When your beloved dog falls ill, it can be a very stressful time, as they cannot tell us what is wrong. There is often nothing wrong, but as humans, we tend to worry. If we knew what was considered normal, we could look at any problem more rationally.
This is why it is essential to know what is ‘normal’ for your dog. Dogs, like humans, tend to behave differently, so get to know your animal in order to recognize when something is wrong rather than just an off day for your pet.
Knowing where the vet is
Before you adopt your dog, make sure that you know the location of a reputable vet in your area. As with any illness, the sooner you get your dog to the vet, the more natural and less expensive the treatment will be.
Puppy-proofing the home
If you are adopting a puppy, make sure that your home has been puppy-proofed. Remove anything that could harm the animal if it plays with it. This includes items such as electrical cords and hanging tablecloths, both of which will interest a curious pup.
Checking its temperature
As with humans, one of the first things to check if you suspect your dog is ill is its temperature. Make sure that you have a thermometer that can be used to determine the animal’s temperature rectally. Do not try to assess the dog’s temperature by feeling its ears or nose. These are not reliable methods. The average temperature for a dog is in the range 100.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38-39.2 degrees Celsius). If the animal’s temperature is outside of this range, a trip to the vet is required.
Never leave a dog in a parked car in the summer heat. The temperature inside the vehicle can reach dangerous levels very quickly, and this can be a death sentence for any dog left in the car.
Once the temperature has been assessed, the next thing to look at is the rate of breathing. Ensure that the dog is resting and has not been running around. Using a clock, count the number of breaths that the animal takes in a minute. Healthy dogs will respire at a rate of approximately 10-34 breaths per minute. Pain or lung problems could push this rate up much higher, so if it is outside of the ordinary, consider a visit to the vet.
Panting may not be an indicator of trouble. In hot weather, the dog pants to cool itself down, so assess the conditions that the dog finds itself in before grabbing those car keys for a trip to the vet.
Next, you need to check the heart rate. Lay the dog down on the floor and place your hand on its chest. Count the number of beats that you feel in a minute. Large breeds will have a heart rate of around 60-100 beats per minute, while smaller breeds will have a rate of 100-140 beats per minute. The fitness of your dog can also affect the heart rate and will lower the number of beats per minute. Puppies up to about 12 months old will also have a much higher heart rate (as high as 180 beats per minute).
All of these indicators can be used to determine if a visit to the vet is required. If you do take the animal to a vet and find nothing is wrong, don’t be concerned. Any vet will tell you it’s better to be safe than sorry.