The sleeping respiratory rate of your animal can tell you much about his heart and lung function. While it is no substitute for veterinarian doing a physical exam and taking a thorough history the sleeping respiratory rate test is something owners can do at home that is helpful to me as a clinician.
Normal dogs and cats breathe about 20 times per minute when they are sleeping. Dogs and cats that are having a hard time meeting their oxygen demand often breathe 30 times per minute or above. When diagnosing pets with congestive heart failure we often rely on x-rays and cardiac ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis. Interestingly, even though a diagnosis may something like mitral valve disease, which is common in dogs and cats, we usually recommend not to treat asymptomatic patients. The question becomes when you begin treatment?
The sleeping respiratory rate is a great way to tell that your pet is symptomatic and would benefit from cardiac drugs like diuretics and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. There is no proven benefit to starting these drugs in asymptomatic patients so I began medicating my mitral valve insufficiency dogs and cats when the sleeping respiratory rate goes over 30 breaths per minute, a very handy and inexpensive test!