How to: Record a resting respiratory rate

Overview

  • This guide is designed to help you if you need to record your pet’s resting respiratory rate (RRR).
  • Resting respiratory rate (or resting breathing rate) is simply how many breaths your pet takes each minute while they are resting or sleeping.
  • Your vet may ask you for your pet’s resting respiratory rate so they can get an idea of how your pet’s heart and lungs are functioning when they aren’t affected by stress, excitement, or exercise.
  • Use our handy record chart and follow our step by step guide to get an accurate idea of your pet’s RRR.

Step by step guide

Equipment needed:

  • A stopwatch/clock that counts seconds
  • A pen and paper

Guide

  1. Wait until your pet is relaxed and resting, or sleeping (but not dreaming)
  2. Keep a good distance from them so you don’t disturb them
  3. Look for the rise and fall of your pet’s chest – each rise and fall is one breath.
  4. Set your stop watch for 15 seconds – when you are ready to begin counting breaths, press start. If you’re using a clock, use the second hand to time 15s.
  5. Count how many breaths your pet takes in 15 seconds
  6. Multiply the answer by four to give you the amount of breaths your pet has taken in a minute – this is their RRR. (If you prefer, you can time your pet for a whole minute instead to find their RRR).
  7. Make a note of the result, and repeat as regularly as your vet has asked you to.

Call your vet for advice if your pet’s respiratory rate is abnormally high, or you’re worried about their breathing.

Record chart

You might find our record chart helpful for recording each of your pet’s resting respiratory rates and plotting how/if it changes over time.

Why does my vet need my pet’s resting respiratory rate?

Resting respiratory rate gives your vet a good idea of how your pet’s heart and lungs are functioning when not affected by stress, excitement, or exercise. By recording your pet’s RRR regularly, your vet will be able to tell if anything is changing over time.

FAQ's

Why can’t my pet be dreaming when I take their RRR?

It’s best to take your pet’s resting respiratory rate while they are sleeping but not dreaming – this is because dreaming often speeds up breathing so it would give an inaccurate result.

What’s the normal resting respiratory rate for a cat?

The normal resting respiratory rate for a cat is between 16 and 40 breaths per minute.

What’s the normal respiratory rate for a dog?

The normal resting respiratory rate for a dog is between 15 and 35 breaths per minute.

Published: Nov 2021

PetWise Pet Health Hub – brought to you thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery 

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst