Canine First Aid Part II

Normal Dog Parameters

In early February we introduced the beginning of a CFBA blog series entitled Canine First Aid by Rachel Bean.  The first article was the Introduction to First Aid followed by an Introduction to Rachel Bean, RVN.

There was an unfortunate interruption while we were all adjusting to the ‘new normal’, but over the next few weeks, we will resume the series, starting with Normal Dog Parameters followed by Haemorrhage (Bleeding), Stings, Allergic Reactions & Anaphlaxis, and finally, Poisons & Pesticides.

Normal Temperature, Heart, and Respiratory Rates in Dogs

Attending to your dog’s wellbeing should include basic knowledge of their normal Parameters also known as Vital Signs. If you can recognise normal vital signs then you will be able to establish when vital signs are abnormal and contact your Vet much sooner. This will aid the speed of a potential illness being treated much quicker.

Please keep in mind that these normal values for dogs are approximations and do not apply to every dog in every situation. If you have health concerns about your dog, be sure to consult with your Vet for advice.

Normal Temperature for a dog is 38.3 C to 38.7 C

Most Digital thermometers are in Celsius. It is good practice to have a digital thermometer in your Canine First Aid Kit for whenever you need to check a rectal temperature.

Temperature Abnormalities can be:

  • HYPERTHERMIA: Caused by exercise, agility, working trials or simply running.
  • PYREXIA: Caused by Infections such as infected wounds
  • HYPERTHERMIA: Caused by Hypovolemic Shock,
  • DIPHASIC: Caused by Distemper and other neurological conditions.


Blood pumped into the Aorta during ventricular contraction creates a wave that travels from the heart to the peripheral arteries. This is the Pulse.

Normal Pulse rate for a dog is

  • Small Dog – 100 beats a minute
  • Medium Dog – 80 beats a minute
  • Large/Giant Dog – 50 beats a minute

Taking a pulse rate – Feel how many pulses you can feel in 15 seconds, times by 4 – this gives you the minute rate.

The best place to take a pulse rate from is the Femoral Artery located on the inside of either back leg midthigh region or the heart beat itself located behind the elbow.


Pulse Abnormalities can be:

  • Raised rate
  • Lowered rate
  • Weak pulse
  • Irregular pulse


Respiration is the normal exchange of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide between the air and body tissues. Normal Respiration for a dog is 10 To 30 breaths a minute 

Abnormal Breathing rates:

  • Increased Breathing is called Tachypnea
  • Decreased breathing is called Bradypnea
  • Difficulty breathing is called Dyspnea

Mucous Membrane Colours

Any discolouration of the mucous membranes (gums) can be a lack of oxygen, blood flow, or dehydration. Always seek Veterinary advice if you notice this with your dogs gums.

The gums can also feel “tacky”, meaning they are dry and sticky, where they should be moist like the inside of your mouth. This, along with discolouration, can indicate an emergency.

Take the time to check your dog’s gums frequently. Knowing what they look like on a regular basis.

Normal CAPILLARY Refill time for a Dog is 1 to 2  Seconds

Pale gums caused by Anaemia or internal bleeding. 

Cyanosis caused by lack of Oxygen
Jaundice caused by Liver Issues
Cyanosis caused by lack of Oxygen

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