how to check a dog's pulse?

How to Check a Dog’s Pulse?

Knowing that our dog is healthy goes beyond just looking at him physically.

Sometimes your pooch may be suffering in silence without your knowledge and a quick check of your dog’s vital signs can let you know how he’s doing.

It’s unfortunate that dogs can’t tell us how they’re feeling and most of the time they hide their pain well.

Staying informed and understanding what a normal body temperature should be, as well as your dog’s heart rate and respiratory rate can make all the difference.

How Can I Measure My Dog’s Heart Rate?

dog with a slow heart rate
Image by Amy_Gillard on Pixabay

There is no one number fits all answer to what your dog’s heart rate should be. Determining factors include your dog’s size, age, and how he’s feeling at that particular time.

As a general rule, larger dogs have slower heart rates compared to smaller ones. Toy dogs have around 180 beats per minute (bpm) and larger dogs have a heart rate of 60 to 140 bpm.

You can check your dog’s pulse by placing a hand around the middle of his inner thigh on his rear leg. You should be able to feel a slow and steady pulse that’s the easiest to find when your dog is standing. Then do how you would if you were measuring your own heart rate.

Time the beats per minute with a stopwatch to find out your dog’s heart rate. We would not suggest doing this after your dog has been active. Make sure to catch him at a time when he’s relatively calm.

If your dog’s heart rate is unusually fast or slow even when he’s in a resting state, then it could be a cause for concern.

A fast heart rate could be a result of anxiety, dehydration, or fever. A slow heart rate is concerning because it could be a heart issue or shock. I

nstead of diagnosing the issue on your own, we would strongly suggest taking your dog to the vet if you suspect his heart rate is abnormal.

Checking Your Dog’s Respiratory Rate

checking your dog's respiratory rate
Image by Paolo Celentano on Unsplash

Your dog’s respiratory rate is another vital sign that you should be acquainted with. Listening to your dog’s breathing and keeping an eye on the rise and fall of your dog’s chest can also help you identify health problems.

Of course, it’s normal for your dog’s breathing rate to change throughout the day, so don’t panic if he’s panting.

Anything from the activity to the temperature can affect how fast your dog is breathing.

Even your dog’s emotions at a particular time and whatever is in the air will quicken his breathing.

To check your dog’s breathing rate, just watch the rise and fall of his chest or put your ear close to his snout and measure how many breaths he takes in a minute.

You should see anywhere between 10 to 35 breaths within 60 seconds with the average dog usually landing at 25.

If you’re having trouble getting your dog to stay still for the full minute, you can try to measure his breaths within 15 seconds and multiple that by 4 to get the number for the full minute.

Whether your dog’s breathing is too fast or too slow, it’s important to eliminate environmental, emotional, and physical factors as the cause first.

Only measure the respiratory rate when your dog is in a normal state.

Don’t do it after physical activity, when your dog is feeling extra excited or anxious.

The pollen count, toxins in the air, and heat can also make your dog breath faster, so don’t panic just yet.

If there are no distinguishable reasons why your dog should be breathing faster or slower than normal, then schedule a vet visit.

There is also loud, difficult, or noisy breathing to watch out for. If your dog is brachycephalic, then this could be normal.

A brachycephalic dog breed is one that has a short snout or flat face. If your dog is not considered a brachycephalic breed, then we would suggest contacting the vet immediately.

How can I increase my dog’s respiratory rate?

How to increase your dog’s respiratory rate will depend on why he’s experiencing slow or fast breathing.

If he is panting due to the heat, then make sure he gets enough water and rests up in a cool environment.

Slow breathing is more of a concern and should be diagnosed by a vet as soon as possible.

What you can do to help your dog on the way to the vet is to keep him calm, soothe him and reassure him that he will be okay. Keep him away from stimuli you know will provoke him.

How to Check Your Dog’s Temperature

owner finding out dog's temperature
Image by Sebastian Vacca on Unsplash

The best way to measure your dog’s body temperature is to use a thermometer.

A dog’s normal temperature is between 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 to 39 degrees Celsius.

You can see that a dog’s temperature is slightly higher than ours.

Dogs do a great job at keeping warm thanks to their fur, but keeping cool is more difficult.

As educated pet parents, it’s our responsibility to know how to keep our dogs cool in the summer.

Give dogs access to water and plenty of shaded areas where they can retreat if the sun gets too hot. If you’re at home, keep the fan or air conditioning going to keep the environment cool.

To take your dog’s temperature, you need to insert the thermometer into your dog’s rectum. This is the fastest and easiest way to get an accurate reading.

You can cover the tip of the thermometer with a finger cot before you lubricate it with KY or petroleum jelly to keep things more sanitary.

Keep your dog calm and still while you insert it slowly into his bum. Make sure to keep plenty of treats handy and enlist the help of someone your dog trusts to make the process easier.

Keep the thermometer in place until you have an accurate reading, take it out, dispose of the finger cot, wipe down the thermometer and take a look at the temperature.

Why It’s Important to Check Your Dog’s Vital Signs

checking your dog's vital signs - why it's important
Image by Andrew Haimerl (ANDREWNEF) on Unsplash

The biggest reason why you should check your dog’s vitals is to know when something is amiss.

In order to do this, you have to know what normal vital signs are.

Now you have a good idea of what your dog’s heartbeat, temperature, and breathing rate should be, it puts you in a better place to notice when your dog is feeling ill.

Keep in mind that small dogs and large dogs will have different “normal” vitals, so take that into account when you’re assessing your dog.

As a pet owner, having a healthy dog is one of your biggest concerns, which is why we suggest checking your dog’s vitals when he’s acting strangely.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a normal pulse for a dog?

A normal pulse for a dog will depend on its size and age.

For small dogs, you can get anywhere between 100 to 180 beats per minute, medium dogs will have a range of 60 to 120 bpm, while large dogs may only have around 60 to 80.

The larger the dog, the slower the heart rate.

How do I check my dog’s vitals at home?

You can check your dog’s vitals at home easily without any special equipment. Get a stopwatch ready (the one on your phone will work fine), and a thermometer.

The stopwatch is used to count the breathing and heart rate and the thermometer will tell you the temperature of your dog.

You can feel your dog’s heartbeat by laying a hand on the middle thigh of his rear leg. You should be able to feel the pulsing near the surface.

Look at your stopwatch and count the beats for 60 seconds. This is best done when your dog is standing.

As for the breathing, just watch your dog’s chest, or listen to his breathing by laying an ear close to his snout and count.

As for the temperature, you need to insert the thermometer into your dog’s bottom for reading.

What are signs your dog is dying?

Many signs could point to a dying dog. Vital signs that are out of the ordinary are one, as well as any sign of pain, discomfort, a loss of appetite and energy, and physical signs you can easily see with your eyes.

Before you panic, make sure to get an official diagnosis from your dog’s veterinarian.


A dog owner should understand what normal vital signs are. This way, you can have a better understanding of when your dog is suffering and how to keep your pet healthy.

The measurements can be done with items you already have at home, so you won’t need to spend extra cash to ensure your pet’s health.

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