dog vital signs

Dog Vital Signs Every Dog Parent Should Know

A diligent dog parent knows when to feed their dog, that weight management is important, having veterinary checkups is key, but what about dog vital signs? It’s important to know what is normal so that when something is not right, you can seek veterinary care for your dog.

Dog vital signs

At their core, vital signs are the most measurements of the body’s most basic functions. Here are dog vital signs every dog parent should know and why:


Unlike a human, who averages around 98.6 as a normal body temperature, for dogs the range is different. In dogs, a normal temperature is between 100.5 and 102.5 Fahrenheit (38.0 C‐ 39.1 Celsius).

A cool nose is not a sign that an animal does not have a fever. From experience and in talking to many veterinary professionals over the years, a dog’s nose can be cool while he or she has a high body temperature.

The folks at petMD say, “Fever is not the disease itself, but a response to the threat of disease. Therefore, it should be remembered that fevers can be beneficial for a sick animal, as it lowers the rapid division of bacteria and enhances the body’s immune system response.”

Knowing if your dog has a temperature can be difficult, but sometimes there are outward symptoms, which include but are not limited to:

  • Lethargy
  • Depressed mood
  • Shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge

Taking a Dog’s Temperature

Allow a veterinary professional to show you how to take your dog’s temperature. A digital rectal thermometer for dogs is your best bet.

brush dog teeth
Check gums – these are healthy and normal.


A dog’s gums should be a healthy pink, bright color. Know what normal is so that you are aware of abnormal. As part of your dog’s daily or nightly tooth brushing routine, this is a good time to check the gums. If gums or white, blue, red, or grey, then seek veterinary care.  A capillary refill test is helpful to see if the gums are functioning with good blood circulation and oxygentation.

I check my dog’s gums for any change in color from their usual pink to reddish healthy hue to anything that slightly resembles pale.

One of the things to be concerned with as a diligent dog parent is IMHA, Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Pale gums are a first sign and requires urgent medical care.

CLICK THIS: The Reality of A Dog With IMHA

Heart Rate

A dog’s heartbeat should have a sound that consists of two separate beats with a silent interval between them and then a regular rhythm. It sounds like LUB DUB, LUB DUB, sort of like a drum.

In puppies, a heart beats between 70 and 120 times a minute, where as in an adult dog the heart beats about 70 to 80 beats per minute. For toy breeds, this can vary between 70 and 220 beats per minute.

Here’s a great video to show you how to measure a dog’s heart rate:

Respiratory Rate

The respiratory rate of the dog has to do with his or her breathing.  In puppies, a normal respiratory rate is 15 to 40 breaths per minute. In adult dogs, it is 10 to 30 breaths per minute. In the smaller, toy breeds a normal respiratory rate ranges between 15 and 40 breaths per minute.

What about a panting dog? Dogs who are nervous at the veterinarian, are exercising, or in some capcity are panting can produce up to 200 pants per minute.

Visibly, you should be able to see if your dog is showing any signs of respiratory distress. Take a close look at his or her abdomen. If the abdomen expands instead of the chest when the dog inhales, this is abnormal and you need to seek veterinary attention immediately.

This video gives a wonderful run through of vital signs, with the respiratory rate at position 1:58:

Medicine Vs. Mom

In an effort to bring you full insight in dog health and dog wellness news, Fidose of Reality regularly produces content with our pal, Rachel Sheppard from My Kid Has Paws. Rachel is a former veterinary technician and we encourage you to read her take on dog vital signs.

medicine versus mom

Question: Do you check your dog’s vitals from time to time?

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  1. I love that you brought up the “cool nose” myth. I heard this a lot from pet parents while working in the veterinary hospital and it is so important they know that isn’t indicative of temperature. The videos you selected are excellent, I love writing this series with you, and I hope this helps as many pet parents as possible!

  2. Interesting since we never took an in depth look into vitals since they are always normal
    Lily & Edward

  3. This post is so important for pet parents. Too often we overlook tell-tale signs until it’s too late. I made copies of your points to know just what the numbers should be for heart and respiratory rates and posted them on the fridge. The videos were excellent and helpful.

  4. I’m constantly checking my dogs health, Especially things like their gums. I also check lymph nodes daily on Ty and weekly on Eve..

  5. This is an incredibly valuable resource that pet parents should bookmark…or better yet, memorize! It could in fact save a dog’s life. Thanks once more for excellent information!

  6. It is so important to be the first line of offense for your pet’s health. Any deviation from normal eating, drinking, and behavior can be an indication of illness. Thank you for posting this detailed information.

  7. Excellent information. I check Kilo’s gums and am constantly monitoring his behaviour and breathing. Pugs can struggle with reverse sneezing, snoring snorting and panting which I find worrying. Interesting about fever as I had assumed that a warm nose was one of the signals. See you and family soon at BlogPaws.

  8. Great article, Carol! I’m a new dog mom, and I really appreciate all the information. Especially when it related to my pups overall health. The videos were very helpful as well! Thanks!

  9. Is there a convenient paper or some such, that has this listed so I could put it up on my wall? I keep dog leashes, poison alerts for food, medicines, etc in one place. This is so important that I’d like a check list to have.

  10. Didn’t know about the respiratory distress sign. My overweight long hair chihuahua, a female recently was diagnosed with lipomas on both sides. Kind of feels like a waterbed situation when you pick her up. I would like to know the best way to get rid of them. They were not tested. I have to males and when it is hot she pants much more than they so so this really concerns me. Even though the vet didn’t seem too concerned. What should I do to ? remedy this? She is 6 years old. Thank you.

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