The Sick Dog Blog

Is My Dog Sick?

How to Check a Dog’s Gums – Checking a Dog’s Capillary Refill Time (CRT)

January 27, 2010 By: admin Category: All Sick Dog Blog Posts, Capillary Refill Time in Dogs, Dog Symptoms, General Dog Health, How to Check a Dog's Capillary Refill Time, How to Check a Dog's Gums

Wondering how to tell if a dog is sick? Check the dog's capillary refill time. Pet owners can do this while checking dog's gum color. (Philip MacKenzie Photo)

Wondering, “Is my dog sick?” Checking the dog’s capillary refill time (CRT) is one way to tell if a dog is sick. Pet owners can check a pet’s capillary refill time when checking the dog’s gum color.

Capillaries are tiny blood vessels situated near the skin’s surface. When you press on the skin, the capillaries momentarily empty; measuring a dog’s capillary refill time can be used to determine if a dog is sick.

A dog with a slow capillary refill time may have low blood pressure, a low heart rate and this can be indicative of a dog’s heart problem and illnesses/conditions affecting the dog’s circulatory system. Slow capillary refill time may also be observed in a dog who’s going into shock.

How to Check a Dog’s Capillary Refill Time

Here’s how to check capillary refill time on a dog’s gums:

  1. Press your finger onto the dog’s gums with a good amount of pressure for 5 seconds.
  2. Release your finger – the spot where you applied pressure should be significantly paler than the surrounding skin. If it’s not, then this indicates very pale gums and low blood pressure – this is a veterinary emergency and the dog will need to be transported to the veterinary clinic immediately.
  3. If the spot where you applied pressure is paler than the surrounding skin, this is a good sign. Repeat step 1.
  4. Release your finger after applying pressure for 5 seconds and immediately start counting (one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, and so on). Count until the the spot has returned to normal color; the same color as the surrounding skin.
  5. Normal capillary refill time in a dog or cat is 1.5 seconds. If it takes longer, this indicates a serious medical problem like shock. The longer it takes for the capillaries to refill (and the skin to returns to its normal color) the more serious the pet’s condition.

How to Check a Dog’s Gums, Photos of Pale Dog Gums and Photos of Healthy Dog Gums

Pet owners should also assess the check the dog’s gum color. To learn more, see The Sick Dog Blog’s related articles, including  how to check a dog’s gums, how to check a dog’s gums if he has black gums, and what it means if a dog’s gums are pale, brick red, blue, etc.

Dog owners may also want to check out The Sick Dog Blog’s article with photos of normal dog gums and photos of pale dog gums.

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