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Do You Know Your Pet’s Vitals?

The answer to this question may not seem important now, but at some point most pet parents will need to know their pet’s vitals to be able to monitor their health and know when they need treatment.

Today, Carol from Fidose of Reality and I, are going to share with you some important information about your pet’s vitals so that you can protect your pet’s health, should concerns arise.


For both dogs and cats, a normal temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. (VetStreet)

The most common way that a dog or cat’s temperature is measured by veterinary professionals is using a digital rectal thermometer. Unless it is recommended by a veterinarian, you shouldn’t need to take your dog or cat’s temperature at home. However, if you are instructed to do so by your veterinarian, you can find more information on how to measure your dog’s temperature at home in this VetStreet article.

If you take your pet’s temparture and it is outside of the normal range and you see evidence of diarrhea or bloody stool, contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Heart Rate

Heart rate varies significantly from one pet to the other. According to VetStreet, a dog or cat’s heart rate can vary anywhere from 60 to 140 beats per minute. A faster heart rate will often be found in a small dog, a puppy, or a dog who is not in very good shape. Because I check on Rooney’s heart rate, I know that his tends to be a bit on the faster side.

How to check your dog’s heart rate?

You can check your dog’s heart rate in two ways.

You can feel your pet’s heart rate by gently placing your hands on their chest, or you can feel their heart rate through their femoral artery located in their thigh (see photo).

Respiratory Rate

Respiratory rate is a really important measurement for a pet parent to know. It’s a clear indicator of your dog’s discomfort and can help you determine an emergency if you dog is at risk for overheating.

If your dog is panting frantically and is glassy-eyed, don’t count anything except the minutes it will take you to get to a veterinarian. Your dog is in critical condition from overheating. – VetStreet

A dog who is at rest should breath somewhere between 10 and 35 breaths per minute. If your dog is panting and the symptoms are combined with the description above, you may be in an emergency situation.

Vitals Monitored by Your Vet

Do You Know Your Pet's Vitals?

Photo credit:

While the top 3 vitals are the most important for you to know as a pet parent, I want to share with you some other important information that is typically monitored at the veterinary hospital. The chart above is an example of how your pet’s vitals might be tracked if they are being hospitalized. To provide some additional transparency for pet parents, let me discuss what a few of these items mean.


BAR stands for Bright, Alert and Responsive. This means that your pet entered the hospital looking like they feel okay; tail-wagging, normal energy, and behavior. Another descriptor that could be used here is NDR, which stands for Not Doing Right. This description might be used to describe a pet who seems lethargic, unresponsive, and sick. (PetMD)

MM = Mucous Membranes

Specifically, veterinarians and their technicians are looking at the color of your pet’s mucous membranes. If you want to check your pet’s mucous membranes, all you need to do is gently lift their lip and check their gums. You want to see bright and pink mucous membranes (i.e. gum tissue).

What you don’t want to see are membranes that are grey, white, purple, or tacky.


While checking your pet’s mucous membranes, your veterinarian or veterinary technician will also check your pet’s CRT, which stands for Capillary Refill Time. The best way I can explain how to measure your pet’s CRT is to gently press on their gums and see how long it takes the color to return (like checking a sunburn). If it takes 2 seconds or less to refill, your pet is within the normal range. However, if it take more than 2 seconds, then it is considered an abnormal CRT which might be indicative of dehydration, lack of blood flow, or lack of oxygen.

Other Metrics

While your pet is in the hospital, it is really important that someone is keeping track of their walks, water and food intake, and urination and defecation. Not only does this type of documentation make sure that every pet in the hospital gets the appropriate care no matter how busy things get, but it also provides your veterinarian with some additional insights regarding your pet’s health.

Knowing When You Can Monitor & When It’s an Emergency

Emergencies happen. As a pet parent, I am a fan of the phrase, “when in doubt, call your veterinarian”. You know your pet best and if you feel like their behavior, disposition, or overall health has changed (i.e. vomiting, diarhhea, increased or decreased urination, water intake, food intake, or defecation), call your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian.

