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Something everyone should know how to do, Its simple yet can tell you alot and warn you when things may not be right.

Written by Ai Takeuchi, VMD

Dog Care

Ever been out in the field and notice your four-legged friend just isn't looking like his normal self? Here is an easy, step-by-step way to check vital signs as a hint that something serious may be going on!

Respiratory Rate
It is easy to take your pet's respiratory rate. Count how many times they are breathing in 15 seconds and multiple it by 4. At rest, a dog's respiratory rate can be as low as 20 or 24 breaths per minute. When dogs are excited they can pant heavily. As long as they are breathing comfortably and their tongue is pink, panting is ok. If your pet is using his belly muscles to breath (i.e., "retracting"), coughing, wheezing, or their tongue is no longer pink, this can be a sign of distress.

Heart Rate
In big dogs, sometimes you can feel their heart beat through their chest. Place your hand in your dog's arm pit, and lay your hand flat along his chest. Count his heart beats for 15 seconds and multiply it by four. Dogs typically have heart rates between 60 to 150 beats per minute. In large breed dogs an elevated heart rate over 150 can be a sign of distress. Typical heart rates for a large breed dog ( Great Dane, German Shepherd) should be between 60 and 120. Puppies should have higher heart rates that can range from 180 to 220 beats per minute.
Sometimes it is possible to use the femoral pulse to take a heart rate. The femoral pulse can be felt on the inside of the dogs thigh. Find the femur or long bone of their leg and gently put your fingers in the groove next to the bone. The femoral pulse should be easily felt, steady, and regular. Count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. If the pulse is weak, irregular, or bounding these can be signs of a problem. Get comfortable taking your dogs heart rate and respiratory rate at home when they are acting fine. This will give you a good baseline for when you are out hiking or doing outdoor activities with your pet!

Taking your dog's temperature is a little bit more tricky. Placing the thermometer in their arm pit typically does not give an accurate reading; it is typically one to two degrees lower than your pet's actual temperature.
Rectal temperatures are most accurate. Normal temperature range for a dog is 99 F to 102.5 F. If your pet is not active ("lethargic"), and the temperature is 102.5 F that could be a warning sign. Temperatures over 105 F are considered an emergency and can lead to organ damage.
So, how do you take a dog's rectal temperature if you are alone? First, get a digital thermometer that is exclusively used for your animal. These thermometers are inexpensive (under $20); they come with plastic sleeves to keep them clean; and they give super-fast, accurate readings. Glass thermometers with mercury are NOT recommended as these can easily break, potentially cutting you or your dog and/or exposing you or your dog to mercury, a toxic substance! Second, kneel next to your dog and use a bent knee and arm under their belly to help keep them still. Next, insert a well-lubricated thermometer into the rectum about 1 to 1.5 inches; you should have a reading about 5 to 10 seconds!
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