Monitoring Breathing Rate in Dogs and Cats

Effort and rate of breathing is an important indicator of the health of your pet. It is especially important when monitoring pets with respiratory and heart disease.

How to measure respiratory rate at home:

    1. Your pet should be sleeping and in a position where you can observe their inhalation an exhalation easily. Do not interfere with your pet’s natural actions by touching him/her. Start over if your pet is sniffing or moving, because this can falsely elevate their respiratory rate. A good time to count their respiratory rate is when they are sleeping quietly.

 

    1. Use a digital watch or one with a second hand to count the number of breaths in 15 seconds. One inhalation and one exhalation count as one breath. Multiply the number of breaths in 15 seconds by 4 to get the respiratory rate per minute.

 

  1. The normal sleeping respiratory rate in a dog is 15-30 breaths per minute. The normal sleeping respiratory rate in a cat is 20-30 breaths per minute.

When is increased respiratory rate/effort normal?

    1. Dogs normally breathe with their mouth open to pant, which is a natural way for them to cool down. Very hot weather can increase a dog’s respiration rate.

 

    1. If your dog has just run or played hard, their respiratory rate and effort will be normally increased.

 

  1. When cats purr, the respiratory rate is increased, and this is normal.

Signs of abnormal respiration that require veterinary attention:

    1. Cats do not normally pant or breathe with their mouths open. The only exception is when they are anxious such as on a car ride. If your cat is open mouth breathing with no source of stress, he/she needs emergency attention.

 

    1. Unwilling to lie down or rest.

 

    1. Anxious or distressed facial expression.

 

    1. Deeper labored breathing (wider chest excursions).

 

    1. Labored breathing and also coughing.
  1. When your pet’s respiratory rate per minute at rest is greater than 30 and there are no indications for falsely elevated rate such as hot weather, sniffing, or exercise/movement.

If you have questions normal respiration in your pet, you should call us at 650-779-4125 or the nearest veterinary emergency hospital.