In addition to continuing to chronicle Lilly’s treatment for rabies vaccine-induced meningoencephalomyelitis (brain inflammation), I’m trying to glean some valuable lessons YOU can learn from our experience. For example, do you know your dog’s “normal” vital signs? Trust me, it’ll help you know when something is wrong and when / if to worry about your dog.
Dog Vital Sign #1: Temperature
Normally, most dogs’ temperatures hover around 100-101 degrees F. That’s like saying, however, that normal for people is 98.6 degrees F. Personally, I run cold. My normal temp is more like 97 degrees, so I feel like I’m burning up at 98.6.
When you know your dog’s typical temperature, you’ll be better able to gauge fever or no fever.
Dog Vital Sign #2: Respiration Rate
Ten to 30 breaths per minute could be considered normal depending upon the dog, but how often does your dog breathe each minute? Do you know? I didn’t.
Clearly, panting is an obvious sign, but do you know your dog’s normal breathing patterns?
This info will help you assess recovery and comfort, when your dog is sick or injured.
Dog Vital Sign #3: Heart Rate
When Lilly got so-so sick again in August — suffering a major adverse vaccine reaction relapse, her heart rate dropped into the 50s. We were told that was scary low. Even scarier is that Lilly didn’t respond much at all to meds meant to increase her heart rate.
So, I was left to wonder what was normal for Lilly. Normal heart rate for most dogs range from 100-130 beats per minute.
I’ve chatted with KB from Romping and Rolling in the Rockies about this, and it turns our her black lab (R) has a resting heart rate in the high 20s because he gets so much exercise each day at altitude.
Maybe, just maybe … 50 beats per minute for Lilly wasn’t all that low FOR HER, but I didn’t have a reference point.
Dog Vital Sign #4: Blood Pressure
Early on in this ongoing crisis, Lilly developed monstrous nosebleeds. Typically, nosebleeds in dogs mean nasal tumor, but since Lilly had just had an MRI of her head, we knew that wasn’t he case.
We ended up back in the veterinary ER, just days after she came home from her first major adverse vaccine reaction hospitalization in February because of these nosebleeds, and it turns out her blood pressure was SKY HIGH, which isn’t good for a number of reasons (including the damage it can do to her kidneys).
So, for reference, a dog’s normal blood pressure should be about the same as a person’s — around 110 / 70 – 120 / 80.
Lilly’s was like 225 / 120 that night in the ER. She now takes daily blood pressure meds to keep it in a safer range.
Dog Vital Sign #5: Coat Density
I know this sounds weird, but REALLY look at your dog’s coat. How thick is it? Is it naturally thinner in certain spots? And, yes, what’s the coat density / pattern on your dog’s butt?
I like to think I know Lilly’s body pretty well, but I find myself wondering if her coat really is getting thin / sparse from the long-term use of steroids and other immune mediation meds, or if maybe I’d just never noticed how her coat “hangs” as it were.
Are there other things you monitor about your dog’s body and health that might be useful? Please share your ideas in the comments.
For example, because I worry about adverse vaccine reaction treatment side-effects, I really watch how pink Lilly’s gums are or are not.