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These indicators can help you better understand your pet's health.

Health & Wellness

What are normal vital signs for a dog?

These indicators can help you better understand your pet's health.

Knowing your dog’s vital signs can come in handy if there’s ever an emergency because you’ll know what’s normal and healthy for them and what’s not. This way, you can gauge how serious the situation is and be able to share more information with your vet when in a pinch.

The three main vital signs you should measure are your dog’s body temperature and heart and respiratory rates, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, tells The Dig. Here’s an explainer of why these numbers are so important and how to track them so that you can be prepared at a moment’s notice.

What is the average body temperature for dogs? 

The average body temperature for both dogs (and cats, too) ranges between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (around 37 and 38 degrees Celsius), Dr. McCullough says. The best way to take their temperature is by using a rectal thermometer — but by no means is this the easiest, most relaxing way for your pup. Using a toy or treat can help to distract them during this experience. 

If your dog is too uncomfortable with a rectal thermometer (we understand!) Dr. McCullough recommends using an ear or infrared thermometer for dogs. However, ear and infrared thermometers may not be as accurate, she says. 

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What is the standard heart rate for dogs?

According to Dr. McCullough, a standard heart rate for dogs is 60 to 140 beats per minute (BPM). To check your dog's heart rate, place your hand on your pup's chest (their heart is on the left side) and count the number of beats for 15 seconds, then multiply that number by four. And don't be alarmed if your pup's heart skips a beat. 

"A dog's heart rate can speed up or slow down depending on breathing," Dr. McCullough explains. "This is a specific type of arrhythmia, an irregular heart rhythm, called respiratory sinus arrhythmia and is considered normal in dogs."

If your pup's skipped heartbeat accompanies other symptoms, like difficulty breathing, coughing, decreased ability to exercise, fainting, lethargy, reduced appetite or a swollen belly, check in with your vet to see what's going on with your dog. 

What is a normal respiratory rate for dogs? 

It's good to track your dog's respiratory rate, which is the speed your dog breathes while they're healthy, still or resting. This number will serve as an excellent benchmark to make comparisons. Dr. McCullough explains that a healthy dog takes 12 to 24 breaths per minute. 

Do you want to track your dog's respiratory rate? Here's how. While watching your dog or keeping your hand on their ribs, monitor the number of times their chest expands within 10 seconds and multiply that number by six. 

When a dog is breathing normally, they shouldn't make any noise, and it should seem fluid (similar to how you'd typically breathe). However, if your dog has a shorter snout — like a pug — don't be surprised if they snort a bit. Contact your vet if your pup is snorting in a way that's out of character and experiencing other symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing, decreased ability to exercise, fainting, lethargy, reduced appetite or a swollen belly.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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