On average, a dog’s normal heart rate can range from 60 to 160 beats per minute, depending on the breed. Usually, bigger breeds have a slower heart rate than small ones. However, if your pet’s current reading is beyond normal, you’ll surely wonder, why is my dog’s heart beating fast?
There are many possible reasons behind this concern. It can either be normal or not, depending on your dog’s overall health condition and the circumstances surrounding the elevated heartbeat.
In this post, I discuss this heart problem to help pet owners know more about the potential hazards their pets are facing. I also included steps you need to take as well added tips to boost your canine’s heart health.
Types of tachycardia in dogs
There are two types of tachycardia in dogs: ventricular and superventricular.
Ventricular tachycardia happens inside the heart’s ventricles. This is very life-threatening to canines if not treated right away. It occurs in the lower chambers of the dog’s heart.
On the other hand, superventricular tachycardia occurs in the atria near the ventricles. While SV can also be dangerous, it’s not as life-threatening as VT. It’s because VT happens in the blood-pumping area of the heart, which has a crucial role in circulation and oxygen dissemination in the dog’s body.
Nevertheless, both these types of tachycardia in dogs require immediate treatment at the vet’s clinic. The consolation here is that not all cases of increased heart rate in canines are automatically tachycardia. Some are due to the potential reasons I outlined below.
Why is my dog’s heart beating fast?
Increased heartbeat rate or tachycardia in dogs can either be an isolated case or a sign of a bigger health problem. The only way to know is to get your dog checked at the vet clinics.
Below, I listed a few possible reasons why your dog’s heart rate may become rapid. Just remember that these are only based on my experiences as a pet owner. Your dog’s veterinarian is still the best person to diagnose your pet’s condition.
1. Your dog is a small breed.
Before you assume that your dog has health problems, you should first consider whether it’s a small breed or not. It’s because small dogs tend to have a naturally faster heartbeat, ranging from 120 to 160 beats per minute.
Such a high heart rate is normal for small breeds like Chihuahua, French Bulldog, Beagle, Pug, Pomeranian, and Dachshund.
If your dog has a small breed, there’s usually nothing to worry about. However, if your pooch is experiencing unusual symptoms like coughing, lethargy, and vomiting, you should bring it to the vet right away. These symptoms paired with increased heart rate can be a serious health problem.
2. Your dog is overheating.
Another notorious reason why a dog would have a rapid heart rate is overheating. This happens when a canine is exposed to excessive heat, especially without access to water.
While all dogs can suffer from this condition, brachycephalic or flat-nosed dogs are at a higher risk. These breeds are English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, Mastiffs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pit Bulls, and so on.
Aside from increased heart rate, overheating dogs also experience weakness, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, and lethargy. Take note that this problem can take a deadly turn within hours if not addressed right away.
It’s important to bring your dog to the vet if it suffered from overheating. Even if your pooch seems fine after applying home remedies, overheating can have long-term and ongoing effects on your pet’s health.
Overall, the best solution to overheating is prevention. You shouldn’t walk your dog outdoors during midday or if the temperature is higher than 87F.
3. Your dog has anemia.
Canines suffering from anemia can also experience elevated heart rates. Because there’s a lower number of red blood cells (RBC) circulating in your dog’s body, the heart has to compensate by pumping faster. In turn, your pet’s heartbeat and breathing will be evidently faster.
This is very evident in a condition called autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) in canines. AIHA is a condition in which the dog’s immune system attacks and destroys red blood cells. Even if RBCs are continuously being manufactured in the canine’s bone marrow, they will be attacked by the immune system once released into the bloodstream.
With this, canines suffering from AIHA will have a lingering rapid heart rate. It’s also accompanied by symptoms like paleness of the gums, a jaundiced look, poor appetite, and vomiting.
Dogs with a suspected case of autoimmune hemolytic anemia should be given immediate veterinary medicine and care. The same goes for all cases of anemia to prevent it from getting worse.
4. Your dog has a congenital defect.
Dogs born with heart defects will suffer from an abnormally elevated heart rate. It can be a condition inherited by the pup from its mother or a result of poor breeding. Nevertheless, studies indicate that only 1% of dogs are suffering from congenital abnormalities.
Take note that congenital heart defects need to be diagnosed as early as possible. This is to increase the survival rate of the canine. Also, if you purchased a dog with congenital heart defects, you can send it back to the breeder if the condition is detected within the guaranteed timeframe.
