Pet emergency preparedness: Part 2

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

This photo demonstrates the correct location for palpation of the femoral artery.

This photo demonstrates the correct location for palpation of the femoral artery.

Our previous “Fully Vetted” column discussed emergency preparedness for pets, mainly from a supplies standpoint.  Today’s column will discuss pet emergency preparedness as it relates to individual evaluation of your pet’s health.

Only a veterinarian will be able to thoroughly determine the health status of your pet in case of an emergency. However, there are some guidelines that you can use at home to help evaluate the severity of a situation. It is always best to know your pet’s “normals,” so practice evaluating them while you know they are healthy. Knowing what is normal for your pet is the best way to recognize when something is abnormal.

The “TPR,” or Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration, evaluation is one of the most basic evaluations of health status. A digital human thermometer can be used to take your pet’s temperature. Lubricate the thermometer, and take the temperature rectally.

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The normal temperature for a dog or cat is between 101 and 102.5, and the thermometer should appear nearly clean upon removal. A temperature below 100 or above 103, or evidence of diarrhea or blood on the thermometer indicates an abnormality.

Use caution when taking your pet’s temperature!  Have an assistant help with restraint, and if your pet becomes too stressed, do not risk getting bitten.

The best way to check your pet’s pulse is to feel it in the femoral artery, which is located on the inner portion of the thigh. Place your fingers around the upper portion of the hind leg, just below the fold of skin that joins the thigh to the body wall. Rest your fingertips lightly over the middle portion of the inner thigh, and you should feel the pulse.

The purpose of evaluating the pulse is to evaluate heart rate as well as pulse strength and rhythm. The pulse should be strong and regular. Weak or irregular pulses warrant further medical attention.

To take the heart rate, count the number of beats in 15 seconds, then multiply by 4 to get the number of beats per minute (bpm). The heart rate may vary significantly from pet to pet, and depending upon the excitement level of the pet. The normal heart rate for a cat is usually 100 to 160 beats per minute, and for a dog is usually 60 to 160 beats per minute.

Respiratory rate is measured by watching the chest move up and down during inspiration (chest rises) and expiration (chest falls). One breath consists of a full inspiration and expiration. A normal dog or cat will have between 15 and 60 breaths per minute. These values may change if your pet is excited or panting.  Changes in your pet’s resting respiratory rate can be a significant indication of disease. Increased respiratory effort or increased noise associated with breathing may also indicate a problem.

Practice evaluating your pet’s TPR, because knowing what is normal and abnormal for your pet will allow you to more effectively make decisions in an emergency situation.

Dr. Kelly Sulik owns and operated Animobile Mobile Veterinary Services in Tryon, N.C. She can be reached at