Every pet owner wants their animal to be as healthy and happy as possible. As their carer, you are responsible for both ensuring that you are doing everything that you can to keep your dog healthy, but also that you are alert and conscientious when it comes to her wellbeing. This means that you monitor her behavior and quickly identify when something seems out of place. One of the best ways to monitor the health and wellbeing of your pet is to establish a baseline for her vital statistics – these are her respiration rate, her temperature and her heart rate when she is fit and healthy. This data can then be compared to and if there is a significant difference, you know it is time to seek professional advice from our veterinarian.

What should my dog’s resting heart rate be?

Much like humans, the exact resting heart rate of your canine companion will be affected by several different factors including his size and health. As a guideline, a ‘normal, healthy’ large dog should have a resting heart rate of around 60-100 beats per minute while smaller dogs usually have a resting heart rate of 100-140 beats per minute. Puppies up to 12 months old may have a heart rate anywhere up to 180 beats per minute.

As this statistic can vary widely, it is important that you check your dog’s heart rate when she is healthy so that you know what is considered ‘normal’ for your furbaby.

It is also important to understand that heart rate is dynamic and can change with sleep and exercise. This is why you should always use a resting heart rate as a basis for the measurement. A resting heart rate is when your dog is relaxed and calm and has not recently done any physical exercise.

Checking your dog’s heart rate

It is easier to check your dog’s heart rate than you probably expect. Firstly, put your hand on her chest. Count how many pulses you can feel in 15 seconds. The simply multiply this by 4 to get the number of beats per minute.

If you have a large-chested dog breed it can be difficult to feel the pulses. As an alternative, you can place two fingers on the middle of your dog’s thigh near to where the leg joins the body. This is where the femoral artery passes through and you should be able to feel pulses here that are in time with your dog’s heart beats.

What does it mean if my dog has a heart rate that is slower than normal?

Sinus bradycardia, also referred to as SB, is a condition that sees a dog’s heart rate dropping significantly below its usual rate and can be indicative of a serious health problem that requires medical intervention. However, in some instances SB is harmless and can even be beneficial as your dog’s heart doesn’t have to work so hard to move oxygen around the body. Some breeds of dog are more prone to developing SB, including cocker spaniels, dachshunds, pugs, and West Highland white terriers. It is also more common in younger animals unless it is caused by an underlying disease, in which case it can affect a canine of any age.

What causes a low heart rate in dogs?

Aside from natural SB that tends to occur as a result of athletic conditioning or having just woken from sleep, there are several different, more harmful things that could contribute to your dog developing SB. These include:

– Being overly sedated

– Hypothermia

– Hypothyroidism. This is when your dog is not secreting enough of the thyroid hormones which causes your dog’s metabolism to slow.

– Pericarditis. Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, the sac that surrounds your dog’s heart.

– Hypocalcemia. This is a dangerously low level of calcium in your dog’s blood.

– Hypomagnesemia. A serious magnesium deficiency in your dog’s blood.

– Other neurological, respiratory or gastrointestinal diseases that may require veterinary intervention.

What should I do if I think my dog has sinus bradycardia?

If you are concerned that your dog’s heart rate is much lower than normal, if it doesn’t return to normal during the course of the day, or if it is accompanied by any other symptoms that may indicate something could be wrong with your pet, we recommend that you seek veterinary support as soon as possible. Our vet has the education and training needed to identify potential health problems quickly and recommend the best treatment to get your pet back to full health. Contact us today for further advice.