As an owner, you play a vital role in successfully managing your pet’s heart disease. Monitoring your pet’s resting respiration rate is extremely helpful for identifying worsening of heart disease (such as the development of congestive heart failure) or determining whether current medications are controlling your pet’s congestive heart failure well enough. The best time to assess your pet’s respiration rate is while it is sleeping.
- Observe your pet when it is sleeping or resting comfortably in a thermo-neutral environment (not too hot, not too cold).
- Count the number of breaths in 15 seconds (one complete breath includes both inhalation and exhalation).
- Multiply that number by four to give the number of breaths per minute (the respiratory rate).
The normal sleeping respiratory rate should stay below 30 to 35 breaths per minute. This can vary slightly from pet to pet, and you will develop a sense of what respiratory rate is normal for your pet.
Should the respiratory rate increase from its normal rate by 20 percent to 30 percent (or more) over three consecutive days, or if it is consistently greater than 35 breaths per minute, please contact the Cardiology Service so we can determine what course of action to follow.
In addition to counting the resting respiration rate, it is also important to pay attention to your pet’s breathing effort, or how hard your pet is working to inhale or exhale. Signs of increased respiratory effort include the chest wall and ribs moving farther out with each breath as well as the abdominal muscles working with harder force to breathe in and out. Other signs are open-mouth breathing (especially in cats), a stretched-out neck and a wide stance of the legs. Some pets may suddenly prefer a sternal position when sleeping instead of sleeping on the side or back.