Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Look at The Skeletal Anatomy of Your Bird Dog

When you look at your dog you see a lot of what makes him a dog. Fur and hair, four paws and a tail, and those sweet eyes that look up at you,  not to mention the brown eye brows that our Gordon's have and how they use them to convey a message to us. But what you don't see, is their bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. These are the skeletal anatomy of your dog.

Canine Skeleton
The bones are comprised mainly of calcium and phosphorus.  A dog has about 319 bones, depending on the length of their tail.  Their bones protect the internal organs and give a stable and strong framework for the body. The bones in the skull protect the brain. If you've ever seen a bird dog fly through grouse woods, you'd know how important that is! The bones in your dogs ears help him to hear. When puppies are born, they already have all of their bones. The ends of new soft bones are called growth plates. This is the area where growth takes place as the puppy grows. When the puppy has reached his adult size, usually at about 1 year, the growth plates will become hard with calcium and minerals and will stop growing. This process is called mineralization and is referred to as closing of the growth plates. No significant bone growth will occur after this takes place. Until this happens, the growth plates can be a vulnerable area for injuries in young dogs.

Muscles are for making movement possible. All movements. There are two kinds of muscles in dogs, smooth and  striated. Smooth muscles are the internal muscles that control bodily functions like digestion and bladder control. The heart is a very important muscle, as it pumps the life blood through the body.  The striated muscles are attached to the skeleton. They are all used to walk or jump, wag his tail, point the bird, and high tail it over that far ridge when you are done hunting and he is not. We've  seen a bird dog do this, once or twice.

 Muscles in the Canine Body

Muscles are connected to the bone with tough fibrous bands called tendons. Tendons begin on a muscle and end on a bone.

Leg and Knee

Ligaments connect bone to bone and are generally found spanning across joints. The joints are where two bones meet or articulate with their ends covered by a layer of smooth cartilage. A joint consists of bones, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and a lubricating joint fluid all enclosed by a tough joint capsule.

I hope this helps you to understand your bird dog a little better, especially if you are a new dog owner or new to bird dogs and hunting. Knowing your dog,  can help you diagnose a problem in the field when an injury occurs. This may mean faster or better care for your pet.

Pictures courtesy, Google Pics


  1. Hi Karen, I just love your Gordon Setters!

  2. 319 bones--WOW--had no idea. Another interesting, cool post. Thank you for helping me to be a more knowledgable dog owner :)

  3. Karen,
    I love the part about how important the skull is!
    When I was a kid our German Shepard chased a jack rabbit down the length of a crotch fence. He never got in time with the crotches and hit his head on everyone! Glad he had a thick skull.

  4. Dennis, I think if it wasn't for their "hard head" there wouldn't be a bird dog alive past the age of 4! ha ha