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

Table of Contents

Articles welcome:

January 2020 Newsletter

The next series of blogs is from Rachel Bean RVN. 

It is a series on First Aid and will include the following topics:

  • Introduction to First Aid
  • Normal Dog Parameters (Vitals)
  • Haemorrage- Bleeding
  • Stings, Allergic Reactions & Anaphylaxis
  • Poisons & Pesticides

Today’s blog includes – 

Introduction to First Aid

About Rachel Bean

Introduction to First Aid

First Aid is the critical first action carried out when a patient suffers an incident. It is essential that any First Aid is carried out not only rapidly but also with some consideration as to what the outcome is likely to be.

The first important action is:

Don’t Panic!

‘The sympathetic nervous system sends out impulses to glands and smooth muscles and tells the adrenal medulla to release adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream. These “stress hormones” cause several changes in the body, including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.’

 This is also known as ‘Flight or Flight’

The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

This Act is very important and Vets and Veterinary Nurses abide by its rules everyday when working with animals. So when carrying out First Aid you have to be aware of its Boundaries and Limitations.

Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 anyone may perform First Aid to an animal provided that it is:

To Preserve LIFE


To Prevent the DETERIORATION  of the patient’s condition.

Part of Schedule 3 of The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 says the following:

‘Lay persons may administer first aid in an emergency, for the purposes of saving life or relieving pain or suffering. As a result of the above act and the subsequent exemptions; it is illegal for any person, other than the owner of the animal, to treat an animal unless the permission of the animals Veterinary Surgeon is sought and obtained.’

So if you work with dogs or even live with dogs you have to be aware of the Veterinary Surgeons Act and its Limitations. The main ones are:

  1. If a member of the public or a customer/client asks you a medical question about their dogs health, you cannot be deemed to be making any kind of perceived diagnosis. Only a Registered Veterinary Surgeon can make a diagnosis. Always advise the person to ask a Veterinary Surgeons opinion. This avoids the risk of you being in ‘breach’ of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.
  2. Social Media – many people will ask on social media about the health of their dogs and many people offer a ‘diagnosis’ or treatments. This can be also be breaching The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 – it is best to stay away from commenting.
  3. Treatments – Canine Massage, Canine Physiotherapy , Canine Chiropracty, Canine Hydrotherapy etc are all disciplines that need a Veterinary Referral, this gives the practitioner permission to treat the dog under The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.

Assessing the Patient

There are three main rules you must remember when dealing with First Aid:

Remember A B C




So, with this in mind we can check the following:

Is the dog BREATHING ?
Watch for chest movements or nose/mouth movements. Put your ear to the mouth and nose and listen. Place your hand lightly on the chest and feel for movements.

Is the breathing LABOURED ?
This could indicate a blockage to the airway. Care must be taken to remove the blockage if it is visible. If the dog is on its side, then by extending the neck a blockage can be removed. Blockages could be the tongue, blood, vomit or mucous.

 Is the dog CONSCIOUS?
If the dog is aware of its surroundings, it is less likely to be a life-threatening situation and you might have time to tend to other injuries.


About Rachel

Rachel Bean is a Qualified Veterinary Nurse and has worked in Veterinary Practice for 17 years. With the support of the Practice Veterinarians in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire area Rachel has for many years consulted with owners who encounter problem behaviour with their pets. Rachel works with clients in their home on a One to One basis and helps them achieve a better understanding of their dog’s behaviour.

Before qualifying as a Veterinary Nurse, Rachel was an Assistant Kennel Manager for the Dogstrust (formerly NCDL) and has a good deal of experience in the rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing of dogs.

Rachel visits owners of newly acquired Puppies to educate owners on the importance of early correct socialisation, habituation and training to prevent behaviour problems in the future. Rachel won Pet Health Counsellor of the Year in 2004 and has a certificate in Companion Animal Behaviour issued by The British Veterinary Nurse Association. Rachel is a listed and Registered Veterinary Nurse with The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Rachel is also the consultant behaviourist at the Northwest newest and largest Dog Hydrotherapy Centre, K9 Swim.

Rachel has experience in providing Expert Witness reports for legal cases involving dogs both in Welfare and Dangerous Dogs.

Rachel is also a Master Dog Trainer with the Guild of Dog Trainers, and currently studying with Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training for an MA in Canine Behaviour. She is also a Tutor for the Foundation level Degree with the CIDBT.

The skills needed in Veterinary Practice, empathy, understanding, precision and forward thinking compliment perfectly the skills needed to be a Dog Behaviourist such as practical handling, breed knowledge, dog training capabilities and a natural passion for dogs. This combination of experience both practical and theoretical is a rare combination and places Rachel above and beyond the average dog trainer.

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