Dogs with congenital heart defects will experience increased heart rate, fast breathing, heart murmur, weakness, fainting, and a slew of other heart problems. This is a life-threatening condition that could cost a dog’s life if not addressed right away.
Take note that there are many types of congenital heart defects in dogs. Some of these are pulmonic stenosis, patent ductus arteriosus, ventricular septal defect, persistent right aortic arch, and so on. All of these require veterinary care for immediate treatment.
5. Your dog has congestive heart failure.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) in canines happens when the heart can’t pump enough blood throughout the body. When this occurs, pressure builds up and fluids will start to leak into the canine’s lungs. In rare cases, the leakage will also happen into the other internal organs.
Unlike other heart defects, congestive heart failure develops slowly. It may start with symptoms like increased heart rate, heightened respiration, fatigue, fainting, and pacing.
Over time, a dog with CHF will start to lose weight, cough persistently, has a swollen belly, and become unable to exert physically. It all goes downhill from here if the canine won’t receive proper veterinary attention.
Also, senior dogs are at a higher risk of developing congestive heart failure than younger ones. It can also be a congenital problem but even dogs born with a healthy heart can succumb to this health issue.
6. Your dog has heart disease.
One of the first symptoms of heart disease in dogs is increased heart rate. This is often accompanied by difficulty breathing, persistent coughing, and collapsing. Some dogs experiencing this problem will also have behavioral changes, including poor appetite and reluctance to perform physical activities.
As with other heart problems, heart disease can either be congenital or developed later on due to various factors. Also, breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Boxers, and Great Danes are at a higher risk of having this problem.
To diagnose heart disease in dogs, the veterinarian would have to perform diagnostic procedures including urine and blood culture, ECG, cardiac evaluation, and X-rays. Other tests can be conducted at the discretion of your dog’s vet.
Depending on the diagnosis of the vet, each dog will have a specific treatment plan. This is to treat the rapid heart rate as well as the root cause of the problem.
7. Your dog has pancreatitis.
While pancreatitis isn’t heart-related, it can still make your dog’s heart race. Aside from increased heart rate, pancreatitis also triggers symptoms like vomiting, nausea, poor appetite, diarrhea, fever, and lethargy.
Interestingly, dogs suffering from an attack of pancreatitis will stick their rear ends up. It looks as if the canine is in a ‘praying position’.
While some dogs suffering from pancreatitis may only appear to be experiencing increased heart rate, others will succumb to severe depression, shock, and eventual death.
It’s important to get your dog diagnosed with pancreatitis as early as possible. This is to prevent further complications and suffering on the part of your pet.
8. Your dog is suffering from a medication side effect.
Lastly, increased heart rate in dogs could be a side effect of medications. If the fast heartbeat only occurred when your dog took a certain medication, you should contact the vet right away. You should raise the concern and ask if it’s an unexpected side effect.
In some cases, the rapid heart rate will naturally clear up. However, in other instances, the vet will recommend an alternative drug to prevent elevating the dog’s heart rate.
How to calm a dog’s rapid heart rate
Is your dog suffering from an increased heart rate? The following are the steps you can take:
🐶Consult your dog’s veterinarian
The first thing you need to do if your dog has an increased heart rate is to call the vet. Your dog’s veterinarian is the best person to consult about your pet’s condition.
In many cases, the vet will ask the owner to bring the dog to the clinic. This way, the pooch will be examined thoroughly and tests will be conducted as necessary.
Also, it’s important to note that many causes of increased heart rate in dogs require in-depth examination for proper diagnosis. While you may save up money from evading vet checks, it will catch up on you later on once your pet’s condition worsens.
🐶Let your dog rest
In some cases, a fast heart rate is due to exhaustion. It’s possible that your pooch zoomed in around the yard or has been from a long walk around the neighborhood.
You should let your pooch rest to calm its heart rate. You should do this even though your pet seems to be enthusiastic about playing or moving more.
For dogs that can’t be pinned in one place, crate training will be a big help. This way, the canine can tone down and have its much-needed rest.
🐶Bring your dog to a ventilated area
Since overheating is another reason why dogs have fast heart rates, it’s important to keep them in a well-ventilated area. This is much so if you live in a place with warm weather.
