Vital Signs for Cats & Dogs
Normal heart rate ranges
Dogs 80-140 Cats 120-180
(beats per minute)
Normal body temperature
Dogs and Cats 100.5ºF — 102.5ºF
Find the heartbeat by putting your hands around the chest just behind its elbow and gently pressing down.
To establish a pet’s temperature, lubricate the bulb end of a rectal thermometer and gently insert 2 inches into the rectum, holding the animal, its tail, and the thermometer steady. (Don’t lubricate the end you have to hold as it will be very difficult to maneuver.) The reading can be taken after 1 or 2 minutes. This may involve more than one person as it is unlikely the animal will take this lying down unless it is very sick!
To check for respiration observe movement in the chest. A thread or hair in front of the nose will reveal air flow. A mirror held under the nostrils will mist up if respiration is taking place.
The animal’s abdominal thrust goes like this. Hold the animal against you and clasp your hands around the upper abdomen; or lay the animal on a firm surface and place one hand on top of the other, with the heel of the bottom hand placed into the midline of the abdomen, just below the rib cage. Push or lift upwards, using moderate force, one or more times to dislodge the object.
If you have someone with you get them to open the animal’s mouth and hold its tongue and lower jaw. You can then remove the object with fingers or forceps. Go to the veterinarian to check the animal for injury
- Remove any mucus or foreign objects from the mouth and pull down the tongue.
- Place your mouth over the animal’s nostrils (or nostrils and mouth on small animals) and blow. The chest should rise.
- Repeat. This is a rough guide to the rate.
- over 60 lbs: 10 per minute or every 6 seconds
- 11 to 60 lbs: 15 per minute or every 4 seconds
- 10 lbs or less: 20 per minute or every 3 seconds
- Allow the air to escape from the lungs between breaths.
- Continue until normal breathing resumes. (Up to an hour).
- Monitor heartbeats. CPR may be required if these stop.
- Wrap in something warm and seek veterinary help.
If the animal’s heart stops you should start chest compressions. These are alternated with breaths with the ratio of compressions to breaths as approximately 15:2.
Position a large dog on its back and compress the chest, just like for humans.
For small dogs, and cats, as well as large dogs with funnel chests, you may need to put the animal on its right side and compress the side of the rib cage. Alternatively you can position the animal on its back and press on both sides of the rib cage.
The rate of chest compressions varies with the size of the animal:
- > 60 lbs: 60 compressions per minute – 1 per second
- 11 to 60 lbs: 80-100 compressions per minute – 1 every 1½ seconds
- 10 lbs or less: 120 compressions per minute – 1 every 2 seconds.
Don’t be too forceful. It is really easy to snap a rib doing CPR too enthusiastically.
If you suspect POISONING
Always call a veterinarian or poison-control center immediately and ask for advice. Have labels from the container ready to read to the poison control operative.
If you are told to give liquids, use a spoon or syringe or basting tube, hold the animal firmly, grasp the mouth and keep the head tilted back. For dogs, form a pocket by pulling the corner of the mouth away from the jaw. Keep the head elevated and stroke the throat to encourage swallowing.
NEVER give liquids to an animal that is not alert
Keep a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide on hand to mix with water as an emetic
Do not induce vomiting if a strong acid or alkali or a petroleum-based product has been ingested. Milk or water may be given in most cases to wash and neutralize the esophagus.
Transporting and injured animal
When approaching an injured animal, always remember that pain and fright may cause even the most mild-mannered pet to bite or scratch. Approach an injured animal calmly and slowly and never put your face in a vulnerable position as even a partially paralyzed animal may be able to lunge. If an injured animal appears too dangerous to handle on your own, then DON’T. Contact your local humane society or animal-control center for help.
USE A BLANKET: A blanket held at the four corners makes an effective stretcher. A smaller animal like a cat may be wrapped in a coat or towel and the placed in a box to keep quiet.
CATS: Lift a cat by firmly holding the scruff of the neck with one hand and supporting the underside of the body with the other. Stressed cats may be covered with a towel before being handled and placed in a sturdy box or carrier. Wear gloves while handling such a cat if at all possible.
The Squirrel says: Every pet owner should have a comprehensive book on first aid for pets and keep it handy. Ask your veterinarian to recommend one. A favorite is “Pet First Aid: Cats and Dogs” by Bobbie Mammato and although this is currently out of print it can often be purchased through Amazon.com Marketplace sellers. Other books: “Emergency Care for Cats and Dogs: First Aid for Your Pet” by Craton R. Burkholder and “Pet Repair: Patching up Spot and Sylvester: Useable First Aid for Dogs & Cats” by Jack H. McElyea, et al (spiral-bound)