What is Normal?
Keeping a record of your dogs normal vitals can be invaulable in the case of illness.
If you keep at least a twice a year record of your dogs’ vitals, you will know when something is out of the norm.
We have provided the chart we use for each dog in a PDF for your convenience – Get your own chart here
You can print one page out for each dog you have in your life and keep it your record files, with the first aid supplies you keep, or should keep. An easy way to remember to do this is to make it part of your Holiday traditions. For example: New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. While you are taking all these readings, take the time to check your supplies for expiration dates and over all freshness of supplies.
Canine “normal” body temperature range is 100.5 – 102.5 degrees.
A body temperature below 100 or above 103F warrants a call to your veterinarian. The best way to take your dog’s temperature is with a digital thermometer. I have glass thermometers, however they can break and with the prices of digital ones now it makes no sense to take the chance. Guessing your dog’s body temperature by the moistness of the nose or how warm the ears feel is just that, a guess.
To take your dog’s temperature can be a difficult task by yourself. This is best done with a friend to hold or hug your dog’s head with an arm around the shoulder and the other hand over the muzzle. If you must do it yourself, I prefer to lay them down so they can’t wiggle so much and minimize the chance of hurting them. Be sure to use Vaseline, KY Jelly or something like that to lubricate the thermometer. Don’t have any of those in the house? Spit in your hand and smear the tip end of the thermometer in your hand. I know it is gross, but it beats hurting your dog.
Lifting the tail on your Toy or Mini Australian Shepherd can be difficult at best. If your little one doesn’t have enough tail to get a hold of, you can pinch up as much hair as you can get ahold of, brace your wrist against the backbone and lift the tail (or stub) by bending your wrist up. Insert the thermometer slowly and only about an inch deep. If you must use the glass type thermometer, be sure to shake it down first. You will need to keep the thermometer inserted into the rectum for at least two minutes to get a good reading-three is better. If you are using a digital thermometer, listen for the beep.
18-34 breaths per minute
Respiratory rate is the number of breaths per minute. Normal respiratory rates are taken in a resting dog. A dog that is in pain, having heart or respiratory problems, suffering from heatstroke, or simply excited will usually have increased respiratory rates.
This reading isn’t as easy to take as you might think. If you can get your dog to lie down and relax, it helps; however, a standing respiration rate is possible. If they are lying down, count the number of times the rib cage expands. If they are standing you may need to stand over the dog with a hand lightly on either side of the rib cage.
I use a clock or watch that has a second hand. Wait for the second hand to be on 12, 3, 6, or 9. As soon as it gets to one of those, start counting and count for a full 15 seconds. Take that number and multiply by 4. Or, you can count for 10 seconds and multiply by 6.
70-160 beats per minute
The larger the dog, the slower the heart rate may be. The smaller the dog, the higher the heart rate might be. Dogs that are in really good physical shape will have lower heart rates than dogs of similar age and size who are not physically fit (not fat, not lazy, not out of shape). Puppies typically have higher heart rates, up to 180 beats per minute is normal up to one year of age.
To take a heart rate, you can use a stethoscope, just listen with your ear, or feel it with your fingers. If you have a stethoscope, place the head under the front leg at what we think of as an armpit, pressing it lightly into the chest wall. Taking the heart rate with your ear or your fingers can be done in the same area. If you are having a hard time there, you might try finding the major artery that runs on the outside of the hind leg in the hollow near the hock joint, or the one that runs down the front of the front leg close to where the leg comes out of the body. Using the 15 seconds time’s 4 method works as well to determine the heart rate.
This is an important thing for you to know when calling your Vet. It is a good thing to know what your dog’s normal weight and body condition, or score, is. The best chart I have found for making a determination of your dog’s score is provided by the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Body Score.
Most people have a bathroom scale. If you first weigh yourself, then pick up your dog and weigh again, you can determine your dog’s weight by subtracting your weight from the total weight of you and your dog. If you don’t have a scale, drop by your Vet’s office when you are out and about with your dog. Most have a platform scale they will let you use free of charge. Knowing your dog’s weight and body condition when they are well gives you and your vet a base line to work from when your dog may become sick.
Condition of the Mouth
This is a tough one, but by looking in your dog’s mouth often, you can determine what is normal for your dog, provided they don’t have a solid black mouth. Gums should be pink and the same color from the teeth to the flue (upper lip flap) in a healthy dog. If you see redness at the top of the teeth, your dog likely needs a trip to the Vet for a teeth cleaning and or a general checkup. Gum disease can lead to heart problems.
If the gums are gray, white, blue or pale in color, it can be a sign of anemia or a larger problem. Any yellow tint or shade on the gums may lead to blood tests for possible liver problems.
The color of the gums tells your Vet a lot about the health of your dog. Blood pressure can be determined by pressing on the gum for a few seconds, then watching how fast the color comes back to the same as the surrounding area. The inside of the mouth should feel warm and moist to the touch. If the tongue or gum area feel dry or cool to the touch, don’t wait to get your baby help. Call your Vet immediately!