The Ultimate Dog Anatomy Guide 2022

The Ultimate Dog Anatomy Guide 2022

Have you ever wondered how your dog’s body works? Let’s learn about your dog's anatomy to help you get better acquainted with your pup’s body parts, from head to tail!

The Ultimate Dog Anatomy Guide 2022

As a dog owner, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with your pup’s anatomy. Here’s what you need to know, from snoot to tail.

Anatomical Terms You Should Know

Can you name all of the parts of a dog? Surely you're familiar with common features such as the legs, eyes, and tail… but how about the loin or the hock? 

Let’s review the anatomical terms used to describe the parts of the dogs, starting from head to tail.

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A Dog’s Head

Muzzle: The muzzle is also referred to as the foreface. The muzzle comprises the dog’s nose and their upper and lower jaws.

Forehead: The forehead is also known as the braincase. The forehead of a dog stretches from the stop and the eyebrows to the back end of the skull.

Occiput: The occiput is a notable feature on dogs. It is the highest point of the skull from the back of the head, sometimes referred to as their “smart bump.”

Ears: Different breeds have different ears. Dogs may have ears that are:

  • Pricked, or upright
  • Dropped, or hanging down
  • Buttoned, or having a fold at the pinna (or ear flap)
  • Cropped, or surgically altered

Eyes: Did you know that the majority of dogs have brown eyes? Also, some dogs have a genetic condition called “heterochromia” that results in their two eyes being different colors (typically blue and brown).

Whiskers: Whiskers are tactile hairs used for sensory purposes and to help your dog better understand their environment, while also sometimes conveying emotion. 

Flews: Flews is a fancy way to describe your dog’s floppy upper lips, like you’d find on Bloodhounds or Bulldogs. 

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A Dog’s Neck and Shoulders

Nape: The nape is the part of the neck that joins the base of the skull with the back of the head.

Throat: You know this one — the area on the neck located beneath the jaws.

Crest: The crest begins at the nape and ends at the withers.

Neck: Running from the head to the shoulders is the dog’s neck.

Shoulder: The shoulder is the top section of the foreleg, between the withers and the elbow.

Withers: The topmost point of the shoulder is the withers. It’s the highest point on the dog’s back.

Back and the Chest 

Prosternum: The bone tying the rib cage together is known as the sternum. The prosternum is located at the top of the sternum.

Chest: The rib cage of the dog is known as their chest, or lorax.

Back: Run your hand from the shoulder point to the end of the rib cage. The length is a dog’s back.

Flank: The flank is the side of the dog that stretches between the end of the chest and their rear leg.

Belly: Also known as the abdomen, or the tummy. The belly fills in the area on the underside of the dog from the rib cage to the tail.

Loin: Starting on the back, the loin sits between the end of the rib cage and the start of the pelvic bone.

Dog Legs

Foreleg: The foreleg contains the following:

  • Upper Arm - below the shoulder, ending at the elbow. 
  • Elbow - the first joint on the back of the foreleg is the elbow.
  • Forearm - the forearm is the long bone following the elbow. 
  • Wrist - the lower joint found below the elbow.

Carpals: Carpals are found in the forelegs and the hindlegs. They are also referred to as pasterns and are similar to the bones found in human hands and feet. 

Paw: A dog’s foot is its paw. It’s also called the hindfoot or forefoot and is located at the end of each leg. Attached to the paw are the dog’s:

  • Nails or claws
  • Paw Pads - including one main pad and a pad under each toe. Pads are also found behind the dog’s wrists and are known as stopper pads.
  • Dewclaws - similar to thumbs, although they are stalemated appendages.
  • Toes

Thighs: The upper thigh is above the knee of the hind leg. The lower thigh is beneath the knee.

Stifle: The stifle, or knee, sits on the front of the hind leg. It falls in alignment with the abdomen.

Hock: The hock is also known as the harsus. This is the joint on the dog’s hind legs that makes an awkward sharp angle.

Dog’s Rear

Rump: The rump is also referred to as the croup. The pelvic bone is located here. It’s the rear end of a dog.

Tail: The tail attaches to the rump through the tail set. The tail itself is obvious as it’s usually wagging as a happy dog greets you.

A Dog’s Senses

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Canine senses are much like ours. They have the same five senses, which include hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and seeing. Their senses of smell and hearing are particularly amplified in comparison to humans.

Smell: Dogs use their nose to experience their surroundings. It is estimated that a dog’s sense of smell is 100,000 times stronger than humans due to the large number of olfactory receptors in their nose which are used to detect airborne molecules.

