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Home-Monitored Respiration Rate & Heart Disease

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)


|March 2014

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The sleeping respiratory rates (SRRs) and resting respiratory rates (RRRs) of dogs with subclinical left-sided heart disease were analyzed in this study. Dogs with left-sided congestive heart failure develop pulmonary venous congestion, which can then produce pulmonary edema or pleural effusion and a subsequent increased respiratory rate. This study included 190 dogs with subclinical heart disease (ie, mitral valve disease, dilated cardiomyopathy). Ten 1-minute SRRs or RRRs were collected by owners during a period ranging from 1 week to 6 months; echocardiograms and medical data were also collected. Within-dog SRR and RRR remained stable over 10 consecutive owner measurements, thus providing the clinician with a reliable breathing rate. The within-dog mean SRR was significantly lower than the within-dog mean RRR. Dogs with moderate left atrial enlargement had a significantly higher within-dog mean SRR than other dogs. Cardiac medications or pulmonary hypertension were not associated with the within-dog mean SRR and RRR.

Study authors concluded that dogs with subclinical left-sided heart disease mostly had a within-dog mean SRR of <25 breaths/min at home. Owners can easily take these breathing measurements at home and provide the data to the clinician, who can then adjust the dog’s plan based on data provided. An SRR of >30 breaths/min might suggest that a dog has deteriorating clinical status or other respiratory disease.


At the latter stages of congestive heart failure (CHF), relapses become more frequent and sign-free intervals become shorter. Our patients are not able to self-report symptoms such as shortness of breath and increased difficulty in performing daily living activities. We are therefore reliant on owners reporting changes in patient status. In addition, relapses of heart failure may not be easily interpreted on radiographs as is pulmonary edema. One simple and cost-effective way of monitoring patients is to have owners keep track of RRR/SRR in the home environment. Subtle and consistent increases in RRR/SRR are often described as good indicators of disease progression. Moreover, when relapses are caught early, response is quicker. This study documented the normal SRR of patients with heart disease and no current CHF as being <25 breaths/min; this gives practitioners and owners a way to try to recognize and quickly intervene when CHF recurs.—Amara Estrada, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology)


Sleeping and resting respiratory rates in dogs with subclinical heart disease. Ohad DG, Rishniw M, Ljungvall I, et al. JAVMA 243:839-843, 2013.

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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