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Heart Rate and Irregular Heartbeat in Dogs

Normal Pulse continued...

You can also feel a dog’s pulse by pressing against the rib cage over his heart. Feel the heartbeat just below and behind the elbow joint. If the heart is enlarged or diseased, you may be able to detect a buzzing or vibration over the chest wall.

The pulse rate is determined by counting the number of beats per minute. Most adult dogs at rest maintain a rate of 60 to 160 beats per minute. In large dogs the rate is somewhat slower and in toy dogs it’s somewhat faster. In young puppies the heart rate is about 220 beats per minute.


You can determine the adequacy of your dog’s circulation and the presence or absence of anemia by examining the gums and tongue. A deep pink color is a sign of good circulation and a normal red blood cell volume. A pale color indicates anemia. A gray or bluish tinge is a sign of insufficient oxygen in the blood (called cyanosis). With severe circulatory collapse, the mucous membranes are cool and gray. However, some dogs, such as Chows Chows, have pigmented lips, gums, and even tongues. These will normally appear bluish, purple, or even black all the time. Know what is normal for your dog.

The adequacy of the circulation can be tested by noting how long it takes for the gums to “pink up” after being firmly pressed with a finger. This is called capillary refill time. The normal response is one second or less. More than two seconds suggests poor circulation. When the finger impression remains pale for three seconds or longer, the dog is in shock.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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