Also, it’s important to remember that some breeds aren’t supposed to be outdoor dogs. For example, the likes of English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should be kept indoors. It’s because they are very sensitive to heat and will overheat fast.
Even indoors, you should always check your dog. If it’s still too hot indoors, you can use cooling mats and portable air coolers to help keep your pooch comfortable.
🐶Give your dog enough water
Proper hydration is crucial to ensure that your dog won’t succumb to overheating and dehydration. You should keep a clean bowl of water around the house all the time, so your pooch can drink whenever it likes.
If your dog isn’t an enthusiastic drinker, you can encourage it to sip by adding a small amount of brewed tea to it. You can also use a few drops of fish oil, so your dog will find the water more palatable.
Some pet owners swear by water fountains. While this is often used in cats, some dogs tend to be more attracted to drinking when they hear the trickling sound of water.
🐶Match your dog’s physical activities with its breed
Many times, a dog’s rapid heart rate is attributed to excessive physical exertion. Pet owners should remember that each breed has varying tolerance levels.
For example, a Golden Retriever’s exercise needs are far more intense than what a Bulldog requires. It’s because subjecting a Bulldog to excessive physical activity can easily lead to overheating or heat stroke.
Effective methods to improve your dog’s health
Aside from the tips mentioned above, it will also help to boost your pet’s heart health. This way, the heart muscle will be more tolerant and not prone to damage in case your dog experiences an elevated heart rate.
Here are some that you can keep in mind:
- Deworm your dog regularly. Heartworms can restrict your dog’s circulation, leading to life-threatening heart rates. It can also spread to other internal organs, which can ultimately result in the dog’s death. This is why you should give your pet a worm preventive regularly as prescribed by the vet.
- Manage your dog’s weight. Overweight and obese dogs are prone to heart problems. Aside from that, the excess fat will put unnecessary pressure on the heart. This will cause elevated heart rates, among other problems.
- Don’t forget about dental care. This may surprise many newbie pet owners, but dental problems can actually lead to life-threatening heart disease. It’s because sores and wounds in the mouth will allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Aside from increased heart rate, this kind of infection can also lead to death.
- Ask the vet about the Cardiac ProBNP test. The ProBNP test checks the peptide hormone levels in your dog’s blood. An abnormally high reading means that the heart is beyond capacity and your dog is likely suffering from elevated heart rate and life-threatening symptoms.
- Invest in a healthy diet. What your dog eats has a massive impact on its heart health. Make sure that it has a healthy balance of fats and nutrients. Also, you should practice portion control to prevent obesity in your dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should I be able to see my dog’s heart beating?
A: As with humans, a heart beating is visible on the outside. You can see a pulsating spot on your dog’s chest, which is entirely normal. However, if you notice the beating is excessive and accompanied by other symptoms, you should get your dog checked right away.
Q: How do I know if my dog’s heart is beating so fast?
A: Dogs with increased heart rates will suffer from shortness of breath, chest pains, weakness, and even collapse. If your dog loses consciousness over increased heart rate, you should bring it to the vet immediately. Your pet may be suffering from a life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.
Q: Do dogs’ hearts beat faster than humans?
A: A dog’s heart can beat faster than humans, depending on its breed. For example, smaller dogs have a higher heart rate than bigger breeds and humans. It’s normal as long as your pet isn’t going beyond the typical range. On the other hand, large dogs tend to have a heart rate similar to humans.
Q: Is a dog’s heartbeat irregular?
A: Irregular heartbeats are common among dogs. Most cases of irregular heartbeat in canines are harmless, but you shouldn’t be too complacent, nonetheless. It’s still best to get your dog checked at the vet if it keeps having irregular heartbeats.
Q: Can an increased heart rate kill a dog?
A: Increased heart rate can kill a dog if it becomes too fast for the canine to endure. Also, an excessively rapid heartbeat can lead to a heart attack, which is fatal if not treated right away. There are other causes of increased heart rate in dogs that can be equally life-threatening. This is why you shouldn’t dismiss this problem. Instead, you should have your pet checked immediately.
Why is my dog’s heart beating fast? This condition can indicate problems like overheating, heart disease, anemia, congenital defects, and more. However, it can also be a normal thing for small breeds.
When in doubt, the vet is always the right person to consult. Remember that prevention and early diagnosis are crucial to preventing life-threatening heart problems in your dog.