Bones of the Dog

The dog skeleton has around 319 bones (dogs with longer tails have a couple more). It is formed to enable rapid movements such as running, hunting and chasing. For example, the dogs have a rudimentary collarbone made of cartilage and shoulder blades that are not tightly connected to its skeleton, allowing for greater stride length, faster motion and increased flexibility.

the Skeleton Details (click here)


  • Carpus: wrist bone.
  • Caudal vertebrae: bones of the tail.
  • Femur: uppermost part of the rear leg of a dog.
  • Fibula: one of two bones of the lower rear leg of a dog. 
  • Humerus: bone of the upper foreleg of a dog.
  • Lower maxillary: lower jaw.
  • Metacarpus: bone of the paw of the foreleg between the carpus and the phalanges.
  • Metartasus: paw bone between the heel and the phalanges.
  • Orbit: cavity of the skull that contains the eye.
  • Pelvis: pelvic bone.
  • Phalange: toe bone.
  • Phalange: finger bone. 
  • Radius: one of two bones of the lower foreleg of a dog.
  • Rib: bone of the thoracic cage.
  • Sacrum: the set of sacral vertebrae.
  • Scapula: shoulder bone.
  • Skull: bony case of the brain.
  • Tarsus: heel bone.
  • Tibia: one of two bones of the lower rear leg of a dog.
  • Ulna: one of two bones of the lower foreleg of a dog.
  • Vertebrae, Cervical : bones of the neck.
  • Vertebra, Lumbar : the bones of the lumbar region of the back.
  • Vertebrae, Thoracic : the bones forming the dorsal part of the thoracic cage. 

The skeletal bones of dogs and cats can be grouped in sub divisions:

  • Appendicular skeleton – the bones of the limbs (legs and feet) and pelvis
  • Axial skeleton – the bones of the head, neck, vertebrae (spine), ribs and sternum (breast bone)
  • Visceral skeleton – small bones that form part of an organ (for e.g. the middle ear’s “ossicles”, penis’s “baculum”, and throat’s “hyoid”)

Classified by shape:

  • Long bones – found in the limbs; support weight and allow large movement
  • Short bones – found in the wrists (carpus, metacarpus) and ankles (tarsus, metatarsus); provide stability and fine movement
  • Sesamoid bones – found near freely moving joints, such as the wrist and the knee (stifle)
  • Flat bones – found in the sternum, shoulders, ribs and pelvis; provide for the attachment of muscles and long bones, and in the skull where they surround and protect the eyes, ears, sinuses, and brain
  • Irregular bones – found in the vertebral column, the skull (those that are not of the flat type), and parts of the hip bone

Their function:

  • Provide the rigid structural framework of the body
  • Protect the internal organs from damage
  • Serve as levers that enable physical movement along with the muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • Store calcium and phosphorus – these minerals are continuously deposited and withdrawn from the bone to support essential bodily function
  • Produce blood cells – bone marrow serves as a factory for red blood cells and for several kinds of white blood cells

Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow of dogs. Three specific etiologies make up this disease and they can occur independently or in conjunction with one another. They include FCP -the pathology involving the medial coronoid of the ulna; OCD -osteochondritis of the medial humeral condyle in the elbow joint and UAP -ununited anconeal process.

Hip Dysplasia – As with many other large breeds, Shilohs can also be succeptable to hip dysplasia, a genetic disorder characterized by incomplete growth of the hip. While more rare, there have been some instances of osteochondritis, a condition where a piece of bone or cartilage breaks away, causing pain and stiffness in the affected joint. Skeletal disorders often require long term treatment and therapy.

Learn more about hip screen rating systems [HERE]

Visit our HIP HALL OF FAME to see the excellence in the breed.

ACL Tears (Cranial Cruciate Ligament in dogs) continues to be the most common cause for orthopedic lameness in dogs. It is recognized in all breeds, ages, and sizes of dogs from a 5lb Yorkie to a 250 lb Mastiff. TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) is often, but not always, used to correct this problem. Consult your veterinary surgeon for options.

Asynchronous Growth of the Radius & Ulna, is when these two bones’ growth rates are not coordinated, is found in non-dwarfs in a wide continuous “spectrum” of severity.

  • [more info & links coming soon]

Growth Plates. The growth plate, also known as the epiphyseal plate or physis, is the area of growing tissue near the ends of the long bones in children and adolescents. Each long bone has at least two growth plates: one at each end. The growth plate determines the future length and shape of the mature bone.

Panosteitis, similar to growing pains, is a self limiting condition exhibited by shifting leg lameness that may occur during a Shiloh’s growth stages. As is common in other large breeds, onset can be sudden but episodes usually resolve within a few weeks and cease when the dog reaches physical maturity. It is a painful inflammation of the outer surface or shaft of one or more long bones of the legs. It may occur in more than one long bone at a time or may move around, causing a shifting lameness that goes from one bone or leg to another.

IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) is a gradual, age-related, degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time. IVDD occurs when the shock absorbing discs between your dog’s vertebrae gradually begin to harden until they are no longer able to cushion the vertebrae normally

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