How to do a TPR (Temperature, Pulse Rate, Respiratory Rate) on a Cat | VETgirl Veterinary Continuing Education Videos | VETgirl Veterinary Continuing Education Videos

In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education video, Amy Johnson, BS, LVT, RLATG, CVJ, VETgirl’s Manager of Content Development and Michaela Witcher, MS, CVT review how to do a TPR (temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate) or TRP (temperature, respiratory rate, pulse rate) on a cat. Performing a TPR is an important technique that must be mastered by CSR, vet assistants, triage, and veterinary technicians, as it is done several dozen times a day! This is an important part of veterinary nursing and triage.

If you missed How to do a TPR (Temperature, Pulse Rate, Respiratory Rate) on a Dog you can find it HERE.

In this VETgirl video, we are going to review how to do a TPR on a cat. Keep in mind that some cats may be nervous or aggressive enough that it might be best to skip the TPR initially. You don’t want to work them into a frenzy before the doctor has had a chance to evaluate them. NOTE: Restraint is key when working with cats. You can find our feline restraint video HERE.

The supplies we will need include a stethoscope, thermometer, alcohol/alcohol wipes, a watch with a second hand, and somewhere to record our values.

As with any species, we want to follow a specific order with our processes to obtain the most accurate numbers possible. We will start by watching for or listening for respirations, moving to the heart rate, and then taking the temperature last. Remembering that a rectal temperature can be startling and agitate a cat, raising their heart rate, we don’t want to do that until we have recorded a heart rate without that extra agitation.

Respiratory Rate:
We will take the respiratory rate of our patient either by watching the rise and fall of their chest as they breathe in and out or by auscultation with a stethoscope. We need to count the breaths for 15 seconds. We then take that number, multiply it by 4, and record it on our form as RPMs or respirations per minute. Open-mouth breathing is not normal in a cat. If a cat is doing this, they need to be evaluated immediately.

Part of taking vital signs is taking a pulse or a heart rate. A pulse is felt in an artery, and a heart rate is auscultated through your stethoscope. In most instances, either is fine, but you need to note which one you took. The best place to feel for a pulse is over the femoral artery on the inner side of the thigh. You will lightly place your hand on the inner thigh, feeling the pulse under your fingers. You will count the pulses for 15 seconds, multiply the number by 4, and record on your form as BPMs, or beats per minute. It is harder to locate that pulse in some cats. If that is the case, you get a heart rate instead.

Heart Rate:
For a heart rate, you will listen with your stethoscope. You will want to place your stethoscope on the left side of the cat and listen to where the elbow would tuck up on the chest. Count the beats for 15 seconds, keeping in mind that it will normally be beating faster than most dogs. Like the others, multiply by 4. This number will be recorded with the unit of beats per minute, or BPM. It is important to note on your form whether you did a pulse or heart rate.

Mucous Membrane Color and CRT:
You will need to note the color of your patient’s gums. A normal mucous membrane color is pink. While you are in the oral cavity, you will want to also get a capillary refill time (CRT). To get a CRT, press on the patient’s gums, pushing the blood (color) out of the capillary beds. Count how many seconds it takes for the color to return to the spot you pushed on. Normal is less than 2 seconds.

Remember, we want to take the temperature after getting a respiratory rate and a heart/pulse rate so as not to artificially elevate those with the procedure. Digital thermometers are preferred over mercury thermometers as they are easier to read and give a quicker value. Turn your thermometer on, coat the tip with lube, and make sure it is set to your preference of Fahrenheit or Celsius prior to placing the thermometer in the cat’s rectum. Use a tube of lube that is used specifically for temperatures so as not to contaminate lube for procedures that require sterile/clean lube. Gently lift the patient’s tail, keeping in mind that many cats will have sensitive tails. Insert the thermometer so the numbers are up so you can see the temperature rise. Always remember, the thermometer doesn’t need to go all the way in – just enough to not see the silver tip. When the thermometer beeps, you can record your temperature using the appropriate unit. Clean the thermometer with alcohol before setting it down anywhere so you don’t spread fecal material to anything.

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