First Aid Basics
Your Dog's Vital Signs
Vital signs are those signs that veterinarians use as a baseline to assess how well your dog's overall physical system is functioning. Three basic vital signs that your veterinarian measures are your dog's heart rate (pulse), breathing rate and temperature. You too need to be aware of these vital signs -- what is normal for your dog and what is not -- and how to measure them so that you are better prepared to assess if something is wrong with your dog and to act quickly and appropriately to get him help.
Your Dog’s Heart Rate
Your dog’s normal heart rate depends on his age and size. For puppies below one year, a normal heart rate is approximately 120-160 beats per minute. For adult dogs 30 pounds and below, a normal heart rate is approximately 100-120 beats per minute. For adult dogs over 30 pounds, a normal heart rate is approximately 80-100 beats per minute
There are four locations from which you can easily measure your dog’s heart rate or pulse:
To measure your dog’s pulse from any of these locations, hold your middle finger and index finger on the pulse point. Count how many beats or pulses you can measure during a 60 second period.
Your Dog’s Breathing Rate
Normal resting breathing rate for dogs is 10-30 breaths per minute. To measure your dog’s resting breathing rate, have your dog either stand or lie down calmly. Observe your dog’s ribcage and count the number of times his ribcage rises and falls during a 60 second period. There is a difference between panting (shallow breaths) and true breathing, so make sure you count breaths and not pants.
Your Dog’s Temperature
Normal temperature for dogs ranges between 100 – 102.7 F. To take your dog’s temperature you need to use a rectal thermometer. It is best to use a pediatric digital thermometer which can be found at most drugstores. Lubricate the thermometer tip with some petroleum jelly. Keep your dog in a standing position and hold his tail up. Carefully put just the tip of the thermometer into your dog’s rectum until the required time for your thermometer to measure temperature has elapsed. Remove the thermometer and read his temperature.