However, at some point in your pet’s life you might need to monitor their vitals and their overall health. You should always do so with the guidance and direction of your veterinarian. That being said, I believe that knowledge is power. Knowing what the parameters of your pet’s health should be will make you that much more informed as a pet parent.

For more important information, and to read Carol’s Mom perspective on this topic, please visit Fidose of Reality.

medicine versus mom

Embark Dog DNA Test – Learning More About Your Dog

Dog DNA Test is a term that is somewhat controversial among veterinary professionals.

Mostly because the early dog DNA tests didn’t provide a lot of information, and lacked accuracy. Similar to pet insurance however, dog DNA testing has evolved in recent years and in a very positive way. One such company that is helping Dog DNA Testing to evolve is Embark.

Embark Dog DNA Test - Learning More About Your Dog

How is Embark different than existing Dog DNA tests?

Embark really sets themselves apart by using a Dog DNA test to provide pet parents with more information than just breed. An Embark dog DNA test provides you with information on Breed, Health, Traits, and Ancestry based on the 200,000+ genetic markers and 160+ genetic diseases they have identified. Each piece of information helps pet parents not only better understand their pet, but also helps them make better decisions regarding their pet’s health.

Embark Goes Above & Beyond

Embark was founded by Ryan and Adam Boyko, two scientists and researchers who spent many years discovering the genetic basis for many dog traits and diseases. Ryan and Adam created a research partnership with Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and Spencer Wells, a well-known figure in consumer genetics, to create Embark.

Embark is clearly a company that is invested in the well-being of pets and their future. How do I know? They are interested in collecting data that will allow Animal Scientists and Veterinarians to improve dog wellness. As research partners of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Embark has a fantastic platform to conduct research. They also work with breeders so that the health of dogs in the future can be improved and preserved.

Embark Dog DNA Test - Learning More About Your Dog

So Who Did We Test?

While Rooney’s DNA test would have provided me with excellent information regarding his overall health, I was interested in learning more about what their test could offer someone who had already paid for a DNA test in the past, but was looking for something more. So, I turned to my friend Megan and her Hound Mix, Harrison Ford.

The Results

After receiving Harrison Ford’s DNA results, Megan was delighted to learn that Harrison Ford carried no genetic markers for known diseases, and she was provided with a percentage breakdown of HF’s breed profile.

In addition to Breed and Family Profile, Embark also provides information for every Breed Family identified in your dog’s DNA.

For an Animal Science major, the next offer from Embark was one of my favorites! They used Harrison Ford’s mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome to identify where his maternal and paternal ancestors were from and how they got there.

Now, if you are interested in learning more about the science behind your dog’s DNA, this is only scratching the surface. Embark provides you with a full advanced analysis and profile of your dog’s DNA as well.

So why is all this information important?

While Embark cleared Harrison Ford for 24 common conditions in his breed mix, Megan can research any extra health conditions associated with Harrison Ford’s breed mix so she can know what to look out for. Meaning, Megan has an opportunity to research diseases and conditions that are typical for Australian Cattle dogs, among other breeds, so that she can keep her eye out for early symptoms and signs.

Not to mention, they have both now contributed to protecting the health and wellness of future generations of pets.

Now, it’s your turn. Do you want to know more about your dog and their genetic health? If so, visit Embark to get your dog DNA test.

Is Your Pet Improving Your Mental Health?

Many Americans are aware that the concern regarding mental health and stability among adults is increasing.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year” – National Alliance on Mental Health 

The term “mental illness” refers to conditionals such as bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia (Newsweek).

While research regarding mental illness grows, so does the research surrounding pets and their positive affect on our mental health. Therefore, today, I would like to discuss some of the ways our pets improve our mental health.

Nurturing – It’s Important

According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), the ability to care for living things is necessary for human health even though it has become increasingly under appreciated. Nurturing and caring for another being is associated with beneficial improvements in mental and physical health. Why is this important? Because the inability to care for other beings and social isolation can cause a person to be more likely to be diagnosed with depression and illness. Therefore, having a pet in your life provides you with the nurturing opportunities you need to decrease your risk of being diagnosed with depression or other mental illnesses.

