I am Your Dog’s Chest

 

Unless you are in the dog show business spending lots of time studying conformation, you may have never paid particular attention to your dog’s chest. Perhaps you may have found yourself occasionally taking measurements of your dog’s chest (girth) when shopping for a harness or you may have seen your vet listening to your dog’s heart with a stethoscope through your dog’s chest wall. A dog’s chest though has much more to offer and there are many interesting facts to discover. So today, let’s discover more a bout a dog’s chest, its important functions and any associated problems with this body part.

Introducing Your Dog’s Chest 

Hi there, it’s your dog’s chest talking! I am happy you are interested in hearing my story. I have a lot of little pieces of information to share with you. First, let’s start with my name. I also go by the medical name thorax, which derives from the ancient Greek word thorakos meaning “breastplate.” You might also be interested in learning more about your dog’s thoracic cavity (chest cavity) and thoracic wall (chest wall). Where am I located? I am right between your dog’s neck and his abdomen.

You may find it interesting that my length, width and depth may vary between one breed and another.  You may therefore have breeds such as the greyhound equipped with very deep and narrow chests and then you may stumble on dog breeds with a very wide chest area but barely deep (for example the bulldog.)

What does a deep chest exactly mean though? In dogs, a deep chest means that it extends to or below the dog’s elbows as seen in dobermans, dachshunds and Irish wolfhounds. A deep chest therefore depicts depth, not width, points out Carina Macdonald, in the book “Knack Dog Care and Training.”  Because dogs were selectively bred to carry out different functions, my structure therefore has been morphed to meet specific needs.

Did you know? Deep-chested dogs are more predisposed to developing a potentially life threatening condition known as gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). Why are deep-chested dogs more predisposed to bloat and (GDV)? A deep chest allows more room for the stomach to move and twist on itself. See picture below.

I House Important Organs

I am home to your dog’s heart and lungs which are critical to your dog’s life. Mother Nature has made sure to protect these vital organs enclosing them in a cage made out of ribs.  In an animal crafted for sprinting at high speeds such as the greyhound, I was purposely crafted to allow maximum expansion of the lungs. That’s why I am so deep and narrow in this running breed.

Learning how to perform chest compressions is something that all dog owners should learn how to do and is a must for those dealing with dogs on a daily basis such as pet sitters, dog trainers and dog walkers. Chest compressions  entail pushing down on the unconscious dog’s chest in hopes of getting his heart pumping. When artificial respiration is given along with chest compressions it’s called cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. CPR classes for pets are often taught in veterinary offices, pet stores, training clubs  and are sometimes even organized by the Red Cross.

When Things Go Wrong

While I am overall pretty sturdy, I can only take so much. Traumatic injuries to the chest wall are unfortunately not uncommon in dogs. They may stem from being hit by car, kicked by a horse or a stab/impalement wound such as running into a branch, but in many cases the trauma to the chest area area in animals is due to bite wounds sustained by small dog breeds.

Thoracic trauma may lead to complications such as broken ribs and penetrating wounds may affect the pleural lining of the thorax (a thin sheet of tissue that lines the chest and wraps around the dog’s lungs) leading to pneumothorax, hemothorax, diaphragmatic hernia and pleural or pericardial effusion.

I can sometimes accumulate fluids within my cavity. When fluids collect, they either collect within the lungs or between the chest wall and the lungs, explains veterinarian Dr. Hunt. An X-ray can help differentiate them. Accumulation of fluids in the dog’s chest cavity may be due to bacterial or viral infections, pneumonia or heart failure. In some cases, a swollen chest may be a sign of low protein due to an underlying liver problem.  If your dog is showing symptoms of chest congestion or fluid accumulation, he or she definitely needs checked out by a vet.

As seen, I play quite an important role in your dog’s life! Please keep your pal safe from injury and see your vet promptly if you see any signs of problems.

Yours truly,

You Dog’s ChestDog Pawprint

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is sick or not acting right, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

 

References:

  • Knack Dog Care and Training: A Complete Illustrated Guide to Adopting, House-Breaking, and Raising a Healthy Dog, by Carina Macdonald, Globe Pequot Press; 1 Original edition (July 15, 2009)
  • DVM360, Pulmonary contusions and other thoracic trauma (Proceedings) retrieved from the web on December 11th, 2016
  • DVM360, Pleural space disease and chest taps and tubes (Proceedings) retrieved from the web on December 11th, 2016

Photo Credits:

  • Photo By Ruth Lawson. Otago Polytechnic.The original uploader was Sunshineconnelly at English WikibooksTransferred from en.wikibooks to Commons by Adrignola using CommonsHelper. CCBY3.0
  • The greyhound in 1864: being the second edition of a treatise on the art of breeding, rearing, and training greyhounds for public running …By John Henry Walsh Edition: 2 Published by Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1864 Public Domain

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