Sight: Dog’s have excellent night vision thanks to a reflector in the eye known as tapetum lucidum. The reflector is also responsible for that eerie glow, or “red eye,” that you might receive from your dog at night when it's dark. Since a dog’s eyes are not fully forward-facing, they have a wider angle of view than humans. This helps them see more of the world around them, but comes at the expense of precision focus. Dogs are considered nearsighted. Squirrel! Dogs can detect motion very quickly. They also see in color, though they don’t see all of the colors of the rainbow that we do. Dogs can best  make out yellow and blue-violet hues. 

Sound: A dog’s ear contains 15 different muscles, allowing the ear to move in all different directions. Dog’s can hear sounds four times further away than humans can. They can also hear different higher frequencies; humans can only hear frequencies up to 20,000 Hz but dogs can hear sounds as high as 45,000 Hz. 

Taste: Taste is linked to the sense of smell. Every dog is unique to what they consider tasty.

Touch: Dog’s may or may not welcome a good belly rub. Some prefer a gentle scratch. Each dog reacts differently when it comes to the sense of touch. And most dogs prefer that their paws are left untouched.

A Dog’s Cardiovascular System

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When the term cardio is used, people immediately think heart. The cardiovascular system is composed of the heart, arteries, veins, and blood vessels, and is responsible for pumping and carrying blood through the body.

The heart is made up of the:

  • Aorta
  • Pulmonary artery
  • Right atrium
  • Right ventricle
  • Left atrium
  • Left ventricle
  • Ventricular septum

Keeping the heart healthy begins with proper nutrition. Vitamins and minerals such as taurine, coenzyme Q10, vitamin E, and omega-three fatty acids help support heart health in dogs. Most can be found within a dog’s commercial diet or supplied through nutritional supplements for dogs.

A Dog’s Digestive System

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The digestive system is responsible for processing food into vital nutrients and energy that your dog needs. After your dog eats, food is processed by the digestive system before being excreted as waste.

Here are the contributors to the dog’s digestive tract:

  • Mouth, teeth, tongue, and salivary glands
  • Esophagus - connects the mouth and the stomach
  • Stomach - where the food is digested and nutrients are absorbed
  • Small intestine - continues the process of food absorption. The small intestine includes three parts: duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.
  • Large intestine - where water and final nutrients get pulled from the food matter, and waste is formed. 
  • Pancreas - near the stomach, the pancreas regulates blood sugar and produces hormones to assist with digestion.
  • Liver - responsible for removing toxins transported in the digestive tract

Each organ plays an individual role in processing a dog’s food, converting it into energy and nutrients. 

A Dog’s Musculoskeletal System

The musculoskeletal system of a dog includes all of their bones, muscles, and joints such as:

  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Rear Leg
  • Stifle, or knee

The musculoskeletal system is responsible for a dog’s form. It provides them with the tools they need for stability, movement, and support. 

Keeping the joints healthy and in shape will keep your pup moving freely and actively for as long as possible, even in old age. Active pups can benefit from joint supplements and multivitamins for dogs that include ingredients to support their musculoskeletal system. 

A Dog’s Respiratory System

Thanks to the respiratory system, oxygen helps energize the body and release unwanted carbon dioxide back to the environment. It is necessary for dog’s to regulate their body temperature.

Dog’s are not able to sweat as humans can. In order to release the heat, they pant. 

The respiratory system is made up of:

  • Nose
  • Pharynx
  • Larynx
  • Trachea
  • Bronchi
  • Lungs

A Dog’s Urogenital System

The urogenital system refers to the urinary system and the reproductive system. 

This urinary system includes the kidneys, ureter, urethra, and bladder. The reproductive system differs between a male and a female. A male has testes, epididymis, vas deferens, and a penis. At the same time, a female has a uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and a vagina.

A pet owner may decide it’s best to spay (females) or neuter (male) a pet. In the process of desexing, males are castrated, where the testicles are removed. The ovaries and uterus are removed from the female.

This may be a good idea for those that want to:

  • Prevent unwanted litters
  • Modify unfavorable behaviors, such as spraying or marking
  • Prevent hormone changes

A Dog’s Nervous System

The brain, spinal cord, and all of the nerves needed to communicate can be found in a dog’s nervous system. The spinal cord even has its own built-in protection via the boney spinal vertebrae that act like armor.

The nervous system is made up of two main areas: the central area and the peripheral area. The brain and spinal cord reside in the central area, while nerves make up the peripheral area.

The Bottom Line

Knowledge of dog anatomy is not only important to veterinarians, but important for dog owners to have a basic understanding of as well. Each breed’s anatomy may slightly differ in terms of specificity but all breeds share overall themes and traits.

For more of all the knowledge you need to be the best pup parent you can be, check out additonal articles on our Finn’s blog here


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Canine Senses | Paws Chicago

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