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Using Resting Respiratory Rate to Evaluate Cardiac Conditions

By  Whit Church, DVM,  DACVIM (Cardiology)

An often-missed early sign of heart disease in dogs is an elevated resting respiratory rate. This typically accompanies signs of left-sided congestive heart failure, such as increased cough, labored breathing, or syncope. Most dogs have a resting respiratory rate of 20 breaths/min. Resting respiratory rates consistently over 35 breaths/min can be a treatment trigger, warranting thoracic radiographs and possibly more advanced cardiac diagnostics.


Importantly, an increased rate may be an early warning sign of impending overt, congestive heart failure. We instruct families to contact us if the rate increases by more than 1/3 (10 breaths/min). In addition, we provide instruction in the clinic on counting the resting respiratory rate to get them started.


Free mobile phone/tablet applications can also help teach pet owners the proper way to count and track their pets' RR rates. The "Cardalis" app (made by Ceva) is available for Apple products. The "Your Dogs Heart Resting Respiratory Rate" app (made by Boehringer Ingelheim International) is available for Apple and Android products.


We ask our clients to contact us immediately if their pets with heart disease display any of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Changes in breathing, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
  • Changes in behavior, such as lack of energy, tiring easily, lethargy, and activity intolerance
  • Sudden difficulty walking
  • Collapsing or fainting
  • Restlessness, especially at night 

We also provide them with the following RRR tracking form:  

We welcome your call at 480.635.1110 x7 to learn more, make a referral,
or discuss a case for referral consideration.

Cardiology - Internal Medicine - Radiology - Teleradiology