Checking your dog’s pulse reveals whether their heart rate is in the normal range, or whether they may be experiencing distress. A canine’s resting heart rate isn’t universal since it depends on size. Generally, the larger the dog, the slower the normal heart rate. Heart rate is different from blood pressure; heart rate refers to the number of times your dog’s heart beats per minute (bpm), while blood pressure refers to the pressure that the circulating blood exerts on the artery walls.
Normal systolic blood pressure for all dogs ranges between 120–130 mmHg, but the heart rate is determined by size and age. Familiarizing yourself with what’s considered normal can help you spot a medical emergency quickly.
What’s Considered a Normal Heart Rate Range for a Dog?
According to the ASPCA, a large dog’s heart rate ranges between 60–90 beats per minute (bpm). The heart rate for medium dogs hovers between 70–110 bpm. Small dogs usually experience 90–120 bpm. These figures represent a normal resting heart rate, so your dog’s heart may beat faster if you’ve mentioned their favorite snack or hinted at a trip to the dog park. Additionally, a puppy’s heart beats much faster than it should once they’re over a year old. Young puppies may even have a resting heart rate of up to 200 bpm.
Here’s a chart to show the numbers briefly:
|Size of Dog||Normal Resting BPM|
|Large (70 or more pounds)||60–90|
|Medium (35–70 pounds)||70–110|
|Small (under 20 pounds)||90–120|
When Is a High Heart Rate Considered an Emergency?
Tachycardia occurs when your dog’s heart rate is higher than it should be. Because the normal resting heart rate depends on size, the threshold of a dangerous heart rate also varies. For example, puppies shouldn’t surpass a 220 resting heart rate, but even 140 is too high for a large breed adult dog.
Usually, though, other clinical signs are present if the situation is an emergency.
Often there’s an underlying condition present besides tachycardia, such as heat stroke. It’s important to monitor your dog and take them to the vet if you notice other signs of discomfort.
Some causes of tachycardia occur immediately, such as eating something poisonous. Chronic or slowly progressive diseases may also cause tachycardia, such as congestive heart failure or some birth defects. It’s important to re-check your dog’s pulse often to determine whether the rapid heart rate was a one-time occurrence, or something that your vet will need to investigate. Always take your dog straight to the vet if they’re displaying other signs of illness, such as pale gums or lethargy, since some causes of tachycardia can be life-threatening emergencies.
How to Check Your Dog’s Heart Rate
If you’re curious to find out your dog’s bpm, press your hand lightly over the left side of their chest and use a chronometer. Note how many times your dog’s heart beats in the 15-second period, and then multiply that number by 4.
How to Check Your Dog’s Vital Signs
In addition to heart rate and blood pressure, it’s also critical to familiarize yourself with normal body temperature and respiratory rates. Unlike the 98.6ºF (37ºC) guidance for humans, your dog’s normal body temperature hovers between 100.5ºF and 102.5ºF (38ºC-39ºC). A rapid heart rate is usually a sign of a fever or infection.
Most resting dogs experience between 15 and 30 breaths every minute. The exact number depends on their size and physical state, whether they’re sleeping or simply resting. Of course, if they’re romping around the dog park, they’re breathing much faster. Your dog may inhale and exhale as many as 200 times a minute when they’re panting. No wonder they’re exhausted at the end of a walk on a hot afternoon!
While you definitely shouldn’t panic if your dog’s heart leaps at “squirrel,” you should definitively be familiar with your dog’s normal rates. The normal heart rate range for your dog depends on their weight and age. Generally, a bpm below 60 or above 140 isn’t considered normal unless they’re a puppy, who may experience a resting heart rate near 200 bpm during their first few months of life. If you determine that your dog’s resting heart rate is way above or below average—or if they’re experiencing any other distressing signs—you should call your vet immediately to see what to do next.
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