The GOLD STANDARD IN rehabilitation treatments and wellness programmes for dogs

Normal Vital Signs

By understanding the normal vital sign values in dogs you can then know what is abnormal. This is essential knowledge to be able to administer safe first aid treatment.

Body temperature

Normal body temperature is 38.3 to 39.2 degrees celcius. Temperatures under 37.5 or over 39.6 should be considered an emergency.

Heart rate

Normal heart rates in dogs average between 60-140 beats per minute (bpm). The larger the bread the slower the heart rate and the smaller the faster the heart rate. The best places to check a heart rate are:

  • The inside of the hind leg where you can feel the femoral pulse
  • The left side of the dog’s chest behind the point of their bend elbow

You should feel a lub lub sensation – which is a single beat. The pulse should be palpable for each beat. It should also be strong and synchronous.

Breathing rate

Dogs naturally take 10 to 30 breaths per minute. The average dog at rest takes 24 breaths per minute. To check your dog’s respiration rate, count the chest movements for 15 seconds and multiply by four. You should observe the effort, depth and character of their breathing.

Capillary Refill Time

This is the time that it takes for the gums to return to their normal salmon pink colour after you put pressure on them with a finger. It should only take 1 to 2 seconds for the colour to return. It’s an emergency if it is more than 3 seconds.

Mucous membrane colour

Dog gums (mucous membrane) are normally a healthy salmon pink and moist. Don’t be worried if they have some black pigmentation too – that is normal for some dogs. If the gums are white or pale the dog is likely in shock. If they are blue they are suffering from low oxygen. If they are very dark red this is a sign of heat stroke, sepsis or carbon monoxide poisoning.