HOME CHECK PETS VITALS

PART 2

Excessive panting that doesn’t subside requires immediate attention Photo courtesy of Picasa
Excessive panting that doesn’t subside requires immediate attention
Photo courtesy of Picasa

Just like a mother monitors her child’s health, dog and cat parents can also learn to check their pet’s vitals at home. Your cat is vomiting. Your dog is panting excessively. And, you’re not sure what’s wrong. Certainly you are concerned and probably thinking, “Will it pass?” “Is it serious?” “Should I take it to the vet?” 

However, before you call the animal hospital, prepare yourself to tell the nurse or doctor what the vital signs are. And, if you are able to do that, it will save time and enable the experts to quickly advise you on what you should do next.

Monitoring Pet Vital Signs

In my most recent blog entitled Three Pet Vital Signs, https://petpeevesunmasked.com/three-pet-vital-signs/, I lay out the American Red Cross norms for measuring pet temperature, pulse and respiration. And, importantly, it shows how the rates vary between dogs and cats. So, if you missed the article, or want to refresh your memory before we move on, please take a look. 

As you will see, this is an introduction to what follows now. Right here is the information that will give you the knowledge to do these basic checks yourself. It’s concise, easy to follow, and will empower you to handle a situation calmly and effectively.

Tips To Always Home Check Pet Vitals

Keep An Eye On Pet Heart And Pulse Rates 

The first option to check your pet’s heart and pulse rates is place your hand on the left side of your pet’s chest, where the heart is located. Time the number of beats for a period of 15 seconds and multiply it by four. That will give you the number of beats per minute (bpm). 

A close up showing where and how to check your pet’s pulse rate

There are times when you may experience difficulty detecting the heart beat this way, but don’t worry. Try checking the pulse instead. You can do this by placing two fingers together on top of the femoral artery. This major artery passes through the groin, in the thigh area where the elbow meets the chest. But, please note that it can be quite difficult to feel a cat’s pulse in this manner.

Knowing how to home check your pet’s vitals is extremely useful
Knowing how to home check your pet’s vitals is extremely useful

Monitoring Pet Breathing Rates At Home

To measure the breathing rate, count the number of times the chest expands in 15 seconds and multiply by four. This will give you the number of respirations per minutes (rpm). You can either watch the chest rise and fall or else feel it take in oxygen by resting your hand on the pet’s chest. Taking a breath should not make any noise and, at the same time, should require hardly any effort.

Detect Abnormal Pet Body Temperature

There are two ways you can check your pet’s temperature. The first is by inserting a thermometer rectally. However, if you or your pet aren’t comfortable with this method, try an ear thermometer. 

Learning how to use a digital rectal thermometer for pets is not complicated
Learning how to use a digital rectal thermometer for pets is not complicated

Rectal Measuring

Ideally, you will be able to count on having another person there to hold your pet and help keep it relaxed while it is either standing or lying down. Use either an old-fashioned glass thermometer or a newer digital kind that is easy to read and beeps when it is ready to be removed.

It’s a good idea to check your pet’s temperature before you call your vet
It’s a good idea to check your pet’s temperature before you call your vet

Lubricate it with a water-based medical lubricant, or else a generic product such as petroleum jelly. Carefully insert it into the rectum—at least 2cm and no more than 1 inch— and leave for about two minutes until you get a good reading. When you remove the thermometer, make sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect it with ethyl alcohol. You could also use a disposable thermometer cover each time, which is very practical.

Ear Measuring

Definitely easier to use and less uncomfortable for your pet is the hand-held digital ear thermometer. The marketing pitch for the one shown in this photo actually focuses on pediatricians and mothers, but I have successfully used it for pets in my care.

You can also monitor your pet’s temperature with a digital ear thermometer
You can also monitor your pet’s temperature with a digital ear thermometer

Firstly, you need to make sure the probe tip and lens are clean and then put on a new disposable lens cover. Push the start button and wait for the ready signal beep. Next, fit the probe tip snugly into the ear canal and release the start button. A long beep will let you know when the measuring process is complete and the result will appear on the display screen. It’s that simple!

To Sum Up

Invest a little time to learn these techniques to monitor your pet’s vital signs at home, and put them into practice periodically. Depending on the circumstances, this knowledge will either help keep your pet well, or stable, or, simply put, out of danger.

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!