Emergencies in our pets always strike when we least expect, so it’s best to be prepared, know how to recognize signs of an emergency, and know when to act fast. A common emergency seen by our urgent care service in dogs and cats is heart failure. Knowledgable pet owners can help identify heart failure by recognizing the common signs of the disease, including something as simple as elevated resting respiration rate or increased respiratory effort.

What are some signs of heart failure in dogs and cats

  • Fast breathing when resting or sleeping (more than 30 breaths per minute)
  • Increased breathing effort (labored breathing)
  • Restlessness, agitation and difficulty finding a comfortable position to sleep.
  • Coughing
  • Collapse or fainting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Depressed attitude
  • Paralysis or pain in a front or hind limb (cats only)

How do I measure the respiration rate in my pet and what’s normal?

Measuring respiration rate should be done when your pet is sleeping or resting quietly. Watch your pet’s chest and count a breath every time the chest has moved in and out once. Count the number of breaths during a 30 second period, and multiply the number by 2 to get the number of breaths per minute (respiratory rate). A resting respiratory rate of 30 breaths per minute or greater is abnormal.

Should I learn how to count the respiratory rate in my pet now?

Learning how to count the respiratory rate in you pet is simple and every pet owner should know how to do it so they can identify what is normal and abnormal in their pet. Count the breathing rate in your pet once a day for a week while you are learning, so that you become comfortable measuring respiration rate. This way, you can  learn what your pet’s normal resting respiratory rate is and identify early signs when there is something wrong.