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Dogs’ Skeletal System Explained: How Many Bones Do Dogs Have?

Adult Brown and White Pembroke Welsh Corgi Near the Body of Water

Dogs are known to suffer from various bone diseases that can even be fatal. As a responsible dog owner, knowing about your canine’s smallest details can help you provide them with a healthier life. Let’s learn a little about our fur buddies’ anatomy so…

How Many Bones Does a Dog Have? 

Dogs’ skeletal system comprises 319 to 321 bones, depending on their tail length. Dogs with shorter tails have a few fewer bones than dogs with longer tails. The total number of dogs’ bones is not subject to variation, regardless of the breed or size. So, for instance, a Great Dane and a toy Poodle have the same number of bones. 

The high number of bones in dogs is a surprise for many people; however, since bones are the framework on which a body is built, they are specialized to perform different functions. Dogs’ large number of bones allows them to move in ways humans can’t. For this reason, some dog breeds can even beat the Cheetah in a race. Let’s learn a little more about our fur buddy’s skeletal system. 

Dog’s Skeletal System Explained

dog skeleton decor beside wall

Like humans, dogs’ skeletal system is composed of hard tissues that support their body, help them move (locomotion), protect visceral organs of the body, and produce red blood cells. Their skeleton system is optimized to help them move fast, hunt and chase. 

Visceral, appendicular, and axial make up the three components of the dog’s skeleton. The appendicular skeleton comprises the legs and feet, whereas the visceral skeleton comprises the smaller bony parts, such as the inner ear organs. The axial portion of the body supports the sternum, ribs, spine, neck, and head. 

A key difference between a human skeletal system and a dog’s is that they lack a collarbone. In place of that, they have a cartilage-only collarbone that is primitive. Furthermore, they also have detached shoulder bones. This gives them a stronger running motion, more flexibility, and longer strides. Long, Short, Flat, Sesamoid, and Irregular bones are among the three components of the skeletal structure.

Long bones: The dog’s limbs have long bones that sustain weight and allow for movement and flexibility.

Short bones: They are found on the ankles and wrists and allow the dog to move with ease and steadiness. 

Flat bones: The dog’s long bones and muscles are attached to the flat bones in the ribs, shoulders, pelvis, and sternum. Additionally, they are essential to the function of the skull because they shield the sensitive areas of the head, such as the brain, sinuses, eyes, and ears.

Sesamoid bones: The Sesamoid bones are found in freely movable bodily joints like the knees and wrists.

Irregular bones: The spinal column, portions of the hip bone, and the skull have irregular bones.

How Long Does Bone Development Take in Dogs?

Dog owners are willing to bet that time passes quicker when you bring a puppy home. The once-six-week-old puppies seem to grow up overnight. Is this true? How long does it take for a dog to reach full maturity? But what kind of maturity are we talking about? There can be two types: physical and mental maturity. This article covers the physical part, mainly bone development. Learn more about when dogs stop growing here

The dog’s skeleton system may take between 3 to 18 months to develop fully. This period varies depending on the dog’s size. For instance, a small or toy breed dog may attain full maturity within 3 to 4 months, while a large breed dog, like a German Shepherd, can take up to 18 months to fully mature. During their maturing stages, some dog breeds, like the basset, experience skeletal dwarfism, which causes their bones to be oriented and shaped differently from those of other dogs.

Common Skeletal Diseases in Dogs

Each dog breed is predisposed to certain diseases; in most cases, these diseases afflict dogs’ bones. Here are some of the most common ailments that dogs suffer from:

Congenital disorders: 

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Panosteitis
  • Osteochondrosis
  • Multiple cartilaginous
  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy
  • Osteomyelitis

Nutritional disorders:

  • Rickets
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Cancer
  • Calcium and Phosphorous deficiencies
  • Trauma

How to Take Care of Your Dog’s Bone Health?

girl in brown shirt lying on white dog on green grass during daytime

An improper and imbalanced diet can lead to a variety of health issues. Therefore, it’s just as important to watch what you eat as it is to watch what you give your dog. Ensure you feed your dog a diet that suits its stage of life. Exercise also helps keep bones strong, so take your dog for regular walks and active play sessions. Following are other ways to help your dog live its best life! 

1. Feeding high-quality commercial food

Dogs require many of the same minerals and vitamins we do, and providing them with those can be the best strategy to avoid bone problems. Buying top-quality commercial food can be the easiest way to meet your dog’s nutritional demands. 

2. Home Cooked Meals Under Veterinary Guidance 

Some dog parents prefer to cook for their canines. This can be an economical option; however, providing the right amount of nutrients can be challenging. Therefore, it is best to consult a veterinarian before cooking meals for your dog. A vet can also draw up a diet plan based on your dog’s activity level, size, and age. 

3. Meal Quantity

Dogs that overeat are at a higher risk of obesity leading to joint problems. And on the other side of this, if dogs don’t eat enough, it can lead to a nutritional deficiency causing an array of diseases. Therefore, vet guidance is important to provide a healthy and balanced diet for your dog. 

4. Exercising 

Dog breeds require different amounts of exercise to stay healthy, but nearly all dogs need daily routines. Therefore, it’s crucial to take your dog out on a walk on a daily basis. Some dog breeds may also need a dog walker due to the high amount of activity they require to stay healthy. 

5. Avoid Supplements 

Bone supplements are only good as long as a veterinarian prescribes them. It is best to avoid adding unnecessary bone supplements. 

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