2012-02-03 / Columnists

The Veterinary Corner

Commentary By Jay Rogoff And Allan Simon, DVM Part II

Abdomen (Stomach)

Begin by gently touching and feeling (palpating) the stomach. Start just behind the ribs and gently press your hands into the abdomen, feeling for abnormalities. If your pet has just eaten, you may be able to feel an enlargement in the left part of the abdomen just under the ribs. Carefully proceed toward the rear of the body, passing your hands gently over the abdomen.

Normal Abdomen
No lumps, bumps, or masses
No discomfort on palpation
No distension of the abdominal wall.
Abnormal Abdomen

Any lump, bump, or mass may be abnormal.

Palpation causes groaning or difficulty breathing. Any evidence or indication of pain is a serious finding. Use caution to avoid being bitten.

The abdomen feels hard or tense and it appears distended.

Any pain felt during an abdominal palpation could be a problem. Consult with us if you have any questions. Skin Turgor Test

The skin turgor test may be the most helpful one to determine whether an animal is well hydrated. This test can be affected by several factors other than hydration status, such as weight loss, age and general skin condition, but it can help you make a rough determination of your pet’s hydration status. To perform this test, pull the skin over the chest or back into a tent and release it quickly; avoid the skin of the neck as it’s often too thick for this test. Observe the skin as it returns to its resting position.


The skin snaps back into position quickly.


The skin returns slowly or remains slightly tented. This is a sign of possible dehydration.

Pulse and Heart Rate

Learn to locate the pulse on your pet before a crisis. The best place on a cat or dog is the femoral artery in the groin area. Place your fingers around the front of the hind leg and move upward until the back of your hand meets the abdominal wall. Move your fingertips back and forth on the inside of the thigh until you feel the pulsing sensation as the blood rushes through the artery. Count the number of pulses in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. This will give you the pulse rate in beats per minute (bpm). Pulse rate is a highly variable finding and can be affected by recent exercise, excitement or stress.

Do not use the heart rate at the sole evidence that your pet is sick or healthy.

Resting heart rates listed are for healthy animals at rest at home, not for animals evaluated in a veterinary hospital where higher heart rates than those listed might be detected due to excitement, stress of a visit to the clinic, or disease. As with humans who experience “white coat” syndrome, pets can react, too.


Cats: 100 to 160 beats per minute (bpm). A relaxed cat may have a slower pulse.

Dogs: 60 to 160 bpm. Relaxed or athletic dogs tend to have slower heart rates.

Pulse is easily palpated, strong, and regular.

Normal resting rate is 15 to 60 breaths per minute.

A sleeping or resting cat would be near the low end, while an active cat would be higher.

An increased resting respiratory rate may be a sign that a disease is progressing. If you know your cat’s normal resting rate is 15 breaths a minute, and after living with heart disease the resting rate goes up to 30 while the cat is asleep, the doubled rate means it’s time to see the veterinarian again.

Too rapid or too slow
Pulse is weak, irregular, or hard to locate.

If you are going to do this it is important to learn how to properly take your pet’s pulse. Temperature

Taking your pet’s temperature is an easy and important procedure. Use a digital rectal thermometer. The ear ones are less reliable and therefore we recommend a rectal one should be used. Rectal temperatures are more accurate than axillary (between the front leg and the body) temperatures. Lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly. Gently and slowly insert the thermometer into the rectum about 1 or 2 inches. If it does not slide in easily, do not force it. Leave it in for 2 minutes, then read and record the temperature.


Temperature is between 101F and 102.5F.

The thermometer is almost clean when removed.


Temperature is below 100F or above 103F.

There is evidence of blood, diarrhea, or black, tarry stool on the thermometer.

It may be easier to take your cat’s temperature if you have someone to help you.

Do not risk taking your pet’s temperature if you feel there is a risk of being bitten. Normals: A Final Note

Know the normals for your pet. Record the results of your pet’s home examination. Watch your pet closely so you know when something is wrong. Become familiar with these normals before a crisis so you can recognize an abnormal finding.

This information is intended as a general reference for the lay public, and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

A veterinarian should be consulted before starting, stopping or changing any medications. If you need any help or have any questions feel free to call the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways at 718-474-0500, or stop in and visit us at 114-10 Beach Channel Drive.

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