• Rosie Pascall

Keeping your finger on the "Pulse" of Vital Signs!

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

As a pet owner, knowing your pet's vital signs and normal behaviors is extremely important and part of being a responsible owner. Recognizing abnormal vital signs and behaviors is the first step in deciding if your pup needs veterinary care. Every dog is different but this article will help serve as a basic guide to help you take the "normal" vital signs of your pet.


Using a digital thermometer, lubricate the thermometer with a

water-based lubricant or petroleum jelly and insert the tip into the rectum (just beneath the tail). When the thermometer beeps read the number. It is a good idea to take your dog's temperature when they are in good health, as this acts as a good base line for comparison.

Normal body temperature for a dog is between 99.5 - 102.5 F.

Breathing rate

Watch your dog and the number of times the chest rises and falls in 15 seconds, then x 4 for the breathing rate in 1 minute.

Normal breathing rate is between 10 - 30 breaths per minute and up to 200 pants per minute

(mouth open, tongue out )

Heart Rate

You can feel your dog's heartbeat at the point where their left elbow touches the chest (about the 5th rib). Lay your dog down if possible and place your hand over this area to count the beats. The pulse can also be taken along the femoral artery (mid inner thigh). Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and x 4 for number of beats per minute.

Normal Heart Rates are ;

Puppy (less than 1 year) 120-160 BPM

Small dogs (30 lbs or less) 100-140 BPM

Medium to Large breeds (30 lbs or greater) 60 -100 BPM

Mucous Membrane Colour

A pink colour indicates good circulation and oxygenation going to the tissues. To check the colour of the gums lift the dog's upper or lower lip and observe the colour of gums or inner lip. Blue, gray, yellow or white gums may indicate poor circulation and potentially shock. The inner eyelid should also be pink: pull the skin down gently just under the eye with your thumb. Occasionally some breeds of dog have much darker mucous membranes in their mouth. Double check the membranes of the eye to help with assessment.


Dogs can become dehydrated easily with vomiting or diarrhea. Check by pulling the skin up between your dog's shoulder blades. The skin should spring right back immediately. If it stands up in a tented way, this is a sign of dehydration and veterinary attention may be required.

Capillary Refill Time

Press the gums with your finger and observe how quickly the gums return to their normal pink colour. Normal capillary refill time is 1 to 2 seconds. Prolonged capillary refill time can be a sign of blood not flowing properly or dehydration.


First Aid at your fingertips !

The American Red Cross are an excellent source for trusted First Aid education. Brickell dog walking has current certification for Pet First Aid supplied by the American Red Cross. Click on the image below for information on how to download their app. Having Pet First Aid information immediately available on your phone could be a life saver and at very least could help you if an accident happens and you need to provide care before you can reach a vet.

This article has been designed for educational purposes only. Brickell Dog Walking does not provide Veterinary advice, diagnosis or recommendations. The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian. You are responsible for your decision to obtain treatment for you pet. Users are solely responsible to determine if the information provided is suitable for their pet and reliance on this information is at the users' sole risk. Always consult your pets Veterinarian if you are concerned about your pets health.

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