A Dog Owner’s Guide to Canine Anatomy

January 05, 2024 2 min read

Having a basic understanding of your pet’s anatomy can help you identify health problems, communicate better with your vet, and provide better care for your furry friend. This quick canine anatomy guide will give you a basic overview and function of each system.

Dogs have seven complex anatomic systems, each with a unique function similar to humans. These systems play an important part in your dog’s overall health. When one system is not functioning correctly due to age or illness, it can quickly impact other systems. In addition to knowing canine anatomy, it is important to know your dog's normal vital signs. If your pet is acting differently, checking vital signs should be the first step before calling the vet.

Dog Skeletal System

The canine skeletal system includes 319 bones, joints, and cartilage. Fun fact: dogs have more bones in their skeletal system than humans! The skeletal system provides support and protection for internal organs and aids in movement. Bone marrow also produces blood cells and stores essential minerals.

Muscular System

With over 700 muscles, the canine muscular system provides stability and strength. The contraction and relaxation of the muscles also aid in body movements. The muscles are attached to the bones by tendons.

Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system includes the heart and blood vessels. The heart pumps blood throughout the body. Blood vessels transport oxygen and nutrients through arteries to the tissues and organs. Oxygen-poor blood is transported back to the heart to reoxygenate. The cardiovascular system is also responsible for regulating body temperature and maintaining fluid balance, which is very important in extreme temperatures.

Respiratory System

Dogs have a respiratory system similar to humans, with the lungs and airways working together to bring oxygen into the body and remove carbon dioxide. The diaphragm, a large group of muscles below the lungs, aids breathing by contracting and relaxing to help move air in and out of the lungs.

Digestive System

The digestive system is responsible for processing food and absorbing nutrients. Dogs have a simple digestive system that consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The liver and pancreas also play a role in digesting food. As dogs age, their digestive system absorbs fewer nutrients, often leading to the need for senior foods.

Nervous System

The nervous system is responsible for communication within the body. It includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The nervous system is responsible for allowing dogs to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Many diseases have a neurologic component, meaning balance, sight, and hearing can be impacted. If you notice a change in balance, sight, or hearing, contact your veterinarian.

Reproductive System

Female dogs have a reproductive system that includes the ovaries, uterus, and vagina. Male dogs have a reproductive system that consists of the testes, penis, and prostate gland.

Understanding your dog's anatomy can help you better care for your pet. If you ever
notice changes in your dog’s behavior or appetite, contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment.

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