What's Normal?

Heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and urination and defecation are all physiologic signs that you can check to make sure your Lab is in peak health. Like people, dogs have ranges for normal temperature, heart and respiratory rates, and elimination, but the following values can help you assess your Lab's condition.

Taking Your Lab's Temperature

The normal temperature range for a dog is 100° to 102.5°F. The average temperature of a dog is 101.3°F. A fever can indicate such conditions as pneumonia, infection, or heatstroke. If your Lab's temperature goes above 103°F, take him to the veterinarian.

To take a dog's temperature, use a rectal thermometer. Bulb and digital thermometers work equally well, but a digital thermometer provides a faster result. Whichever you choose, lubricate the thermometer with petroleum or KY Jelly, and have someone else hold the dog still. Lift his tail and gently insert the thermometer 1 to 3 inches into the anal canal, using a twisting motion. Leave the thermometer in for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Don't let the dog sit down while you're taking his temperature, or the thermometer may break. If this happens, take the dog to the veterinarian for removal.

Checking the Heart Rate

The normal heart rate for adult dogs at rest ranges from 60 to 160 beats per minute. Heart rate varies depending on such factors as a dog's size and activity level. For instance, toy breeds tend to have higher heart rates than large breeds, and puppy's heart rate is as high as 220 beats per minute. The heart beats faster with exertion, fright, and high temperatures.

You can feel the heartbeat by pressing against the rib cage over the heart (remember, it's on the left side), along the inside of the thigh where the leg joins the body, or just below the left elbow joint. To take a dog's pulse, count the beats per minute. An easy way to do this is to count the beats for fifteen seconds and then multiply that number by four.

The Respiratory Rate

The average respiratory rate — the number of breaths per minute — for a dog at rest is twenty-four breaths per minute. A normal range is ten to thirty breaths per minute. Rapid breathing — as distinguished from panting — or labored breathing can signal serious problems, including fever, pain, anxiety, heatstroke, and heart or lung disease. To estimate respiratory rate, watch your dog's chest rise and fall. Count the breaths for fifteen seconds and multiply by four to get the breaths per minute.

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