How to Monitor Vital Signs


Icon of a book Monitoring Vital Signs

Dogs:

All caretakers or breeders need to know what is “normal” for their dogs. Dog vital signs include temperature, pulse and respiration.

The normal parameters of dog vital signs can be an essential benchmark in monitoring health.

Temperature 

A dog’s temperature can be taken by gently inserting a lubricated thermometer into the rectum. A small amount of mineral oil, petroleum jelly or other non-toxic lubricants placed on the end of the thermometer will make the process more comfortable for the dog. The thermometer should be held and the animal gently restrained while taking the temperature to prevent injury or the thermometer breaking. Digital thermometers signal when the temperature has stabilized. 

The normal body temperature of a dog is between 38.3°C to 39.2°C. 

  • A high body temperature can indicate that the dog may be sick and require a veterinarian. 
  • The dog’s condition should not be assessed only on the basis of whether their nose is cool or warm. Warm ears can signal a fever, but should not be used as the only indicator of illness.

Pulse 

The pulse rate – or heart rate – of dogs vary, depending on body size. A normal heart rate is between 50 and 130 beats per minute in a resting dog. Smaller dogs, as well as puppies, will have a faster heart rate, while large dogs have slower heart rates. The heart rate can be taken by locating the dog’s pulse on the femoral artery at the inner thigh of a hind leg. 

Respiration 

The normal respiration rate for dogs is 10 to 34 respirations per minute, depending on body size. An abnormally high rate is an indication of distress or stress. 

Respiratory rates should be measured when a dog is resting. A dog that is in distress, pain or simply excited will usually have a higher respiratory rate.

Cats:

All cat owners or breeders need to know what is “normal” for their cats. A cat’s vital signs include body temperature, pulse and respiration.

The normal parameters of the cat’s vital signs can be an essential benchmark in monitoring health.

Temperature 

A cat’s temperature can be taken by gently inserting a lubricated thermometer into the rectum. Using a bit of mineral oil or a different non-toxic lubricant will make the process easier and more comfortable for the cat. The thermometer should be held and the cat gently restrained, while taking the temperature to prevent it from breaking. Digital thermometers signal when the temperature has stabilized. 

The normal body temperature of a cat is between 38°C to 39.1°C. 

  • A high body temperature can indicate that the cat may be sick and require a veterinarian. 
  • The condition of cats should not be assessed only on the basis of whether their nose is cool or warm. Warm ears can signal a fever, but should not be used as the only indicator of illness.

Pulse 

The pulse rate, or heart rate, of cats is between 110 and 130 beats per minute. A normal heart rate should consist of two separate beats with a silent interval between them and a regular rhythm. The heart rate can be taken by locating the cat’s pulse on the femoral artery at the inner thigh of a rear leg or behind the front leg. 

Respiration 

The normal respiration rate for cats is 20 to 30 respirations per minute. An abnormally high rate is an indication of distress or stress. When cats pant, their respiration rates can go as high as 300 pants per minute. However, cats do not usually pant unless they are in a stressful situation, frightened or in very hot weather. A cat should not pant for more than a few minutes at a time.


Icon of a graded written submission Vital Signs (Activity)

It is important to monitor vital signs, which indicate body functions and provide a “window” into the health of the animal. Vital signs include body temperature, heart rate (pulse) and breathing rate, or respiration. Regular monitoring of an animal’s vital signs can help give an indication of what is “normal” for that animal. 

Take a few minutes to complete the following activity. 

Activity Instructions

  1. Open your copy of the activities booklet for this module which you saved on your computer at the beginning of the module.
  2. Scroll down to the “Vital Signs” activity item in the booklet.
  3. Complete each of the activities outlined in the instructions. Note: links provided in the “Weblinks” item located later in this module may help you complete the activity.
  4. SAVE your work.

When you are done, proceed to the next item here in the online course.

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