Pet First Aid Awareness Month- Knowing What’s Normal for Your Pet

Yukon Quest vet checkphoto © 2010 James Brooks | more info (via: Wylio)
Broken legs, a bleeding wound, when something like this happens you know you have an emergency on your hands.  But there are some times when an emergency might not be so obvious.  Knowing what is normal for your pet by doing a monthly home check-up, can help you make a decision on whether they need to see a vet right away.


Some areas to pay attention to are:

Eyes- look at the color of the conjunctiva- the flesh part you see when you pull back your pet’s upper eyelid-  and the inside of the lids- which should be a pink color.

  • Changes to watch for- white or yellow color

-look at the color of the sclera –the white part of the eye.

  • Changes to watch for- yellow color or very blood shot.

Ears- take note of the normal skin color of the inner ear.

  • Changes to watch for- yellow tinge to the skin

Mouth- the gums can be an important indicator of a problem.  Normal color gums with the exception of dogs with blue/black mouths are a rosy pink.

  • Changes to watch for- Pale, dark red or blue gums

-Pressing your finger against your pet’s gums and then releasing it will give you the capillary refill time.  Count how long it takes the gums to go from           being blanched as you release to normal color.  Normal time is about 1-2 seconds. If it takes longer than that you should contact your vet.

-Hydration can also be checked by feeling the gums.  They should be slick. Tacky gums are a sign of dehydration.

Body- run your hands over the body and note their general condition.

  • Changes to watch for- a hard or bloated abdomen or painful areas.

Not all these changes indicate an emergency, but a call to the vet never hurts especially if they seemed to have happened all of a sudden.


It’s a good idea to learn how do your pet’s Temperature, Pulse and Respiration (TPR) not only so you know what is normal for your pet, but also to help you when an actual emergency happens.  Stress can make you forgot what you need to do, practicing will help it become second nature. Check by doing the following-


  • Temperature-  a digital rectal thermometer or ear thermometer can be used.  A low temperature is a concern along with a high temperature.
  • Pulse/hear rate- one of the easiest ways to check this is by holding your hand on your dog or cat’s chest over their heart.  Have a watch with a second hand or stop watch feature and count the number of beats that occur during a 15 second period.  Multiple that number by 4 to get the heart rate for a minute.
  • Respiration- Keeping that same watch nearby count the number of breaths  your pet takes for 15 seconds and multiple it by 4 to get respirations for a minute.  .



Normal vital signs

Temperature-T       Pulse- P             Respiration- R


Dogs- T- 101-102.5 degrees F

P- 70-160 beats per minute (small dogs have a faster heart rate than big dogs)

R- 20- 30 breaths per minute


Cats-  T-  101-102.5 degrees F

P- 160- 240 beats per minute

R- 20- 30 breaths per minute



Rabbits-  T-  101-103 degrees F

P- 130- 325 beats per minute

R- 32- 60 breaths per minute


Ferrets-  T-  100-104 degrees F

P- 180- 250 beats per minute

R- 33- 6 breaths per minute


Parrots-  T-  103-105 degrees F

P- approx 200 beats per minute

R- 12- 14 breaths per minute


Guinea Pigs-  T-  101-104 degrees F

P- 230- 320 beats per minute

R- 90-150 breaths per minute




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