How to Check a Dog's Pulse & Respiration

The best time to check a dog's pulse and respiration is when he is relaxed and resting.
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Typical values for pulse, or heart rate, and respiration, or breathing rate, vary among dogs according to size, age and other factors, including fitness levels. So it helps to check the vital signs occasionally, while your dog is calm and resting, and is well, so you'll know what is normal for your dog and so he will be used to you doing it. If you have any concerns about your dog's health, consult your veterinarian.


One of the easiest ways to locate a dog's pulse is to hold his hind leg where it meets his body and feel for it with your fingers on the inside of his thigh. For 15 seconds, count the number of pulses. Multiply this number by four to get your dog's resting pulse rate in beats per minute. For a small dog, with one hand, gently hold both sides of his chest and count the number of heart beats in the same way. Normal values vary between 50 and 160 beats a minute. Small breeds and puppies have the fastest heart rates, with slower rates for large or athletic dogs.


Check your dog's respiration by watching his chest move as he breathes for 15 seconds -- each rise and fall counts as one breath -- and multiply by four. Alternatively, count breaths by holding a wet finger or tissue by your dog's nose. Normal values range from 10 breaths per minute for large dogs to 30 for small dogs.