How to Take Your Dog or Cat’s Pulse

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

book-cover-smallest1Have you ever taken your pet’s pulse? Tell us about it in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Pets Adviser’s email newsletter. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll be among the first to get alerts about major pet food recalls. New subscribers also get instant access to our 40-page ebook, which has “secrets every cat and dog lover should know.” Learn more here.

From Around the Web

  • Nikole Fairview

    I have never heard of the no thumbs rule before, but it makes great sense. Thank you for including that here. This is great to know that I can do this and make sure my little puppy is doing okay from time to time. It is surprising that I have never had a vet ask me to do it before. However, when I called about other issues, I’ve only called about throwing up and getting rabies shots before, so I’m sure feeling a pulse might not have been necessary. After reading your article though, I think this is something that you should do weekly or something like that just to see if there might be an issues surfacing with your pet.

  • Darren

    My cats (14 yrs old) pulse is reading 33 per 15 seconds, 132 per minutes. She have lost most of her rear leg mobility over 24 hrs. She has been drinking normal but not eating much at all.