When you think of dogs, what image comes to mind?
If you thought bones, you’re not alone! The iconic imagery of a dog chewing on a bone is as old as time, and the two are forever linked! But like all vertebrae, your pup has plenty of bones you don’t want to see!
Bones play an essential role in your dog’s biology. They help provide structure, keep organs well-protected, and support just about every biological function your dog has.
Seriously: Think about how critical bones are to your dog’s existence.
Leg muscles help with movement, while the shape of the internal ear structure helps with hearing!
There are so many little things that your dog’s skeletal system helps make possible.
The bones are the structural foundation your dog needs to live and function. But how many bones does your dog have in its body?
Canine Anatomy: Understanding the Bone Structure
We won’t keep you waiting too long. Dogs typically have 319 to 321 bones.
Most dog breeds are nearly identical. The only real difference is that some pups have more bones in the hind dewclaws.
Others will have a few extra vertebrae to accommodate their lengthy tails! Beyond that, dogs have all the same bones regardless of breed.
Of course, shapes can vary, giving up the many unique breed looks.
Skeletal Head Shapes
The head shape is the most significant difference you’ll observe when looking at dog skeletons.
There are three shapes: Dolichocephalic, Mesocephalic, and Brachycephalic.
Dolichocephalic dogs have long and thin heads. Some examples include the Greyhound, the Afghan Hound, and the Collie.
Mesocephalic dog heads have a broader back skull. The nuzzle is comparatively smaller than the rear, creating a triangle-shaped dome.
Good examples include Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, Beagles, etc.
Finally, there are the Brachycephalic dog skulls. These are some of the most recognizable and also the most controversial.
The head is broad, but the nuzzle is short. Brachycephalic dogs often experience breathing difficulties due to their unique biological makeup.
Regardless of the skull shape, all dogs have the same number of bones in the head. They have an even 50!
Here’s where a dog’s bone count can vary.
The spine is home to a significant number of bones. It stretches from the base of the head down to the tail.
Instead of looking at the spine as one singular unit, most vets observe bone health by looking at five different regions.
Each one consists of vertebrae that surround and protect the spinal cord.
- The first region is the cervical spine. It consists of seven vertebrae.
- Next is the thoracic spine region with 13 vertebrae
- The third spinal region is lumbar. It has seven vertebrae.
- The sacral region comes next and consists of just three vertebrae.
- Lastly, there’s the caudal region. It makes up the tail and can have anywhere between six and 23 vertebrae.
Types of Bones in a Dog’s Body
With well over 300 bones in a dog’s body, there’s a ton of variation.
To make things easier, vets typically categorize bones into five types.
Short bones are mainly concentrated around the wrists and ankles. They’re delicate by nature, but they provide an essential function.
Because they’re so small, these bones offer greater mobility and graceful movement. They also help stabilize your dog’s walk.
The main job of long bones is to support your pup’s weight.
Think of them as the foundation of a building. These bones make it easy for your dog to move around their mass. One example of a long bone is the leg’s femur.
Flat bones are an exciting part of canine anatomy. These bones have less marrow in them. But that doesn’t make them any less important.
These small, flat structural calcium and phosphorous pieces usually act as connection points. They connect bone, muscle, and ligaments together for more versatile movement.
Dogs don’t have many sesamoid bones. They’re on the wrist and knee. Their main job is to relieve tension within the muscles and tendons.
Finally, we have irregular bones. These are the ones that don’t fit into most classifications. They typically serve a specific purpose.
Some irregular bones exist in the skull, the hip, and the spinal column.
How Human and Dog Bones Differ
Believe it or not, the skeletal structure of a dog is not too different from a human’s.
We’re both vertebrates, so many of the essentials are there. You have your skull, protective spinal column, rib cages, supportive femurs, and more.
The main differences come down to size and shape. The function remains similar, but it’s easy to find the connection between our two species.
Dogs actually have more bones than humans. While they can have up to 319, we have a measly 206!
Understanding your dog’s skeletal system can come in handy. It’ll help you learn about possible injuries and the potential issues your canine companion can face.
Like humans, dogs are susceptible to bone and joint issues. Knowing how and why they occur empowers you to provide treatment and preventative care.
Also read: 6 Reasons for Pink And Black Dog Paws