Since our canine friends can’t tell us if they’re sick or injured, it can be hard to tell. But there are some basic signs we can start with to help us determine if our dogs are ill.
Here are some tips:
- Know your dog’s baseline vital signs. This is important information that can help you spot an illness, injury, or poisoning. The main vital signs are temperature, resting heart rate, and resting respiratory rate.
- Temperature: The normal range for a dog’s temperature is between 100°F to 102.5°F (approximately 37-39°C). A dog’s temperature must be taken with a rectal thermometer, so you may need a little help holding your dog. However, a temperature reading is very valuable in determining illness in your dog, so it’s worth the effort.
- Resting heart rate: The heart rate of dogs varies depending on size and breed. For large breeds, normal is 70 to 120 beats per minute (bpm); medium dogs, 80 to 120 bpm; small dogs, 90-140 bpm; and toy dogs, 100-160 bpm. You can take your dog’s pulse from his chest, the sides of his neck, or his lower front legs. Using a clock or watch with a second hand, count the beats for 15 seconds and then multiply by four.
- Resting respiratory rate: The normal resting respiratory rate for dogs is 15-30 breaths per minute. Using a clock or watch with a second hand, simply count the breaths for one minute. However, don’t try to count breaths if your dog is panting; panting can be a sign of warmth, excitement, or illness, and breaths can’t be accurately measured.
Once you have these baseline vital signs, record them and store them in your dog’s first aid kit along with his other documentation. Then you’ll have a starting point if your dog is displaying other signs of illness such as lethargy, refusal of food, vomiting, drooling, or weight loss. If any of these symptoms appear, you should consult with your veterinarian immediately.