Finding Your Dog’s Pulse Made Easy. The Easiest Spot to Check

Introduction

Monitoring your dog’s pulse is an easy yet important way to keep an eye on their health and wellbeing. A dog’s pulse indicates their heart rate, which can fluctuate for various reasons. Taking your dog’s pulse regularly will help you detect any abnormal changes that could signal an underlying medical issue. Being familiar with your dog’s normal pulse rate will allow you to act quickly if you notice any irregularities. With some practice, checking your dog’s pulse can become part of their routine health checks.

Background on Dog Pulses

A dog’s pulse is the rhythmic expansion and contraction of an artery as blood is pumped through the body by the heart. It provides a vital insight into your dog’s heart rate and cardiovascular health. Tracking your dog’s pulse regularly can help detect early signs of illness before symptoms appear.

A healthy pulse indicates that blood is circulating properly, delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. An abnormal pulse may be a warning of heart problems, shock, dehydration, or other medical conditions requiring veterinary attention.

Checking your dog’s pulse provides a simple, non-invasive way to monitor heart function. Along with other observations like gum color, temperature, and breathing rate, the pulse gives important information about your dog’s wellbeing between vet visits.

Locations of Pulses on Dogs

There are several places where you can find a pulse on your dog. Some of the most common pulse points on dogs include:

diagram of pulse locations on a dog

  • Femoral artery: This pulse point is on the inside of the back leg, where it joins the abdomen. The femoral artery runs through the groin area and is often the easiest pulse to find on a dog.
  • Carotid artery: You can find this pulse on either side of the dog’s windpipe. Place your fingers beside the larynx (voice box) and apply gentle pressure.
  • Brachial artery: This pulse point is inside the front leg, above the paw. You’ll need to press gently into the elbow area.
  • Saphenous artery: This pulse can be found on the inside of the hind leg around the ankle area.
  • Coccygeal artery: Also known as the tail pulse, this is located under the tail, about halfway down.

There are a few other less common pulse points on dogs as well, but these main arteries are the easiest to locate and allow you to monitor your dog’s heartbeat and circulation.

Easiest Pulse Point to Find

The easiest pulse point to find on a dog is typically the femoral pulse located on the inner thigh in their hind legs. The femoral artery runs through the thigh area and pumps close to the surface, making the pulse readily accessible. Taking the femoral pulse only requires gently pressing the inner thigh area with two fingers until the rhythmic pulse is felt underneath.

Other pulse points like the ones inside the wrist or behind the ankle can be harder to find because the arteries are deeper or have less blood flow. But the femoral artery is large and close to the surface, so the pulse is stronger and easier to detect in the hind leg.

For both big and small dogs, veterinarians and owners will often check the femoral pulse first when monitoring a canine’s heart health and rate. The pulse can be taken with gentle pressure from two fingers and counted for 15-20 seconds, then multiplied to get the beats per minute.

Technique for Taking the Femoral Pulse

Taking your dog’s femoral pulse properly requires following some simple steps:

taking a dog's femoral pulse

First, have your dog lie down on their side. Many dogs will naturally roll onto their side when petted and rubbed gently on their belly. If needed, gently guide them onto their side.

Next, place your index and middle finger on the inside of their hind leg, where the leg meets the abdomen. Press lightly and feel around for the pulse. It may take a few seconds to locate it.

Once you feel the steady throbbing of the pulse under your fingers, use a watch or clock to count the beats for 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 to calculate the beats per minute.

Try to minimize movement and stay relaxed so you can accurately count the pulse rate. Counting in your head rather than out loud can help you focus.

A normal femoral pulse for an adult dog at rest is between 70-120 beats per minute. Puppies and small dogs may have faster rates.

Normal Femoral Pulse Rate

The normal range for a dog’s femoral pulse is between 90 to 160 beats per minute on average. However, this can vary significantly depending on the dog’s age and size.

