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In this lesson, we're going to instruct you how to measure your pet's breathing rate and tell you when you should be concerned. At the end of this lesson, we're going to share with you a harrowing story about how one family's fun day of winter hiking that quickly turned into an emergency situation when one of their dogs fell through the ice.

First, we'd like to note that in first aid and healthcare, there are a lot of interchangeable terms, and even more acronyms, most of which we're sparing you from having to absorb. So, when we mention breathing rate, it's important to understand that this can also be called respiratory rate.

Respiratory rate is another key vital that you should be familiar with in your pets. The normal breathing rate for both dogs and cats is between 10 and 30 breaths per minute.

Pro Tip: Are you ready for your daily reminder – getting to know what's normal for your pet is so important. Look again at that range above. It's quite expansive or large. And the reason is because not all members of the same species have been created equally; there will be differences and some of them can be vast. So, learning what the normal (resting) breathing rate is in your pet could be important one day to determine when something is a bit off.

How to Measure Your Pet's Breathing Rate

Always measure your pet's breathing rate while he or she is at rest. Just like with their heart or pulse rate (see, two terms for everything), activity, stress, and anxiety can skew those numbers.

Wait till your dog or cat is laying down and rested. Watch the rise and fall of the chest. As your pet breathes in, the chest will expand or rise. As your pet breathes out, the chest will contract or fall.

Get to where you can easily notice both deep breaths and shallow breaths, because just like us humans, pets will also have breaths that are deeper and easier to notice than others. You may remember in the corresponding video for this lesson, that Quinn's breaths could be subtle or shallow and also deep and more easily observed.

Once you've got that down, simply count each breath. One inhalation and one exhalation (cycle of in and out) counts as one full breath. You want to do this for 15 seconds. And since your eyes can't be in two places at one time (unless you're in the circus and your one skill is exactly that), you may want to set an alarm on your cell phone.

Take your 15 second number and multiply that by 4. This will tell you your pet's respiratory rate or breaths per minute.

Warning: Anything faster than 40 breaths per minute could be a cause for concern, especially if your pet's resting breathing rate is usually at the low end of the scale we showed you above.

Do you remember what to do when you notice that one vital is a bit off? That's right! Check other vital signs and ask yourself how your pet is otherwise feeling, doing, and behaving. Are these outside the norm? if they are, it's probably time to see your veterinarian.

A Harrowing Story of Survival

OK, apologies if the word survival is a bit of a spoiler, but we imagine you don't want to read a story that ends differently. And this way, you're assured of a happy ending. Not to mention a couple of lessons you might learn as a result of telling this story.

It was Christmas day and Cara Armour (who you should all be familiar with by now) and her husband took their three dogs for a hike. The area was filled with wooded trails, ponds, and a flood plain. And there were freezing temperatures and icy areas both shallow and deep.

There were also a couple of young dogs who probably didn't know any better, and one mother. Cara noticed that young Walter was running toward a stretch of ice and before she could even get the words out of her mouth, tragedy struck.

Walter fell through the ice! His back end was fully submerged while his front paws were clinging to the ice still intact.

If you have five minutes and want to know exactly why you're learning pet first aid and survival skills, click through and read the whole story here: My Dog Fell Through The Ice. We promise, you'll be even more energized and determined to learn everything you can in this course, and as well as you can, after reading it.