As a Medical First Responder/Rescue Technician I have received lots of training, and lots of practice. None of that training pertained specifically to the beloved 4-legged German Shepherd that I work for (I mean with, I think.)
I decided that I would like to change that, and learn to apply my knowledge to him as well. My partner “Hans”, and many of his canine counterparts, work with such drive and determination that they will inevitably suffer cuts, scrapes, contusions, puncture wounds, heat stroke, frostbite, snake bite, tick bites, snagged toe nails, bee stings, and a litany of other possible ouchies. Yes, “Ouchies”…How YOU react when it happens can make all the difference. You can’t react properly without knowledge. I’ve had lots of help compiling this information from various sources including my own Veterinarian, Jon Nowery. It’s proven to have been worth my time, and it will be worth your attention as well. Lets start with standard vital signs for canines.
Resting Heart Rate- 60 to 180 beats per minute
Body Temperature – 101 degrees F. (38.5 Celsius for those so inclined)
Pulse : 120 to 130 per minute active, less than 90 per minute at rest. Irregular rates are not unusual for dogs, so be observant
Respiration: 15 to 30 breaths per minute, but do not include PANTING behavior as a respiration. Panting is a different biological function.
Body wieght (GSD Specific) : 80 to 110 pounds is considered medically ideal, but larger and smaller sizes can be healthy and sound. Consult veterinarian for your individual dog.
Your first question might be, “How do I take my dogs PULSE?
There are several areas on the dog’s body where you may be able to feel the pulse. A pulse occurs with every heart beat. Sometimes, you can just place your hands low on your dog’s chest, near the elbow joint, and feel the heart beats. You can count how many beats you feel in 15 seconds and then multiply it be 4. That will give you the pulse.
A second place to find the pulse is high on the inner side of the thigh. You will be feeling for the femoral artery. Place two fingers on the middle of the thigh near where the leg joins the body. What you feel is the ‘femoral pulse.’ The femoral pulse can be very difficult to feel in cats.
It is always best to use your fingers to feel the pulse. If you use your thumb, and press too hard, what you feel will actually be your own pulse.
The normal pulse for a dog ranges from 70 to 180 beats per minute. In general, the larger the dog, the slower the pulse. Puppies generally have a fast pulse, up to 220 beats per minute. Cats usually have a pulse of 120-240 beats per minute.
The pulse of a dog is not always steady. Sometimes, the rate changes as the dog breathes in and out. The pulse will be faster on inspiration and slower on expiration. This is normal and is called sinus arrhythmia.
What about his Blood Pressure?
Normal levels of blood pressure in dogs is defined as a reading of that is roughly equivalent to humans or around 108. Pressure levels higher than 160-180 mmHG for systolic blood pressure or diastolic pressure greater than 100 mmHg could be cause for concern. Unfortunately there are no standardized levels across breeds that can be used to gauge what is normal blood pressure.
Also, your veterinarian will take into account something called “white coat syndrome” where being at the stress of being at the veterinarian can cause an increase in pressure.
Blood pressure in dogs is taken using a cuff around the leg or with a device that is similar to a stethoscope using “doppler” technology. The around where the device is pressed to the skin may have to be shaved. It is not easy to get an accurate reading.
If you veterinarian sees that your dog has systolic pressure that is greater than 180 mm Hg then they will probably conclude that your dog has hypertension or high blood pressure. The next step is to understand the cause. Dogs suffering from high blood pressure can do damage to the kidneys, liver and heart.
Unlike humans, taking a dog’s blood pressure may not be a standard part of your dog’s annual exam. If it isn’t ask your veterinarian if he or she is able to take an accurate reading.
What if I believe my dog is Panting excessively?
The bottom line is, get to understand your dog’s normal behavior better. If your dog is a “great panter”, there is no need to be alarmed if he is huffing and puffing after a walk. However, any change in the frequency or intensity of panting in your dog in the absence of any stimulation (e.g. heat, vigorous exercise) calls for attention as there probably is something wrong with the dog. So, if your dog pants heavily while resting or if he continues to pant for over ten minutes after an exercise session or exposure to heat, veterinary examination is advisable.
Next Post, we will discuss the art of “Triage” for your dog…Thanks for reading!