Dog anatomy

Dog anatomy includes the same internal structures that are in humans. Details of structures vary tremendously from breed to breed, more than in any other animal species, wild or domesticated,[1] as dogs vary from the tiny Chihuahua to the giant Irish Wolfhound. Like most predatory mammals, the dog has powerful muscles, a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance, and teeth for catching, holding, and tearing. The dog's ancestral skeleton provided the ability to jump and leap. Their legs can propel them forward rapidly, leaping as necessary to chase and overcome prey. Consequently, they have small, tight feet, walking on their toes (thus having a digitigrade stance and locomotion); their rear legs are fairly rigid and sturdy; the front legs are loose and flexible, with only muscle attaching them to the torso. All dogs (and all living Canidae) have a ligament connecting the spinous process of their first thoracic (or chest) vertebrae to the back of the axis bone (second cervical or neck bone), which supports the weight of the head without active muscle exertion, thus saving energy. [2] This ligament is analogous in function (but different in exact structural detail) to the nuchal ligament found in ungulates.[3] This ligament allows dogs to carry their heads while running long distances, such as while following scent trails with their nose to the ground, without expending much energy.[4] Although selective breeding has changed the appearance of many breeds, all dogs retain the basic ingredients from their distant ancestors. Dogs have disconnected shoulder bones (lacking the collar bone of the human skeleton) that allow a greater stride length for running and leaping. They walk on four toes, front and back, and have vestigial dewclaws on their front legs and sometimes on their rear legs.When a dog has extra dewclaws in addition to the usual one on each front leg, the dog is said to be "double dewclawed". There is some debate about whether a dewclaw helps dogs to gain traction when they run because, in some dogs, the dewclaw makes contact when they are running and the nail on the dewclaw often wears down in the same way that the nails on their other toes do, from contact with the ground. Howe

er, in many dogs the dewclaws never make contact with the ground; in this case, the dewclaw's nail never wears away, and it is then often trimmed to keep it to a safe length. The dewclaws are not dead appendages. They can be used to lightly grip bones and other items that dogs hold with the paws. However, in some dogs these claws may not appear to be connected to the leg at all except by a flap of skin; in such dogs the claws do not have a use for gripping as the claw can easily fold or turn. [2] There is also some debate as to whether dewclaws should be surgically removed.[citation needed]The argument for removal states that dewclaws are a weak digit, barely attached to the leg, so that they can rip partway off or easily catch on something and break, which can be extremely painful and prone to infection. Others say the pain of removing a dewclaw is far greater than any other risk. For this reason, removal of dewclaws is illegal in many countries. There is, perhaps, an exception for hunting dogs, who can sometimes tear the dewclaw while running in overgrown vegetation. [3] If a dewclaw is to be removed, this should be done when the dog is a puppy, sometimes as young as 3 days old, though it can also be performed on older dogs if necessary (though the surgery may be more difficult then). The surgery is fairly straightforward and may even be done with only local anesthetics if the digit is not well connected to the leg. Unfortunately many dogs can't resist licking at their sore paws following the surgery, so owners need to remain vigilant. In addition, for those dogs whose dewclaws make contact with the ground when they run, it is possible that removing them could be a disadvantage for a dog's speed in running and changing of direction, particularly in performance dog sports such as dog agility. The dog's ancestor was about the size of a Dingo, and its skeleton took about 10 months to mature. Today's toy breeds have skeletons that mature in only a few months, while giant breeds such as the Mastiffs take 16 to 18 months for the skeleton to mature. Dwarfism has affected the proportions of some breeds' skeletons, as in the Basset Hound. Knowledge of basic anatomy also helps when competing in dog shows or contests.