NORMAL RANGES FOR TEMPERATURE, HEART RATE, AND RESPIRATORY RATE FOR HEALTHY CATS AND DOGS

Temperature (rectal): 100-102.5 Fahrenheit Heart rate (at rest):
Large dogs 80-100 beats/minute
Medium dogs 100-120 beats/minute
Small dogs and cats 120-180 beats/minute Respiratory rate (at rest): 1626 breaths/minute

This information sheet is designed to help non-veterinary shelter staff evaluate the health of cats and dogs. Its not a comprehensive guide and will not give you all the answers, but it lists the more common signs of health and illness in dogs and cats. Also, its not meant to replace veterinary care or advice, but only to help you decide if a cat or dog may need veterinary assistance.

The best way to evaluate the general health of a cat or dog is to give the animal a thorough nose-to-tail examination. Ask a friendly veterinarian or vet tech from your community to come to your shelter and train you and other staff. Then establish your own routine, and thoroughly and methodically examine each animal using the same series of steps each time. That way, you wont overlook some of the more subtle yet often serious health conditions often missed with a quick once-over. Dogs and especially cats can hide illnesses or other ailments, so try not to let them fool you!

Use the checklist at left when evaluating animals after they first come in to the shelter. And don’t forget to observe animals for signs of health problems during their entire stay such as when you’re cleaning or just giving the animals a little TLC. To make sure staff observations are recorded systematically, your shelter may wish to develop a health report card that accompanies the animal during his or her stay at the facility.

EYES EARS MOUTH

GOOD SIGNS

clean

clear and bright

responsive to visual stimuli

WARNING SIGNS

watery

red

filmy

cloudy

discolored

dry

inflamed (swollen)

hypersensitive to light

pupils are unequal in size

pupils are overly dilated or overly constricted

showing third (or middle) eyelid

showing discharge

itchy (animal rubs at eyes)

painful (animal squints)

GOOD SIGNS clean (both outer ear and canal)

pink and clean (inner ear)

responsive to noise WARNING SIGNS showing discharge (waxy or other)

crusty red or inflamed (canal is swollen/thickened)

hair around ear is matted

scabbed

fly-bitten

itchy (animal scratches ear or shakes head)

foul odor

painful (animal cries when ear is touched)


NOSE


GOOD SIGNS

clean free of discharge WARNING SIGNS scabbed

showing discharge (clear, mucous, blood, or pus)

crusty

cracked

congested or blocked

GOOD SIGNS free of odor

 

teeth are clean

gums are pink

gums have good

capillary refill time (pink gum color returns within 1-2 seconds after being pressed with finger)

animal appears to swallow normally WARNING SIGNS unusually red or pale dry

salivating (animal is drooling)

foul odor not caused by food

foreign bodies

showing discharge

swollen or inflamed

gums are pale, white, purple, or inflamed

teeth are loose, pitted, broken, or tartar-covered

animal has trouble swallowing

BREATHING/ RESPIRATIO LEGS/FEET GENERAL APPEARANCE
GOOD SIGNS respiration is regular

 

respiration sounds clear

respiration rate is normal WARNING SIGNS breathing is irregular, rapid, shallow, or labored

animal is sneezing, coughing, wheezing

moist lung sounds

breathing is through open mouth


SKIN/HAIR

GOOD SIGNS coat is bright, and glossy

coat appears well-groomed

skin is clean, free of oil

skin is free of swelling, lumps, and lesions WARNING SIGNS coat is dull

coat is oily, dirty

coat shows areas of

hair loss or thinning

hair is matted

skin is dry or flaky

skin shows swelling, lumps, or lesions

skin is scabbed

skin is red, irritated

animal has fleas, ticks, lice, or other

GOOD SIGNS legs support weight evenly (no limp)

 

pads are clean and smooth

nails are healthy-looking WARNING SIGNS animal favors one leg (limps)

animal has limited motion

animal is weak or uncoordinated

joint feels tender

pads are cracked or hard

pads have matted hair between them

nails are long, short, or ingrown

legs show swelling, lumps, or lesions


ANAL/GENITAL

GOOD SIGNS area is clean and free of discharge

stool is normal WARNING SIGNS area has discharge

stool is watery or bloody

animal is constipated

area around anus shows swelling or lumps

one or both testicles are not descended (not in scrotum)

one testicle is harder and/or larger than other

GOOD SIGNS animal is bright, alert, and responsive (BAR)

 

skin is elastic (springs back immediately after being raised)

animal is balanced, coordinated

temperature is normal

animal is interested in surroundings, oriented WARNING SIGNS animal is very thin or obese

animal has wounds or abscesses

animal has swelling, lumps, or bumps

animal appears to have umbilical hernia

mammary glands are swollen or oozing discharge

skin does not spring back (animal is dehydrated)

animal appears uncoordinated

animal tilts head

animal repeatedly circles

abdomen is bloated

temperature is abnormal

animal appears lethargic

animal appears hyperactive

animal appears disoriented