very important that you know how to understand your pet’s vital signs. For example, what is a normal dog respiratory rate? Or is your dog’s temperature too high or low?

    So, what is a dog’s normal temperature? In an adult dog the temperature oscillates between 37.8 and 39.2 ºC, with the average being around 38.5º. Therefore, if your dog has a temperature higher than that indicated, it is suffering from a fever. Fever in dogs is usually accompanied by other symptoms. Symptoms of fever in dogs include:

    • Reddened eyes.
    • Lethargy.
    • Possible difficulty sleeping.
    • Dry nose.
    • Shivering.
    • Decrease in appetite.
    • Vomiting.

    If you notice any of these above-mentioned symptoms, we recommend consulting a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

    Remember that both a high and low temperature in dogs is cause for concern. If your dog is suffering from hypothermia, treatment is necessary. Hypothermia in dogs varies in severity. If the hypothermia is mild, your dog may show symptoms of weakness, lack of concentration and shivering. If, however, the hypothermia is more severe, your dog will struggle breathing, suffer from low blood pressure and experience difficulty moving. 

    Temperature levels are particularly important when caring for puppies. Monitoring your puppy’s temperature is vital! This is because during a puppy’s first few weeks of life, it cannot regulate its own body temperature. Therefore, if a puppy’s temperature is above or below the norm, consult your veterinarian immediately to avoid severe illness or possible death. Average puppy temperature ranges between 34.4 and 36.1 ºC. After about one month of life, this temperature should reach 37.8º, like adult dogs.”

    A dog’s temperature is taken rectally. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it!

    So, what is a normal dog heart rate? A dog’s normal heart rate should oscillate between 60 and 160 beats per minute. But, if the dog is small, normal pulsations can reach up to 180. In larger dogs, this rhythm may be somewhat slower. In newborn puppies, pulsations are even higher, able to reach between 160 and 200. Within around 15 days of life, it is not strange that a puppy’s pulsations reach 220 per minute, it’s normal.

    You can take your dog’s pulse by pressing on its femoral artery which passes through the groin. It is recommended that your dog lies down on its back when you do this. You can look for this artery by palpating the inside of your dog’s thigh, along the junction between the leg and the body. Once you’ve found the correct artery, you can establish the heart rate by counting the number of beats per minute. There are two possible alterations to this rythym:  tachycardia (dog heart rate fast) or bradycardia (dog slow heart rate). Both of these alterations require veterinary attention.

    So, what about a dog’s respiratory rate?  In an adult dog normal breathing is, on average, 24 breaths per minute (when the dog is at rest). At times, there may be a possible variation of between 10 and 30. In the first weeks of a puppy’s life, a normal puppy respiratory rate is between 15 and 35 breaths per minute.  Larger dogs breathe more slowly and smaller dogs more quickly.

    In order to check your dog’s respiratory rate, use a stopwatch or clock with second hand, count the number of times your dog’s chest rises and falls over the space of 30 seconds. Each rise/fall, counts as one breath. If not easily visible, place your hand on his chest, as you count. Repeat this three times to ensure an accurate reading. Double it, and you have his breathing rate per minute.

    Knowing these 3 vital signs is a key indicator to knowing whether your dog is healthy or in need of veterinary help. 

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