How to Take Your Dog or Cat’s Pulse

You know your pet better than anyone else, and it is very important that you be capable of detecting changes in your dog or cat’s health.

How to take your dog or cat's pulse
Know how to take your dog or cat’s pulse.

You know your pet better than anyone else, and it is very important that you be capable of detecting changes in your pet’s health.

Early recognition of serious problems can save your dog or cat’s life. Learn to locate the pulse on your pet before a crisis arises.

How to Take Your Dog or Cat’s Pulse

Listening to the heartbeat via a stethoscope, as veterinarians do, is not the only way. The pulse, which is a transmitted heartbeat, can be felt with your fingers.


According to The First-Aid Companion For Dogs & Cats, the femoral artery, located in the crease of the hind legs at the groin area, is the best place to feel your pet’s pulse. The pulses in the animal’s front legs or neck area are not nearly as strong. However, you should know that the femoral pulse in a cat is often difficult to find.

The heartbeat and pulse rate go hand in hand; you should be able to feel the pulse at the same time as each heart beat.

Here’s how to take your dog or cat’s pulse: With your pet lying on her side in a comfortable position, press your fingers (no thumbs) in the femoral area until you find the pulse. Count all the pulses you feel in 15 seconds (having a watch handy to click off the seconds may be helpful), then multiply by four to get the beats per minute (bpm). For more accurate readings, check the pulse two or three times and average the readings out to get her average normal rate.

HINT: Remember the “no thumbs” rule when feeling for the pulse. By using your ring, index or middle finger (and no thumbs), you will be less likely to mistake your own pulse as that of your pet.

Keep in mind that depression, dehydration and a low blood pressure may make finding the pulse more complex.

Signs of Trouble

An irregular pulse can be a forewarning of heart problems, while a pounding or weak pulse may be indicative of a drop in blood pressure, shock or weak heart output. Any of these conditions require prompt medical attention, while the most dangerous — a stopped heart — calls for immediate CPR.

Listed below are the average number of heartbeats per minute for dogs and cats, based on the pet’s size.

Normal Beats Per Minute (BPMs)


  • Small dogs (up to 20 pounds): 70-180
  • Medium and large dogs (over 20 pounds): 60-140
  • Puppies (up to six weeks): up to 220


  • Cats: 120-240
  • Kittens (up to six weeks): 200-300

If your readings are not coming up within the normal range, please have your pet checked by your veterinarian. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and your pet is counting on you to keep her healthy.

Photo: ♥HunterJumper ♥/Flickr


Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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