Pet Vital Signs

If you believe your pet is having an emergency please contact Artemis Veterinary Emergency immediately.

If your pet is in distress, having an emergency, or just isn’t doing right, it’s helpful to be familiar with pet vital signs.   We recommend that you know how to periodically check and record normal vital signs for your dog or cat.  By doing it periodically it will not only give you some practice doing it, but it will help establish a baseline of what’s “normal” for your pet in case of an accident or illness.

The three main vitals you want to measure are the heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature.

Hear Rate – To determine your pet’s heart rate, put your hand to their chest preferably on the left side and count how many pulses you feel in 15 seconds, multiply by four and that will give you the beats per minute.  If you have trouble detecting a heart beat that way, try placing two fingers on the middle of your dog’s thigh near where the back leg joins the body. You should be able to feel the femoral artery pulsing each time the heart beats.  This can also be done with a cat, however, it can be very difficult to feel a pulse in a cat that way.

Respiratory rate – To measure breathing rate, count the number of times the chest expands in 15 seconds and again multiply by four. You can do this either by watching the chest or by resting your hand on their chest. Normal respiration should not make any noise and should require very little effort.

Body Temperature – The best measure of a true body temperature is taken rectally with a thermometer.  However, if you or your pet aren’t comfortable with that particular method, the next best tool is an ear thermometer.

Vital Signs:

Normal Canine Vital Signs
Heart Rate: 60-160 beats per minute
Respiratory Rate: 10-30 breaths per minute (unless panting)
Temperature: 95.5-102.5˚ Fahrenheit
Mucous Membrane color and refill time: Pink, <2 seconds

Normal Feline Vital Signs
Heart Rate: 150-250 beats per minute
Respiratory Rate: 15-30 breaths per minute (open mouthed breathing in cats is considered an emergency)
Temperature: 99.5-102.5˚ Fahrenheit
Mucous Membrane color and refill time: Pink, <2 seconds

Now is the time to learn how to take your dog’s heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature before you are faced with an emergency. Practice does make it perfect, so next time you are at home when you and your dog or cat are relaxed try it out.

If you’re having difficulty in checking vital signs on your own, ask your veterinarian to show you how the next time you take your cat or dog in for a wellness exam.