Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration in Puppies

Check your furry friends vital signs when he isnt his spunky self.

Pets cant speak up when theyre sick, so they count on their human friends to watch out for illness. Some of the most basic indicators of your puppys health are the vital signs: temperature, pulse, and respiration. Checking these signs is a good place to start if youre worried your puppy might not be feeling up to snuff.

Contrary to what you may have heard, a pups warm, dry nose does not always indicate fever. On the other hand, if you notice lethargy, a poor appetite, and overall increased body warmth, your suspicion of fever is probably right on. To confirm a fever, youll need to take your puppys temperature with a rectal thermometer.

This isnt the most comfortable task for either of you, so ask someone else to hold and soothe him during the process. If you dont have help, encourage your dog to lay in your lap or brace him against your body and hold him securely with your arm. If he struggles, he can break the thermometer and injure himself.

Lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly and insert it about one inch into your puppys rectum. Hold onto the thermometer throughout the procedure. Youll get an accurate reading in about two minutes. Hang in theretwo minutes in this position seems like forever. If you feel you cant safely take your puppys temperature, call your veterinarian.

Your puppys normal temperature should be between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees F. Anything higher than 103 degrees indicates a fever, and you should call your veterinarian right away so he or she can pinpoint the problem.

Pulse or Heart Rate
Depending on his age and size, your puppys heart rate should generally be between 80 and 140 beats per minute. Larger dogs tend to have slower heart rates than smaller dogs, and puppies and toy breeds may be at the high end of the scale. Your veterinarian can tell you precisely what rate to expect for your dog.

You can check your puppys heart rate in two ways. The first is by taking his pulse on the inside upper thigh of either rear leg. Thats where the pulse is strongest.

Place two fingers on the pulse and count the beats for one minute. If your puppy refuses to hold still that long, count for 15 seconds and multiply the beats by four. The beats should feel strong and regular. If his pulse is weak, erratic, or too fast or slow, call your veterinarian.

If youre having difficulty checking the pulse at his thigh, place your hand on the left side of your puppys chest just behind the elbow. In this location, youll feel the normal bu-bum of the hearts double beat. Count each double beat as one and count the beats for one minute.

Respiration or Breathing
Your puppys breathing is another basic indicator of his health. You can check his breathing by counting the number of breaths he takes per minutejust watch the movement of his chest. He should take about 10 to 30 breaths a minute. If his breathing seems too slow or labored, or if the rate is rapid while hes resting, call your veterinarian.