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How Fast Is a Normal Heart Rate for Dogs? (Vet Answer)

Bynewsmagzines

Mar 21, 2023
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Do you think that your dog’s heart is beating faster than usual and want to know what the normal heart rate is for dogs? As a general rule, dogs’ heart rate varies according to their size, but generally somewhere between 60 and 220 beats per minute. Therefore, small dogs will have faster heartbeats than large breeds.

Your dog’s heart can beat faster or slower than normal for many reasons, such as prolonged or intense physical activity, fever, infection, internal bleeding, anemia, exposure to sun and heat, dehydration, or heart disease.

Contact your veterinarian if your dog experiences other clinical signs besides a rapid heart rate, such as coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, dehydration, fainting, or convulsions.

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What Is the Normal Heart Rate for Dogs?

When the heart beats, it creates a flow of blood that circulates through the blood vessels. This blood flow can be measured and give veterinarians an idea about the pet’s health.

Heart rate in healthy dogs varies depending on the breed:1

  • Newborn puppies: up to 220 beats per minute (bpm)
  • Two-week-old puppies: 160–120 bpm
  • Toy breeds: up to 180 bpm
  • Small breeds: 120–160 beats bpm
  • Breeds over 30 pounds: 60–140 bpm

Dogs’ heart rates can also vary depending on their age. The younger the dog, the faster the heartbeat.

A normal heartbeat should be strong, with a regular rhythm.

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How to Measure Your Dog’s Heart Rate

The best place to feel your dog’s pulse is the femoral artery, which is on the inside of the back leg, mid-thigh. When your dog is relaxed, place the tip of your finger or the tips of two fingers on it, and count the beats for 1 minute. It is easiest when your dog is standing. If your dog does not want to behave, you can count 15 seconds and multiply by four.2

In underweight dogs, you can measure their pulse by feeling their heart beating through their chest. You can do this by placing your finger on the left side of your dog’s chest.

If your dog is in a state of emotional excitement or has been running, their heartbeat will increase. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that your four-legged friend is calm and relaxed before you perform this measurement.

You should take your dog’s pulse several times over a couple of days to establish a normal baseline. A fast or slow pulse can be cause for concern but not always.

Cute and beautiful beagle dog lying on the exam table at the veterinarian. Two vets examining a sick and scared pet with a stethoscope
Image Credit: Beach Creatives, Shutterstock

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Why Is My Dog’s Heart Beating So Fast?

A rapid heart rate (tachycardia) can be something as simple as prolonged physical activity or anxiety, but it can also indicate other conditions, such as dehydration, fever, or heat stroke.

Other causes for an increased heart rate include:

  • Dehydration
  • Generalized infection (septicemia)
  • Birth defect
  • Internal bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Lung disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Myocarditis
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Cancer

In cases where the increased heart rate is caused by an internal disease, you will also notice a few of the following clinical signs:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Coughing
  • Fainting
  • Fever

Take your dog to the vet if they have a faster heart rate and other clinical signs.

a young vet checking a maltese dog
Image Credit: Creativa Images, Shutterstock

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Why Is My Dog’s Heart Beating So Slowly?

A slow heart rate (bradycardia) can have numerous causes:

  • Hypothermia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Myocarditis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Congenital heart malformations
  • Electrolyte imbalances (potassium, magnesium, sodium, chlorine)
  • Certain medicines
  • Poisoning
  • Parasitic diseases

The clinical signs of bradycardia in dogs, when associated with internal diseases, are similar to those of tachycardia.

medical treatment of sick husky dog in vet clinic
Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

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Is a Dog’s Heart Beat Irregular?

Heartbeats in healthy dogs should not be irregular. Irregular (or abnormal) heart rhythm is called arrhythmia. When this happens, your dog’s heart can beat too slowly or too fast or skip a beat.

Some cardiac arrhythmias may be normal and should not cause you any concern. One example of normal arrhythmia is when whenever pets breathe in, their heart will beat faster and slow down as they breathe out. In other cases, though, arrhythmias are a cause of concern and should be evaluated by a vet.

Arrhythmia has many causes, including:

  • Genetic factors
  • Trauma
  • Anemia
  • Spleen, liver, gastrointestinal, or brain diseases
  • Cancer
  • Structural heart disease
  • Advanced age

The clinical signs of arrhythmia are usually not shown unless they are abnormal or sustained for a long time. In some cases, if the arrhythmia is caused by or causes heart disease, signs of heart disease may be displayed, such as lethargy, reduced exercise tolerance, fainting, coughing, wobbly walk, etc.

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What Are the Signs of Heart Failure in Dogs?

Heart failure is a syndrome of severe dysfunction of the cardiocirculatory system, which prevents optimal blood circulation. In other words, it is a condition that occurs when a heart disease progresses. As a result, the heart will be unable to pump blood throughout your dog’s body.

This condition usually occurs in hyperactive or senior dogs and those suffering from heart disease. It is a life-threatening condition and can lead to your pet’s death. Although many of the clinical signs are common and specific to several conditions, those of heart failure in dogs are easy to recognize, and you can act in time.

Clinical signs of heart failure in dogs include:

  • Coughing at rest or during sleep (called cardiac cough)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pale or bluish gums
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), chest, and legs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panting

If your dog suffers from heart failure and you notice that they have lost interest in things and people that they once loved, are breathing with difficulty, are urinating and defecating in unauthorized places, get tired quickly, and have no energy, the disease may have worsened, and your pet may die.

How Long Does a Dog With Heart Failure Live?

If your dog suffers from heart failure, the prognosis is pessimistic. If you leave the condition untreated, it can lead to death in a relatively short time. But with the right treatment and a proper diet and if certain habits are changed, the life expectancy of dogs with heart failure can be increased from a few months to a few years.

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Conclusion

Depending on your dog’s size and age, their heart rate should be between 60 and 220 beats per minute, but it can be below or above these limits and still be normal. You have nothing to worry about if you know that you have a healthy dog and their heart beats fast, but they do not show any other clinical signs. The causes of a pulse that is too high or too low are multiple and include heat stroke, fever, hypothermia, heart disease, poisoning, internal bleeding, cancer, etc. If your dog’s heartbeats are too fast or too slow and this persists over time, it is recommended to contact the veterinarian.


Featured Image Credit: Nejron Photo, Shutterstock

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