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How to Take a Dog's Vital Signs

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Use a rectal thermometer to take your dog's temperature when you think he might be ill. Rub a little petroleum jelly on the tip and insert it 1 inch into his rectum. Leave it there for 1 minute. Hold the base of his tail firmly during this process to prevent him from sitting on the thermometer.

Read the temperature. A normal temperature for a healthy dog is between 101 degrees and 102 degrees. Some vets recommend calling their office when your dog's temperature reaches 103 degrees. A temperature of 100 degrees or lower in a female dog, close to giving birth, indicates labor is imminent.

Count your dog's heart rate by having him stand (if he can) and reaching underneath his ribcage, just behind his elbows. Count the beats for 30 seconds, then multiply by 2.

Compare the heart rate to that of a healthy dog. Large breed dogs have a normal heart rate between 70 and 120 beats per minute. Medium dogs have a normal rate between 80 and 120 beats per minute. Small breed dogs have a normal rate between 80 and 140 beats per minute. Puppies have the highest heart rate, between 80 and 220 beats per minute.

Observe your dog's respiratory rate by watching his ribcage. Panting doesn't count when taking his respiratory rate, although excessive panting with no apparent cause might signify an overheated or excited dog. A normal respiratory rate for a dog is between 10 and 30 breaths per minute.
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