Puppies tend to have higher normal pulse rates, with a range of 120 to 160 bpm. Smaller dog breeds also tend to have higher resting pulse rates.

Large and giant breed adult dogs tend to have slower normal femoral pulse rates, averaging between 90 to 120 bpm. Senior dogs can have pulse rates on the lower end as well.

While the normal pulse rate range is wide, it’s important to monitor your individual dog’s vital signs and know what is normal for them. Rapid changes or pulses consistently over 160 or under 90 merit an examination by a veterinarian.

When to Take a Dog’s Pulse

It’s a good idea for pet owners to monitor their dog’s pulse regularly. Taking your dog’s pulse at least once per month will help you get an understanding of what’s normal for your individual dog. This way, if there are any concerning changes to your dog’s heart rate and rhythm down the line, you’ll be more likely to notice them.

You’ll also want to take your dog’s pulse anytime they seem ill or under the weather. An abnormal pulse can be an early indicator of many canine health conditions. If your dog is exhibiting concerning symptoms like lethargy, weakness, or breathing trouble, taking their pulse can provide important clues to share with your veterinarian. Monitor your dog’s pulse over the course of the illness to track changes.

Some specific situations that call for taking your dog’s pulse include if they seem abnormally tired during or after exercise, if their gums or tongue appear pale/blue/grey, if they collapse or faint, or if they are coughing frequently or having breathing difficulties. Don’t hesitate to check your dog’s pulse if anything seems off with their health – it’s a simple way to gain valuable insight.

Abnormal Pulses in Dogs

An abnormal or irregular pulse in dogs can be a sign of underlying health issues. Some things to look out for include:

dog with irregular heartbeat

  • A weak or thready pulse, which may indicate low blood pressure, dehydration, or shock.
  • A rapid pulse or heart rate, which can signify fever, dehydration, heart disease, anemia, or pain.
  • An irregular pulse that is not steady, potentially signaling heart arrhythmias or impaired blood flow.
  • A bounding pulse, which is stronger than normal and may point to hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure.
  • A slow or bradycardic pulse, which can be caused by hypothyroidism, heart block, or hypothermia.

Pulses that are abnormal for your individual dog, or pulse rates consistently outside the normal 60-160 beats per minute range, warrant veterinary evaluation. Your vet can run tests to determine the underlying cause and provide proper treatment.

Seeing a Vet

If you detect an abnormal pulse in your dog, it’s important to have them seen by a veterinarian promptly. An abnormal pulse can indicate an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention. Some signs of an abnormal pulse in dogs include:

dog receiving veterinary exam

  • An unusually fast or slow pulse rate
  • An irregular rhythm to the pulse
  • A weak pulse that is difficult to detect
  • No discernible pulse at all

Potential causes of an abnormal pulse in dogs range from dehydration and anemia to more serious conditions like heart disease, shock, or a systemic infection. Your veterinarian can run tests to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

Don’t try to diagnose the issue yourself. Get your dog seen as soon as possible if you notice signs of an abnormal pulse. Early intervention greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. An irregular pulse is often the first indicator of a potentially serious medical issue in dogs that warrants rapid veterinary care.

Conclusion

Monitoring your dog’s pulse can provide important health information and peace of mind. The femoral artery in the hind leg is the easiest pulse point to find on a dog. Use your first two fingers to feel for the pulse on the inside of the hind leg, just below the groin area. Count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to get beats per minute. An average healthy pulse for dogs ranges from 70 to 180 bpm depending on the dog’s size and temperament.

It’s a good idea to establish your dog’s normal pulse rate when they are relaxed so you can better detect any abnormalities. Consult your vet if your dog’s pulse is over 200 bpm, under 60 bpm, irregular, or shows other concerning changes. Tracking pulse along with other symptoms helps identify issues early before they become emergencies. Being familiar with your dog’s vital signs is an important part of monitoring their health and wellbeing.

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