Do you know what your dog's normal temperature is or how to tell if he is too hot or cold? Does he seem to be panting heavily? How would you know if you don't know what is normal? What about his heart rate?
These are all very good questions, and if you don't know what your pup's normal vital signs are, how can you know if there is something wrong with him? As a responsible pet owner, you spend a good deal of your time watching the way your dog behaves, and are often the first one to notice any changes. The best way to know if he is hurting in any way is to know what is normal for him.
What is considered a normal heartbeat for a dog varies based on the size of dog in question. Smaller dogs have a faster heartbeat than larger ones. At the same time, a younger dog's heart will also beat faster than an older one. It also depends on what your dog has been doing, for example, his heartbeat will be slower after a nap than it would be immediately after vigorous exercise.
According to the ASPCA:
Small dogs average 90 to 120 beats per minute
Medium dogs average 70 to 110 beats per minute
Large dogs average 60 to 90 beats per minute
Puppies up to one year of age may go as high as 180 beats per minute
Along with this, the individual dog's health will also have an effect; a healthy dog will likely have a lower heart rate than one who is perhaps not quite so healthy. If you suspect your dog's heart rate is out of normal or have more questions about what is normal for your dog, be sure to talk to your vet. A significant increase or decrease in his heart rate can be an indication of a more serious medical condition such as dehydration, heart disease, shock, or fever. If you are not sure how to check your dog's heart rate, be sure to have your vet show you how on your next visit.
The level of activity can affect your dog's breathing rate just as much as it does his heart rate. There are other factors that can affect his breathing rates such as the temperature (dogs cool themselves down by panting as they have limited sweat glands), various diseases, pollution, and anxiety. With so many different things affecting your dog's rate of breathing, it is vital you know what is normal in order for you to know when something is out of whack.
According to the ASPCA:
The average number of breaths per minute for most dogs averages between 12 and 24, based in part on the breed of dog, his overall health, and what activity he has been involved in. Normal respiration is quiet and harder to detect than panting. But you can easily check your dog's rate by either observing his chest rising and falling or by placing your hand on his chest. Count the number of breaths he takes in ten seconds and then multiply this number times six.
According to the ASPCA, normal dog temperatures range from 100.5 degrees to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If for any reason your dog's temperature goes above or below these figures, you need to take him in to see his vet or the nearest animal emergency hospital for examination. Temperatures below 100.5 could be an indication of hypothermia, those above 102.5 could indicate heat stroke, circulatory issues, or fever, all of which need veterinary intervention and treatment.
Again, you should ask your vet to show you how to check your dog's temperature properly. You should never judge your dog's temperature by how warm, cold, or moist his nose happens to be. Your dog's health is in your hands--by knowing what these norms are, you have a much better chance of noticing if anything is out of the ordinary. This way you can get your dog in to be seen by a vet sooner rather than later; it could be the difference between life and death in certain instances. If you have any questions, be sure to talk to your vet and have him show you how to check your dog's vitals and then do so frequently.