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Health & Wellness

How to take your pet’s vital signs

Another way to better understand their health

Being familiar with your pet’s vital signs can help if there’s ever an emergency because you’ll know what’s normal for them and what’s not.

The three main vital signs you should measure are heart rate, respiratory rate and body temperature. Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough breaks down why these numbers are so important and how you can track them at home.

Heart rate

A normal heart rate for dogs is 60 to 140 beats per minute (BPM), and for cats it’s 160 to 240 BPM. To check their heart rate, simply place your hand on your pet’s chest and count the number of beats for 15 seconds. Then multiply the number by four. 

If your pet’s heart skips a beat, don’t be alarmed, as it’s common in cats and dogs. If you’re worried, though — or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms — check in with your vet to ensure that your pet is OK.

Respiratory rate

It’s also smart to track your pet’s respiratory rate at rest. A healthy dog takes 12 to 24 breaths per minute, while a cat takes 20 to 30 breaths per minute. While watching your pet, or while keeping your hand on their ribs, monitor the amount of times their chest expands within 10 seconds and then multiply that number by six. 

Normal breathing shouldn’t make any noise and it should seem easy. However, if you have a pet with a shorter snout, like a pug dog, or a Himalaysian or Persian cat, don’t be alarmed if they snort a bit (though again, check in with your vet if their noisy breathing is accompanied by other symptoms). 

Body temperature

A normal body temperature for both cats and dogs ranges between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (around 37 and 38 degrees Celsius). The best way to take their temperature is to use a rectal thermometer. Using a toy or a treat will distract them during this process. If you or your pet is uncomfortable with this method, use an ear thermometer or an infrared thermometer made for animals instead — but it may be slightly less accurate. 

Knowing how to take your pet’s vital signs is an important key to monitoring and managing their health. It's easy to do, and it’s one more way you can become the best pet parent possible.

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