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Do You Know Your Dog’s Normal Heart Rate?

by Bella Woof

Learning your dog’s normal vitals – temperature, pulse, and respiration – is useful for detecting health problems or tracking your dog’s response to medication. It is also good information to provide when calling your veterinarian or an emergency clinic to make an urgent appointment for your dog. And, with the crunch on emergency clinics, the more information you can provide over the phone, the more efficient your veterinary visit will be.

Normal Heart Rate for Dogs

The normal heart rate for dogs is 70 to 120 beats per minute. This is what is called a “resting” heart rate, which is how fast your dog’s heart beats when he is just hanging out. Stress and exercise will both cause the heart to beat faster.

Large dogs tend to have a heart rate on the lower end, while small dogs have a faster resting heart rate. Your dog’s fitness also will impact his resting heart rate. Extremely fit, athletic dogs tend to have a slower resting heart rate. Obesity increases the heart rate and the chance of heart disease in dogs.

You can evaluate the heart rate for dogs a couple of different ways. A stethoscope is fantastic, but you probably don’t have one lying around (you can purchase one for less than $25). Instead, try placing your hand over the lower left side of your dog’s chest just under his left elbow to feel his heartbeat. This may be difficult in chubby dogs. Count the number of beats that you feel in 15 seconds, then multiply that number by 4 to get the beats per minute.

You also can feel your dog’s pulse. The inside of the thigh is a great spot to feel a dog’s pulse, or you may be able to feel it on the back of his carpus (wrist).

A heart rate that is abnormally too high or too low should cause you to seek veterinary attention.

Normal Dog Respiration Rate

The normal dog respiration rate is 15 to 30 breaths per minute. Once again, these number are for a “resting” rate. Exercise and stress can cause your dog to pant more rapidly.

To evaluate your dog’s respiration rate, wait until he settles on his own in a position of his choice. Then watch as his sides expand and contract with each breath. Each in and out counts as one breath. Count the number of breaths he takes in 15 seconds, then multiply that number by 4 to get the breaths per minute.

If your dog is panting, wait until he stops panting to count his respiration rate.

Normal Dog Temperature

The normal dog temperature is 100°F to 102.5°F. Knowing his normal body temperature will help you gauge if he has a fever. The most accurate way to take a dog’s temperature is with a rectal thermometer. I recommend buying a digital thermometer (they are much faster than mercury thermometers, plus safer if broken) and clearly labeling it for dog use only so it isn’t confused with your human thermometer.

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