How to measure a dog's heart rate

Written by jelena woehr
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Measuring a dog's heart rate is a useful and necessary skill for all dog owners. Knowing your dog's normal resting heart rate can help you determine whether or not your dog is in need of veterinary treatment. Practice taking your dog's pulse while you know that your dog is healthy, so you'll be ready to determine his heart rate and whether or not it's abnormal if he ever becomes ill.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Watch or timer
  • Stethoscope (optional)

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    Measuring a Dog's Heart Rate

  1. 1

    Direct your dog to lie down on her right side. Stroke her side gently until she seems completely relaxed.

  2. 2

    Grasp your dog's left front leg and bend it at the knee.

  3. 3

    Pull the left front leg toward your dog's tail until her elbow touches her chest.

  4. 4

    Place two fingers or a stethoscope over the spot where your dog's elbow meets her chest. You should immediately be able to feel your dog's heartbeat.

  5. 5

    Count each heartbeat while looking at the second hand of your watch or using a stopwatch to time your count. You can either count heartbeats for one full minute or count for six seconds then multiply your result by ten to get an approximate number of beats per minute.

Tips and warnings

  • A normal resting heart rate for dogs falls between 60 beats per minute for very large dogs and 180 beats per minute for tiny dogs.
  • Puppies will have a more rapid heart rate, with up to 220 beats per minute.
  • Check your dog's resting heart rate weekly to monitor any changes that might be an early sign of illness.
  • You can take a dog's pulse from her femoral artery instead of her chest. Find the femoral artery by placing two fingers or a stethoscope on the middle of your dog's inner thigh where it meets the abdomen.
  • For the most accurate resting heart rate, take your dog's pulse after he has been napping.
  • Don't try to take a pulse with your thumb. Using your thumb can cause you to measure your own heart rate instead of your dog's pulse.
  • If you notice a sudden change in your dog's resting heart rate, or if you measure a heart rate that is outside the normal range for your dog, see a veterinarian immediately.

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