Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive method for monitoring oxygen. Veterinarians commonly use this method on animals during procedures to make sure they are still receiving the oxygen they need to survive. According to the Animal Medical Center, “Monitoring of the oxygen levels during surgery and other special procedures ensures that the animal is receiving the oxygen necessary during sedation.” Pulse oximetry is an essential part of veterinary medicine.


Pulse oximetry is completed with the help of a pulse oximeter device. This device has two main parts. The first is a box that includes the display panel and software. The second part is a sensor that is attached on one end to the box and the other end to your pet. When dealing with humans, this device is most commonly attached to the finger, toe, earlobe, etc. Since pets have the obstacle of thick pads and plentiful hair on their paws, the pulse oximeter cannot be successfully attached to the paws. In anesthetized animals, the device is usually attached to the tongue, cheek, or web of skin between the toes. Veterinarians use the flap of the ear for conscious pets.

Reading Levels

The pulse oximeter display shows the veterinarian the amount of hemoglobin molecules in the blood that have oxygen attached to them. This value, also known as oxygen saturation, is reported to the veterinarian in percentages. The oxygen saturation in a normal cat or dog should be as close to 100% as possible when undergoing surgery. When the car or dog’s oxygen saturation has declined to 94% or less, a veterinarian will administer additional oxygen to the animal. It is important for the veterinarian to be aware of the normal pulse oximetry in order to ensure that each animal’s procedure runs smoothly. While humans utilize these same devices when they are undergoing surgery or other procedures, is even common for people to have these devices at home to check their oxygen levels if they have a disease.

Uses of Pulse Oximetry

Pulse oximeter devices are most commonly used as a monitoring tool for animals under general anesthesia. If the pulse oximeter reports to the veterinarian that the animal’s oxygen saturation is declining, the oxygen levels will need to be adjusted as soon as possible. It is then conventional practice for oxygen gas to be used in this process. Without pulse oximetry and pulse oximeter devices, this essential information about an animal undergoing surgery would not be known. These oxygen saturation levels must be monitored efficiently in order for the animal’s survival.

The pulse oximeter can evaluate the impact of the animal’s oxygen therapy, which may be needed when a pet undergoing general anesthesia has a disease of the lungs. Animals showing signs of breathing difficulty are given this oxygen therapy. The lungs collect the oxygen from the air when inhaling. It is then carried into the red blood cells. The heart moves the blood throughout the body, and every organ receives it’s vital components. When an animal has asthma, congestive heart failure, bruised lungs, pneumonia, or other diseases that may affect their lungs, this distribution of oxygen throughout the body may be negatively impacted. Pulse oximetry allows for these oxygen levels to be constantly monitored so that the animal is always in optimal health. It can also improve the pet’s underlying disease when anti-inflammatory or antibiotic drugs have been prescribed.

Animal Medical Center Can Help

You may have questions about pulse oximetry or other services that your animal may need. Contact Animal Medical Center at 814-443-6979 today. Located in Somerset, Pennsylvania and founded in 1992, the Animal Medical Center’s team of dedicated veterinarians are committed to providing your animal with the highest quality of care. Contact Animal Medical Center for all of your pet needs!