Vital Signs in small Animals

  • Blog >
  • Vital Signs in small Animals
RSS Feed

Vital Signs in small Animals

So you are thinking you may have a pet emergency? Do you know your pet's vital signs? Do you know what normal vital signs even are for your size pet? You are not alone if you answered that "no." Let us help you!


First of all, Check your pet's temperature. The Best way to accomplish this is to take the temperature with a digital thermometer in the rectum. Put a small amount of Vaseline on the end and slide it in about 1/4 inch, not too far. Do not think that a "cold nose" means a dog is sick. Take the temperature!

Normal Temperature for a pet is : 100.5 F-102.5 F

Abnormal is less than 99.5 or Greater than 102.4. Now , after excitement, or being in a hot or cold environment, those temperatures can certainly go up and down, so wait a few minutes after you initially get the temperature, get your pet to a neutral temperature environment with minimal stress, and try again for accuracy!


Your pet's gum color should be a bright healthy pink color. After all, the gum color of a pet indicates good blood circulation and an adequate amount of oxygen going to the tissues. IF your pet's gums are pale, that can mean blood loss, blood destruction, or poor perfusion, all reasons to get to the vet ASAP.

Other colors that are abnormal are injected red , blue, gray or white.

If you gently lift the lip of your pet, either the upper or the lower lip, take notice of the gum color prior to contacting your emergency DVM so you can provide them with as much information as possible.

Another helpful hint: press on those gums and count how long it takes before the color returns. Ideally, you want that color to come back within 3 seconds. If it is longer, again you may have an emergency with your pet.


Normal Respirations for pets are as follows;

CATS- 20 to 30 breaths per minute

if panting they can be up to 300/minute. Remember, cats only pant if highly stressed and it should stop quite quickly. If a cat is labored in it's breathing, you very well may have a pet emergency.


Puppies rate is 15-40 breaths per minute

Dogs normal is 10-30 breaths per minute

Toy breeds are 15-40 breaths per minute

It is important to note that a slow or very rapid respiration rate, blue tongue, abdominal breathing , breathing with the mouth open, all are considered veterinary emergencies and your pet should be seen.


The heart rate of a pet can be determined by placing your hand underneath the armpit on the chest, or inside a rear leg on the femoral artery.

Cats normal heart rates are 110-120 beats per minute

Puppies normal heart rates are 70-120 beats per minute

Dogs normal heart rates are 70-180 beats per minute depending on the size of the dog.

Large breeds will very from 70-100 /min

where small breeds are 100-140, and toy breeds can go up to 180 beats per minute,.

If you detect an abnormally HIGH or LOW heartrate, again, this is reason to be alarmed and contact your emergency veterinarian.


Knowing if your pet is or is not dehydrated is yet another determining factor in if you do or do not have a pet emergency. Dehydration occurs very quickly when a small pet has had vomiting or diarrhea for even a day.

The best test is to grab the skin between the shoulder blades or on the side, pinch it together and pull back. If the skin takes a long time to return to the body wall, your pet is dehydrated, versus if it bounces right back. Also, take a look at those gums again. If the gums are dry and tacky, chances are your pet is in need of some Intravenous or Subcutaneous Fluid therapy to avoid further complications.

We hope this helps and are always there to answer any questions you may have about your pets potential emergency.

We look forward to seeing you!