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Monitoring your Pet's Respiratory (Breathing) Rate

Why Should I Evaluate my Pet’s 

Breathing Rate as Home?

A pet with heart disease may have an increase in both the breathing rate and or breathing effort. An animal's breathing pattern may be easily monitored at home.


Increased breathing rate (also called “respiratory rate”) while resting quietly or sleeping is a very important early indication that your dog or cat may be developing heart failure. By monitoring the increased rate, you can help your vet to assess when to start treatment and improve the quality of your pet’s life.


It is also important to measure the breathing effort of a pet; that is, how hard he or she is working to breathe.

If a pet is breathing with greater effort than normal you may see the abdominal muscles (stomach region) moving forcefully in and out with each breath. The chest wall and ribs will move further with each breath.

Additionally, the dog or cat might breathe with an open mouth, have their cheeks billowed out, stand with legs in a wide stance, or neck outstretched.

Cats are well known for their ability to hide their own breathing difficulties, so this may be hard to see. A cat may just not look right, interact less with owners, hide in a closet, or just not act like themselves.

What is a Normal Resting / Sleeping Breathing Rate For Dogs & Cats?

In general, all dogs and cats, with or without heart disease, have a breathing rate of between 15-30 breaths every minute. Lower rates are possible and are no cause for concern as long as your pet is otherwise healthy.

Breathing rates may be much higher than this when normal dogs and cats are hot, stressed or active.

Resting/sleeping breathing rates that are consistently greater than approximately 35-40 per minute are considered to be increased and abnormal.

How do I Count the Resting / Sleeping Breathing Rate in my Pet?

1. Wait until your pet is sleeping quietly (preferred) or resting calmly and quietly. It is important that cats not be purring when you count their breathing rate.

2. Watch the chest. It moves in and out as dogs and cats breathe. One breath is counted when the chest has moved in and out once.

3.Using your watch or phone time 15 seconds and count how many breaths occur. Multiply this figure by 4 to give the Resting Respiratory Rate (breaths per minute). Alternatively, time for the full 60 seconds.

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