Normal Temperature, Heart, and Respiratory Rates in Dogs

Veterinarian Examining Smiling Bulldog Puppy
If a dog has an abnormal heart rate it may indicate a problem. LWA / Getty Images

Just like people, dogs have a normal body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. These things help to regulate a dog's bodily functions but can also change when there is a problem. Knowing what readings are normal for a dog and what could happen if they aren't is good for any dog owner to understand.

What is a Body Temperature in a Dog?

A body temperature is how warm or cool a dog is. This is usually measured with a thermometer and a rectal temperature is the standard measurement of a body temperature in a dog. Occasionally an ear thermometer will be used to obtain a dog's temperature but these are not as precise in a dog as a rectal thermometer. It is recorded in degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius.

Body Temperatures of a Dog
Hypothermic/Low Below 101
Normal Between 101 and 102.5
Hyperthermic/High/Fever Over 102.5
Rectal Temperature Range in a Dog in Degrees Fahrenheit

Problems With an Abnormal Body Temperature in a Dog

The body temperature is important to the health of a dog. If a dog is too cold or hypothermic it may not receive adequate blood flow to all the parts of the body. If it is too warm or hyperthermic it may cause damage to internal organs. This condition is also referred to as a fever. Both extremes can be fatal to a dog.

If a dog has an abnormal body temperature it may be lethargic and not very alert. If the temperature is too low, the dog may shiver but if the temperature is too high the dog may pant. Either extreme is worrisome.

What is a Heart Rate in a Dog?

The heart rate of a dog is also referred to as the pulse. It quantifies how many times a dog's heart beats in a minute and is recorded as beats per minute or BPM. A dog's heart pumps blood throughout the rest of the body and can be felt by a dog owner by placing a hand over their dog's heart.

The heart is located in the chest near the left armpit and the beats can be easily palpated in a lean dog. Each beat of the heart that is felt is counted within a 60 second time frame in order to obtain the heart rate. Sometimes beats are counted for 15 seconds and then that number is multiplied by four to obtain the same reading and to decrease the time it takes to obtain this information. A veterinarian or other veterinary professional may use a stethoscope to obtain this information or feel for a pulse in an artery in the leg or tail of a dog as well.

Heart Rates of a Dog
Bradycardic/Low Below 60
Normal 60-140
Tachycardic/High Over 140
Resting Heart Rate Ranges of a Dog in Beats Per Minute

Smaller and out of shape dogs may have faster normal heart rates than larger dogs. Because of this little dogs typically have heart rates between 100-140 while larger dogs will be between 60-100 BPM.

Problems With an Abnormal Heart Rate in a Dog

If a dog's heart is beating too slowly, enough blood isn't being provided to the entire body. This can cause organ failure and ultimately death. If it is beating too quickly, the heart can become overworked and fail. Unnecessary stress on a dog's body can be avoided with a normal heart rate.

What is a Respiratory Rate in a Dog?

A respiratory rate is how many times a dog takes a breath in a minute and is recorded as breaths per minute. An inhale and exhale counts as one breath. This action is necessary to provide oxygen to the dog's tissues and organs and is simply called breathing. This is usually done through a dog's nose but can also occur through the mouth.

Respiratory Rates of a Dog
Bradypneic/Low Below 10
Normal 10-35
Tachypneic/High Above 35
Resting Respiratory Rate Ranges of a Dog in Breaths Per Minute

Smaller dogs may have a faster respiratory rates than larger dogs.

Problems With an Abnormal Respiratory Rate in a Dog

If a dog has a respiratory rate that is too slow or too fast, proper oxygenation of all the tissues in the body does not occur. This can cause permanent damage to the organs and tissues, make a dog weak, collapse, and even be fatal if enough oxygen is not circulated through the body. Panting is a common observance in dogs but if it continues for an extended period of time or turns into hyperventilation it will not allow a dog to take in adequate amounts of oxygen.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.