Standardized capillary refill time and relation to clinical parameters in hospitalized dogs



To assess the relationship between various physical and clinicopathologic parameters and the capillary refill time (CRT) using a standard method; to evaluate the influence of emergency room (ER) versus ICU hospital location on CRT; and to identify latent subgroups among the CRT distribution.


Prospective, observational study.


University teaching hospital.


Client-owned dogs in the ER (n = 40) and ICU (n = 71).


The CRT was defined as the duration required for the oral mucosa of the upper lip to return to its original color after blanching for 4 seconds. The CRT was recorded in seconds to the 10ths place by a single observer using an automated recording device.

Measurements and Main Results

Median CRT for all dogs was 1.1 seconds (ER, 1.2 s; ICU, 1.1 s; P = 1.000). The CRT was significantly associated with rectal temperature (P = 0.004), systolic blood pressure (P = 0.028), body weight (P = 0.031), mucous membrane color (P = 0.007), skin turgor (P = 0.039), and acute patient physiologic and laboratory evaluation mentation score (P = 0.019) for all dogs. The CRT was related to a greater number of variables in the ER than in the ICU patient population. In general, the total population of dogs had CRTs belonging to 1 of 2 groups: either ≤1.2 or ≥1.7 seconds. A statistically significant association was found between body weight CRT ≥1.3 seconds (P = 0.02).


A CRT following blanching for 4 seconds may provide insight into the hydration status and hemodynamic stability of canine patients. Further research into its clinical application is warranted.

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