How to Check a Dog's Pulse

Every dog mum or dad knows when their pup isn’t feeling at their best and it can be a worrying time for all concerned. Simple steps like learning how to check a dog’s pulse, their respiration and temperature can help you assess their health. Being able to check these vital signs is a way of making the right decision about the best course of action to take. Continue reading our helpful guide to discover a pup’s normal temperature, how they should be breathing and how to check a dog’s pulse.

Importance of checking vitals in your dog

Being able to check the health vitals of your dog when they’re feeling their normal selves helps you to understand the situation better when they’re unwell. For any responsible dog parent, it’s extremely important to know what’s normal and what isn’t in terms of breathing, pulse and temperature.

When you’re more aware of the situation, you can make a well-informed decision on what the next step is. Do you just keep an eye on them, ensuring they have plenty of water and rest? Or do you take them to the vet? In some cases, knowing how to check a dog’s pulse can save you from costly vet bills that you probably could have avoided.

How to check a dog’s pulse

When checking your pup’s pulse, you’re checking the rhythmic movement of blood through their arteries. As their heart beats, their blood pulses through vessels all over the body. You can measure your pup’s pulse by following these important steps:

  1. Place two fingers on the depression found in your dog’s inner upper thigh, over the femoral artery. It might take a little searching around to find it the first time but keep going and you can find it.

  2. For smaller dogs, place your hand over the left side of the dog’s chest just behind the elbow. Doing this can make it easier to feel their pulse.

  3. Count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two to get the pulse rate in beats per minute.

Now you know what their pulse is but what should it be? The normal pulse rate for small dogs ranges from between 90 and 160 beats per minute. Larger dogs have a lower pulse and are usually measured between 65 and 90 beats per minute.

If you’re concerned that your pup's heart rate is lower than it should be, and it doesn't return to normal over the course of a couple of hours, you should seek support from a vet. You should especially take your dog to the vet if a low pulse is accompanied by any other symptoms that could indicate something is wrong.

Checking temperature

When checking your dog’s vitals, another thing that you should pay close attention to is their temperature. Unfortunately you’re unable to get a clear measurement of your pup’s body temperature by touching their nose or tummy. Instead, you’ll need a digital thermometer.

Your dog’s normal temperature should range between 38°C and 39.16°C and, like humans, their temperature can change throughout the day. To check your dog’s temperature, you must follow these steps:

  1. After lubricating the tip of a digital thermometer with a petroleum or water soluble jelly, move your dog’s tail up and to the side to prevent them from sitting.

  2. Insert a thermometer up to an inch into the dog’s rectum and wait for the thermometer to beep, according to instructions.

The thermometer will give a clear picture of the pup’s body temperature, letting you know their current health state. If you’re worried about them, keep checking throughout the day. However, if their temperature is extremely high or is fluctuating up and down, you should seek the help of a veterinarian.

Checking respiration

Similar to measuring their pulse, checking a dog’s respiration is counting the amount of breaths they take within one minute. A normal respiratory rate for small dogs is between 20 and 40 breaths per minute, while larger dogs have a slower rate, usually between 10 to 30 breaths per minute.

To check your pup’s respiration rate, follow these steps:

  1. Place your hand over your dog’s chest to count the number of times it rises as they inhale and falls while exhaling. You should count each rise and fall combination as one breath.

  2. Count the breaths for 30 seconds and multiply by two to get the respiratory rate in breaths per minute.

A dog in pain or with a fever could breathe a lot faster than normal and a dog whose respiratory rate has decreased dramatically could be in shock. If you’re concerned about your pup, contact a vet.

Dog first aid at Yappy

If you’re a pup mum or dad then you know that keeping them healthy and safe is paramount. Knowing how to check a dog’s pulse is a basic safety measure you can incorporate into your home life, so why not take care of them with a first aid kit from Yappy?

This durable, compact and lightweight set includes all kinds of health and safety equipment to make sure your dog is cared for no matter the situation. It includes disposable gloves, tongue depressors, sting relief, safety pins, a tick remover kit and so much more.

There are other care items you can pick up for your woof-ly pup at Yappy, including supplements and vitamins, as well as tools for staying on top of their grooming.

If you’d like to know more about what Yappy offers, don’t hesitate to contact us on

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