Knowing your Pet’s ‘Normals’

Many pet owners often do not see the gradual changes in their pet’s health that could indicate illness or injury, until they become truly unwell and require a trip to the vet. This could even become an emergency situation before you know it as our pet’s are quite brilliant at hiding these things from us!


Here are a few things to look out for, and once you understand what your pet’s ‘normal’ is it will be easier to spot any changes and warning signs before they progress into an illness or emergency.

Respiratory rate: this is the rate at which your pet takes a breath. Normal can vary from pet to pet but a good guide is:

Dogs: 15-30 BPM (breaths per minute)

Cats: 20-30 BPM

The smaller the pet the more breaths they will take. Breathing should be a passive act that you barely notice, if your pet is panting (anytime for cats, and out of context for dogs) or demonstrating laboured breathing you will notice this and should seek medical attention as a matter of emergency. Take some time now to watch your pet breathe while they are resting, watch the rise and fall of their chest and count the respiratory rate.

Mouth: Your pet’s gums and tongue should be a nice pink colour and suitably moist. If your pet’s mouth is very pale, white, dark red, blue, grey or is dry or has an excessive amount of salivation then you should seek medical assistance immediately.

Food & Water: Has your pet’s daily eating habits changed? Is food being left in the bowl when it usually is all gone? Is your pet visiting the water bowl more frequently? Make a note of these things and call the vet for advice.


Activity: Is your pet more lethargic than usual, not chasing the ball, not jumping up to be with you on the couch or bed when they usually would? Is your cat using shortcuts to get to their food bowl on the bench (e.g. jumping on the chair, then the table, then bench to break up the height)? Can they play for an extended period without tiring or coughing? Monitor and become familiar with your pet’s usual routines and activity level so you can tell if this changes.

Grooming: Is you pet starting to look a bit tatty with matted fur, or are they experiencing any hair loss or irritation? Are they scratching or licking more than usual? Is your cat still grooming itself successfully?

Eyesight & hearing: Have you noticed your pet not coming when called (when they usually would) or have they started to bump into furniture that has always been there? When looking in your pet’s eyes they should be clear with little to no discharge. If your pet has red eyes, they are squinting or they have been rubbing/itching them you should seek medical assistance. Also, take note if they begin to shake their head or tilt to one side, this could indicate an irritation with their ears. The inside of their ears should be nice and clean and pale pink in colour.

Toileting: perhaps one of the most obvious signs to keep an eye out for is changes in your pet’s toileting habits; diahorrea, constipation or incontinence should all be checked with a vet.

Touch your pet, run your hands over their body and feel for any abnormal swellings or soreness. If your pet is usually affectionate but starts to resent being patted and cuddled perhaps they are uncomfortable somewhere.

Every pet is different, which makes every pet’s ‘normal’ different too. Start to notice what is normal for your pet, covering the things noted in this article and pick up the phone and call if you are at all concerned or even just have questions.

Remember to bring your pet in for twice-yearly wellness checks – doing so just might save their life!

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