There are a number of ways you can monitor vital signs such as cat heart rate in your veterinary clinic. These range from traditional stethoscopes to more modern smart devices. The best method for you will depend on why you are monitoring an animal’s heart rate, and how much data you need access to.

For example, during a routine check-up, a manual method will probably suffice. In contrast, if a cat is undergoing a surgical procedure, then you will probably need access to more accurate real-time data so that you can ensure there are no complications relating to anaesthesia.

Let’s take a look at some of the methods you can use to monitor cat heart rate and rhythms and what tools and new technologies are available to make your life easier.


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How to Monitor Cat Heart Rate

If you are a veterinary surgeon, then you will already be familiar with the variety of techniques you can use to monitor an animal’s vital signs, including heart rate, during surgery. You can listen to the heart through a regular stethoscope or an esophageal stethoscope, or use an electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) to monitor it electronically. A skilled technician is also able to use their senses of touch, hearing, and sight to monitor an animal.

Surgery isn’t the only time you need to be able to monitor cat heart rate and rhythms though. If you are a veterinarian, then you will usually check a cat’s heart rate during a routine examination or over a prolonged period of time if a cat is recovering from surgery or suffering from heart disease


Check Heart Rate & Pulse Manually

The easiest and least invasive way to check a cat’s heart rate and rhythm is by checking its pulse manually. This can be done in one of two ways. You can either listen to its heart or take a reading of its pulse

You would normally use a stethoscope to listen to a cat’s heart. If you don’t have a stethoscope to hand, then you can put your hands to its chest and feel the beats. Count the beats that you hear or feel for 15 seconds, then multiply this number by 4 to get the cat’s heartbeats per minute. 

The normal resting heart rate for healthy cats is between 120 and 160 beats per minute, although this will depend on the size of the animal as smaller breeds have a faster heart rate. The rate may also fluctuate with exercise, illness, stress and injury.

Another way of assessing a cat’s heartbeat is by checking its pulse. This is usually done by putting your fingers on the inside of their hind legs, near where the leg meets the body. If you press gently at this juncture, you should be able to feel the pulse of the femoral artery.


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Holter ECG Monitor

Measuring cat heart rate manually can be good for routine examinations of young and healthy felines, but it has its limitations. For one thing, you are only with the animal for a short period of time, so your measurement will only reflect a snapshot of what is going on inside. You also need to take into consideration that the animal is probably stressed and nervous after travelling to your clinic, and this will have an impact on their reading.

If you suspect an animal might have a heart condition, then the best way to get a reliable reading of their heart rate is by using a 24-hour ECG monitor, also known as a Holter. This is a portable medical device that monitors the heart and checks for abnormalities. It provides you with a fuller picture of how a cat’s heart is working over a prolonged period of time, including when a cat is relaxed and resting. 

A 24-hour ECG monitor can be used to establish if there are any abnormalities in cat heart rate and rhythm. You simply attach the battery-powered device to the animal in your clinic and then send the animal home to continue with its regular activities. During this time, electrodes and electrical leads record the heart rate and rhythm and detect if the patient experiences any signs of an irregular heartbeat.


Esophageal Stethoscope & EKG

If you are operating on an animal that is under anaesthesia, then the best way to get a reliable cat heart rate reading throughout every stage of the procedure is by using an esophageal stethoscope & EKG. This consists of a tube placed through the mouth and down the esophagus to the level of the heart. The stethoscope amplifies the sound of the heart and transmits it to a speaker. An EKG then measures the electric currents generated by the heart. This gives you accurate real-time data so that you can closely monitor the cat heart rate and rhythm, as well as any nerve impulse changes in the heart during surgery.

Multiparametric analysis is another common device that can be used to measure a cat’s heart rate during surgery. A multiparameter monitor is a medical device for monitoring a patient’s vital signs. This device is mainly used in intensive care, hospitalisation or ER. Devices can be used to monitor cardiac activity (ECG), blood pressure (NIBP), respiration (RESP), oxygen saturation (SpO2) and temperature (TEMP).


Smart Wearable Devices

The latest and most advanced method for measuring cat heart rate is by using smart wearable devices. Wearable devices rely on technology including RFID sensors, GPS trackers, motion sensors, accelerometer sensors, cameras, and transmitters to keep track of vital statistics such as body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, and pH levels

Examples of wearable devices that you can use to monitor cat heart rate include:

  • Smart collars: comfortably worn around the neck and used to constantly collect biometric data, including cat heart rate, over several hours or days. 
  • Pet activity trackers: used to track the daily activity levels of animals, including their resting and active heart rate.
  • Sleep trackers: sleeping respiratory rate is one of the most useful ways to monitor an animal’s heart rate if they have an existing heart problem. This gives you valuable data so that you can assess if treatment is working. 

Smart, wearable devices enable you to take a more proactive, not reactive, approach to veterinary care. And emerging wireless solutions powered by short-range and cellular IoT technologies are helping veterinarians and pet owners monitor the health and track the location of their beloved companions anywhere, and at any time.


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