It is important to note that the ability to care for something includes pets, but is not limited to cats and dogs.

The pet-health link has been well established for relationships with dogs, cats, birds, mammals, reptiles, aquarium fish and horses. A prominent researcher in this field also suggests that similar benefits may extend to individuals who care for their gardens, farmers actively tending their crops, 4-H children with pet animals, as well as bird watchers and wild bird feeders.” – AIS

Is Your Pet Improving Your Mental Health?

Improving Physical Health

While this discussion is primarily focused on mental health, there are very strong links between mental health and physical health. So whenever pets are improving our physical health, they are also improving our mental health.

People with any chronic physical disease tend to feel more psychological distress than do healthy people. Poor physical health brings an increased risk of depression, as do the social and relationship problems that are very common among chronically ill patients. – PsychCentral

So, how exactly are pets improving our physical health? 

There are so many ways that pets improve our physical health. Here are a few examples:

  • Pets can lower blood pressure and decrease your heart rate in stressful situations due to the comfort their presence provide by being in the room. (The Review)
  • Studies showed an improvement in “Activities of Daily Living” in elderly individuals. The people were better able to perform physical tasks and reported feeling more positive about different aspects of their lives (VCU).
  • Pets reduce a person’s risk of getting heart disease.

Owning pets is associated with reducing your risk of heart disease, and there are a variety of reasons that may be at work that influence this relationship. – American Heart Association

  • People who walk their dogs are more likely to have the daily required amount of exercise.
  • Some research has shown that there is a possibility that pet owners can have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Social Interaction versus Isolation

Pets provide us with social support in a variety of ways. Not only do they improve our ability to connect with people in the same room, but they also encourage us to be more social and leave the house. Additionally, their ability to improve our heart health and physical health, also fights depression.

For example, the combination of heart disease and depression can cause twice the reduction in social interaction than either condition alone. – PsychCentral

So Much More

As research regarding the Human-Animal bond grows, the evidence suggests that pets help us in more ways than originally considered. According to the National Center for Health Research, people with pets are healthier in a variety of ways.

Some research studies have found that people who have a pet have healthier hearts, stay home sick less often, make fewer visits to the doctor, get more exercise, and are less depressed. Pets may also have a significant impact on allergies, asthma, social support, and social interactions with other people. – National Center for Health Research

In conclusion, your pet(s) is (are) improving your mental health in the following ways:

1) Providing you with a being to care for which decreases your chances of being diagnosed with mental illness or depression.

2) Improving your physical health, which directly affects your overall mental health.

3) Improving social interaction and decreasing social isolation which also decreases your chances of becoming depressed.

4) Being there. The evidence suggests that the benefits of pets in our lives is cumulative. They have a positive effect on us that overall improves our physical and mental health.

Did you know that pets improve mental health?

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health – Interview with Dr. Burr from Trupanion

I know…it’s March! And Pet Dental Health month is February, but the reality is that we should be discussing pet dental health year-round. Not to mention, I recently had an opportunity to interview Dr. Katy Burr, on-staff veterinarian from Trupanion, and she had some excellent nuggets of information that I couldn’t wait another year to share with you!

Without further adieu, let’s get started!

If pet parents could learn one new thing about pet dental health today, what would that be?

Pet parents should be aware that poor pet dental health, or periodontal disease, is one of the leading causes of disease in our pets. Additionally, periodontal disease is often not treated until late in the disease process. I highly recommend that pet parents become all about preventative care. Which means, brushing their pet’s teeth, looking in their mouth regularly, and having annual checkups with their veterinarian.

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health

What is a veterinarian looking for when checking your pet’s teeth during the annual exam?

Signs of periodontal disease to look for:

  • gingivitis: redness and swelling in the gums or any bleeding
  • Bad breath
  • Calculus and tarter buildup
  • painful while eating or not wanting to eat
  • Swelling on their face
  • Drooling or dropping food out of their mouth
  • weight loss

For the busy pet parent, how often should they brush their pet’s teeth?

