How Many Bones Does a Dog Have?

Dogs’ skeletal structure is different from ours but it’s also unique compared to other four-legged mammal predators. It allows for a lot of improved mobility and flexibility but it can also lead to some health issues that dog owners need to be aware of.

But, first things first:

How many bones does a dog have?

All dog breeds have between 319 and 321 bones in their bodies. Regardless of any breed or size differences, all dogs have bones somewhere between these two numbers – from Saint Bernards to Chihuahuas. The difference between 319 and 321 is usually due to some dogs having a couple of extra bones in their tails, not due to any size or breed differences.

If you’re wondering how many bones are in a dog’s tail, the answer is as many as 23 vertebrae. Sometimes there can be a couple less, depending on the breed’s tail length but that’s it.

To compare dogs’ 319-321 bones to a human’s skeleton, people have only 206 bones. In other words, dogs have over 50% more than us. All those 100+ bones go not only in dogs’ tails, however, but are spread all across their skeletons. One main example is dogs’ disconnected shoulder bones which include much more bones than our simple shoulder bone structure.

Why do dogs have so many bones?

How many bones are in a dog’s body is not just a matter of random chance but is so for very specific purposes – running, hunting, and fighting. Almost everything in a dog’s body is built for this.

Dogs’ disconnected shoulder bones, for example, allow for a greater range of motion while running. Their tails and all the vertebrae in them are also meant to help dogs keep their balance when running and make sharp and fast turns. The same goes for the rather complex bone structure in dogs’ four feet.

And yes, there are differences between dog breeds – they are not all runners and chasers. Yet, despite that, they all have almost the exact same bone count and structure.

What bone or joint issues do dogs commonly have?

Knowing how many bones are in a dog may be just a random and curious fact but it’s important for dog owners to also be aware of the possible health issues dogs may have with their bones and joints. Some breeds are more susceptible to joint and bone issues and many issues are just consequences of physical trauma but it’s best to consult with your veterinarian about what you should be on the lookout for.

Here are some of the main issues you may encounter:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Angular limb deformities
  • Osteochondrosis
  • Kneecap displacement
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Panosteitis
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Bone fractures
  • Bone tumors

You can look for more info about these and other conditions in reputable online sources such as the Veterinary Manual or Pets WebMD but consulting with your vet is generally a must.

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