How to Check Pulse / Heart Rate in Dogs & Cats

How To Check Your Pet's Heart Rate:

Your dog or cat’s normal heart rate is best measured when she is in a relaxed state.  Have her sit or lie on her right side.  Place the palm of your hand on her left side directly behind her elbow.  Once you feel her heartbeat, count the pulses in 15 second intervals.  Multiply this number by 4 to get the beats per minute (bpm). Repeat the count two or three times and average them to ensure an accurate reading and to find your pet’s average normal heart rate.

With illness or injury, a slower-than-normal heart rate – bradycardia – can be a sign of heart disease or shock.  Likewise, a racing heart beat can also point to shock.  In either case, prompt medical attention is required. 

The chart below shows the average beats per minute based on your pet’s size:

 

 

It is a good idea to check your pet’s pulse rate as well to become familiar with how it feels.  It should be strong, and you should feel it at the same time as each heartbeat. An irregular pulse can mean heart problems and a ‘bounding’ pulse or a very weak pulse can indicate shock, weak heart output or a drop in blood pressure.  All of these conditions require immediate medical attention. 

How To Check Your Pet's Pulse Rate:

Check your pet’s pulse in the femoral artery, in the crease of the hind leg at the groin.  With your pet lying on his side, place the flat of your fingers in the area until you locate the pulse.  Note that it may be much more difficult to find if your pet is depressed, dehydrated, or has a low blood pressure.  This is why it is a good idea to check it when your pet is healthy so you know what you are looking for.