Plaque (bacteria films) form on a pet’s teeth the same way it does on people. Therefore, we recommend brushing every day, so that calculus never has a chance to form. However, we know that every day isn’t always a possibility, so at a bare minimum, you should be brushing your dog’s teeth twice a week.

Do you have any tips for increasing the success for teeth-brushing (i.e. getting pet parents to brush their pet’s teeth the recommended amount)?

Make it a part of your routine! One of the best things you can do is put the brush and toothpaste in a place you visit every day.

Additionally, get your pets acclimated to teeth brushing early, and take the appropriate steps to make sure there is a lot of positive reinforcement associated with teeth brushing.

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health

Do you have any brands you recommend for toothpaste?

C.E.T is a great brand of toothpaste. Many dogs like the taste, which makes the process of brushing their teeth much easier!

I highly recommend looking for a VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal on toys or products. The VOHC seal ensures that the products actually reduce plaque and tartar. They also have a dedicated page on their website where you can look up products for dogs and cats.

What is your opinion regarding the efficacy of dental chews?

When used in conjunction with other parts of dental care: brushing, professional cleanings, etc. they can be effective in preventing the advancement of periodontal disease in pets.

I would caution pet parents to keep an eye out for the really hard dental chews. Some are harder than teeth and can crack their teeth.

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health

Rooney is what I would describe as a tough chewer, what kind of chews would you recommend for for Rooney?

For tough chewers, I recommend the C.E.T rawhides. They last a few days, and can help reduce tartar on your pet’s teeth.

(As a side note, while cats can be picky, I have good luck with Greenies.)

I personally don’t recommend gentle dentals, what do you think pet parents need to know about this common service?

Speak with your veterinarian about dental health and what your veterinarian offers. However, the biggest concern with “gentle” or “anesthesia-free” dentals is the inability to clean under the gumline. Addressing the periodontal disease under the gum line is important for preventing ligament and bone loss due to the severity of the disease. To put it simply, it’s equivalent to a person who never flosses. Their teeth may appear clean, but they are going to suffer from tooth decay.

I think it’s also imperative to note the importance of polishing when performing a dental. During a dental when the pet is under general anesthesia the teeth are scaled (or cleaned) by removing plaque and tartar either with a hand scaler or with an ultrasonic scaler (the kind used for human teeth cleanings) or a combination of the two.

The scaling process is very important to remove built up calculus and plaque deposits to decrease bacterial colonies, but this process creates microgrooves in the surface of the enamel. These grooves, if not addressed, can actually lead to plaque and bacterial colonies forming on the tooth more quickly as it’s easier for the bacteria to become established in those tiny grooves that can’t be easily reached with tooth brushing or dental chews.

Polishing is the final step in the dental cleaning, and extremely important to smooth out all those microgrooves. Polishing involves using a very fine grit applied in a rubber cup rotating at high speeds on all surfaces of every tooth. This process is loud and creates an odd vibrating sensation in the mouth, so it is very difficult to correctly polish the teeth when the pet is not under anesthesia. For this reason, if the teeth cannot be properly polished after a “gentle” dental, there may actually be risk of dental disease progressing more quickly for the pet.

You can read more about why I think pet’s shouldn’t have gentle dentals here

How does periodonatal disease affect a pet’s overall health?

The bacteria present in your pet’s mouth can enter into the bloodstream and spread systemically, damaging the kidney and liver.

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health

You can read more about the importance of a pet dental here.

Do you recommend pet parents understand the importance of dental x-ray?

I think Dental X-ray is important to your pet’s veterinary dental care. Make sure to ask your veterinary about their dental x-ray set up. Specifically, ask your veterinarian how they perform dental x-ray and if it is included in the payment. The reason dental x-ray is important is that it assesses the overall health of the mouth and provides information about the health of your pet’s mouth below the gum line.

I want to thank Dr. Burr for sharing such valuable information with our readers!

What did you learn about pet dental health today?