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Resting Respiration Rate and Heart Disease

The Resting Respiration Rate and Heart Disease in Cats and Dogs

Dr. Bob Encinosa

One of the most effective and simplest ways to monitor your dog’s or cat’s health is to learn to take a resting respiration rate (RRR). This can be especially important if your dog or cat has a history of heart or lung disease or other chronic conditions such as anemia.

Quite simply, the RRR is a measure of how efficiently your pet is getting oxygen from the air. The process for measuring this is to simply count the breathes your pet takes by watching the movement of their chest. Count the number of breathes in a 15 second span, and multply by 4 to get the number of breaths per minute. It is important that the pet is not hot, has not been recently active, and is not panting. So make sure they have been indoors and resting for an hour or so. It is easiest to count the breathes when they are sound asleep.

Most healthy dogs and cats will have a RRR of between 10 and 30 breathes per minute. Once you’ve taken your pet’s RRR a few times , you will have a pretty good idea of what is normal for them and you can use that as a baseline for future reference. If their RRR increases by 20% or more, they are likely having the first signs of a worsening condition.

Here’s a common example. You have a 10 year old poodle who has been diagnosed with a heart murmur, but no other health problems yet and no signs of congestive heart failure. This is a great time to get an idea of what its RRR is because odds are that this newly found murmur will progress over time until the first stages of heart failure begin to appear. If over many months, your poodle’s RRR has been around 26, but now is 33, it is time to visit your veterinarian very soon.

This simple test is one of the best ways you can be an active part of your pet’s health care and treatment.