Every Breath You Take

There are some breeds of dogs which are more prone to develop cardiac disease.  Doberman pinchers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are two such breeds.  However, some dogs develop cardiac disease later in life due to a random event rather than genetic predisposition.  Monitoring heart disease progression allows us to add medication at appropriate times.

There is an easy, at home process owners can do to watch for worsening of their dog’s disease and allow them to book an appointment to review medications and responses with their veterinarian.

The Resting Respiratory Rate (RRR) is easy to do and in dogs currently being treated for heart disease should be done weekly. As a screening test in a healthy dog once monthly is usually sufficient.

How to do the RRR:

  • Count the number of breaths in one minute while your dog is resting quietly and not panting. While everyone is watching tv in the evening is often a good time.
  • One breath is counted every time the chest rises and falls (up and down equals ONE breath)
  • Record the RRR every day for a week to establish a baseline or normal rate for your dog. Most healthy dogs are somewhere around 10-20 breaths per minute when relaxed. Your dog should be pretty consistent day to day.
  • If you notice a 10% increase in the RRR , measure again in an hour, or the following evening to make sure it is consistent. Many dogs have transient increases if hot or restless so make sure it happens a few times.
  • If the increase continues for a few days, contact your veterinarian to arrange an appointment. It can indicate a worsening of their heart disease and a need to adjust medication.

An increase in Resting Respiratory Rate and increasingly laboured breathing are often signs of worsening cardiac disease.  By measuring at home and catching these changes early, owners can take their pet to their veterinarian in a timely manner, helping to manage their pet’s disease and prolong a high quality of life.

Written by Jennifer Merry BSc(Agr) DVM