It’s a rotten feeling … when you know your dog is not himself, but you’re not sure how serious his condition is, or what you can do to help. That’s why we’re excited to have Denise Fleck with us on the blog today! Denise is an author, instructor, and pet safety guru, and in this post she’s going to teach us how to read Rover’s vitals.
Learning to check your dog’s vital signs can help assess his degree of pain, injury, or illness and propel you on to your next course of action. The more you know what is normal for your dog, the more quickly you can determine when something is “not quite right” and get him the professional medical help he may need!
The basic vital signs you’ll want to check are your dog’s pulse, respiration, temperature, and capillary refill time. We’ll explain what they are and how you measure them one at a time.
RESPIRATION – Here we’re measuring the number of breaths taken per minute.
TEMPERATURE – This is simply measuring the body heat and cannot be accurately gauged by feeling your dog’s nose.
PULSE – This is the rhythmic movement of blood through arteries. The heart beats and the blood flows (pulses) through the vessels.
HYDRATION – This is the measure of moisture in pet’s body, which should be about 70% of his body weight.
CAPILLARY REFILL TIME (CRT) – This is a measure of the dog’s circulation/perfusion.
Gum color is a good indicator of overall health. Gums that are pink indicate a normal, healthy pet (unless the gums normally have a dark pigment). Pale or white gums could indicate anemia, blood loss, or poor circulation, blue or grey gums could indicate lack of oxygen, and yellow gums could indicate liver disease or zinc toxicity. In any of these last three cases, immediate veterinary care should be sought.
If you measure your dog’s CRT and it takes longer than 2 seconds for color to return to his gums, your pet needs immediate veterinary care. As you transport, cover him with a light blanket to preserve body heat and slightly elevate his hind quarters (unless accompanied by a bleeding injury to the head or chest) to promote circulation to his vital organs.
WEIGHT – Body weight.
Dogs, like humans, should remain at a healthy weight. You should be able to feel your dogs ribs but not see them (except for super lean breeds like Greyhounds and Ridgebacks), and his belly should tuck up higher than his chest. Looking down at your dog’s back, you should see a slight waistline. If you think your pet may overweight, speak with your veterinarian about a healthy way to help him drop some pounds.
Knowing your dog’s precise weight is imperative before administering treatment or medication. The smaller the pet, the more critical it becomes – even being off by a pound could result in an overdose.
Learning what is normal for your pet will help you determine when something is not right, so practice taking your dog’s vitals and make note of the results. Then, whether it’s an allergic reaction, injury, or illness, you’ll be in the best position to assess your dog’s condition and help him recover.
About the Author: Denise Fleck has trained with 12 national animal organizations and has taught more than 10,000 pet lovers animal life-saving skills. She’s developed courses, written nine books, and created a line of pet first aid kits and posters to help people help their pets BEFORE veterinary care can be reached.