Dogs And Cats – Normal Vital Signs

To know what is abnormal in our pets, we have to first know what is normal. Three important vital signs to check: temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate. Vital signs in our dogs and cats are affected by their state of anxiety , life stage and activity as well as external factors such as room temperature. These reference numbers are to serve as a general guide.

Heart rate per minute 80 – 120
Respiratory rate per minute 15 – 30
Temperature 38 – 39.2 °C
Heart rate per minute 100 – 140
Respiratory rate per minute 20 – 30
Temperature 38 – 39.2 °C
How to CHECK Temperature

The most accurate way to take our dog’s or cat’s temperature is with a digital thermometer inserted rectally. Lubricate the thermometer with a water-based lubricant like KY jelly. Insert the thermometer gently into the rectum, located just below the base of the tail, and leave it in place until it beeps.

Gradually condition your dog or cat to allow this. Do it slowly & gently. Someone to hold onto your pet is helpful too. Reward your dog or cat with their favourite treats after the procedure.

How to MEASURE Heart Rate

The average heart rate of dogs and cats may vary according to breed and size, so it is important to know what is normal for your dog and cat when they are relaxed and at rest. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply by 4 to get the heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).

Small dogs generally have faster heart rates while large dogs and those in good physical condition have slower rates. Dr Iin, Mount Pleasant (East), with Batman the Chihuahua.

Heart rates may also be higher when your pets are in the clinics or at events, due to anxiety & excitement. Dr Hazel Tan, Mount Pleasant (Mandai), with Cinnamon a shelter dog.

Feel your dog’s heartbeat with one hand over the left side, just behind the front leg.

You can also check the heart rate by locating the femoral artery near the top of the inner thigh.

How to MEASURE Respiratory Rate

The chest rises with inspiration and falls with expiration. One cycle of inspiration and expiration equals one breath. When your dogs or cats are at rest, check their respiratory rate by counting the number of breaths for 1 minute. 

Practise these steps at home until you are familiar with your pets’ normal vital signs and know when they seem “off” and require vet attention.


Always seek veterinary advice when your pets display signs of pain or discomfort. The earlier the problem is identified and treated, the better the outcome. Your pet needs emergency medical attention if you observe the following symptoms:

  • struggling to breathe, gagging or trying to vomit
  • seizures or fits
  • signs of extreme pain (e.g. whining, trembling)
  • heatstroke (e.g. panting, weakness, high temperature)
  • vomiting or having diarrheao for more than 24 hours
  • straining or unable to urinate or defecate
  • bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth
  • ingestion of toxic substances (e.g. rat poison, insecticide, medication, household cleaners)
  • sudden loss of vision or bumping in things
  • difficulty in giving birth
  • swollen abdomen (could be life-threatening condition called bloat or gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV) – “stomach twisting”)


We welcome medical stories of your animal friends to educate and inspire others. Email us at and be part of Mount Pleasant community over at our Website and Facebook.