I am Your Dog’s Ribs


Your dog’s ribs are what provide structure and shape to his chest cavity along with important protection for many vital organs. You might not really pay much attention to your dog’s ribs, but you may have noticed at some time the rise and fall of your dog’s rib cage when your dog inhales and exhales. Chances are high that your dog may never develop any problems with his ribs, but it’s still an interesting part of your dog’s body that deserves some attention. So today, let’s discover more about your dog’s ribs, what they do and some potential problems that they may develop.


dog-ribsIntroducing Your Dog’s Ribs

Hello, it’s your dog’s ribs talking! You may not be familiar with how we look, but hey, animal anatomy is quite similar, so when you’re at a restaurant and order a rack of ribs, you kind of get an idea of what we look like.

We are basically those curved bones that form your dog’s rib cage giving your dog’s abdomen its familiar barrel-like shape. On the top, we attach to your dog’s vertebral column or spine which keeps us in place by the back area. We then basically spring away from the spine at the top in a wide curve and then curve back at the bottom where some of us attach to the sternum (breastbone).

The first sets of us that connect directly to your dog’s sternum are known as “true ribs” while the ones that are not directly connected to the sternum are called “false ribs.”While you have 12 pairs of us, for a total of 24 ribs, your dog has 13 pairs of us, for a total of 26 ribs.

idea tipDid you know? Unlike the rest of your dog’s ribs, the cartilage of your dog’s last rib doesn’t connect to anything at all and is therefore called a “floating rib.”


We Provide Protectiondog-rib-cage

If you look at our shape, we are similar to the bars of a cage which have an important protective function: enclosing and protecting your dog’s vital organs, such as your dog’s lungs and heart.

On top of protecting the heart and lungs, we also provide protection to your dog’s stomach, spleen, and kidneys from any external injury.

In addition to acting like a protective shield, we provide your dog with a framework onto which the muscles of your dog’s chest, back, upper abdomen can attach.

idea tipDid you know? By placing your hands over your dog’s rib cage, you can tell whether he’s overweight. If you feel the ribs easily, your pet is normal weight, but if the ribs are hard to feel or you can feel a layer of fat between the skin and ribs, your pet might be overweight, according to a handout by Dr. Ernest Ward Jr.

When Things Go Wrongveterinary

As with other bones and structures, we are prone to a variety of problems. These problems may not be as common as others that dogs may be predisposed to, but they may happen on occasion.

Bone Cancer of the Dog’s Rib

Perhaps the most worrisome of all problems affecting us, is osteosarcoma, an aggressive and malignant form of bone cancer that is prone to spreading (metastatize). When this type of cancer affects us, there is often a visible or at least a palpable mass on us.  Some dogs may shows front-leg lameness when one of the first four of us are affected and the mass is compressing nerves that travel to the leg.

If the mass is large or the cancer has spread to the lungs, it can cause trouble breathing. Treatment consists of surgical removal of the affected rib, as well as the unaffected ribs in front and behind. Fortunately, dogs tolerate well the removal of such a large portion of the rib cage, explains Daniel A. Degner, a board-certified Veterinary Surgeon.

Fracture of Dog’s Rib

As other bones in your dog’s body we are prone to breaking. When we fracture it is usually the result of a car accident or some sort of blunt force such as a strong kick or a large dog biting and shaking a smaller dog. Usually, if  we stay in place and the structures around us are undamaged, we generally heal on our own as long as we’re taped by a vet and the affected dog is  as prescribe a pain reliever, but if we are out of place, affected dogs may deal with complications. For instance, when we brake, we may cause bruising to the dog’s lungs and this can lead to trouble breathing. A punctured lung may cause free air in the dog’s chest and a collapsed lung is a serious issue. When we break and the dog develops a change in his breathing and pale gums appear, this is indicative of the dog not getting enough oxygen. A vet should be seen ASAP!

As seen, we are on duty 24/7 for all your dog’s life, protecting all his vital organs from injury. And we do quite a good job at that, considering that it really takes quite a blow to harm us! As always, keep us in mind, as you marvel at the great body your dog was gifted with it.

Yours truly,

Your Dog’s RibsDog Pawprint

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If you suspect your dog has a broken rib or some other health problem, please see your vet immediately.


Vet Surgery Central, Chest Wall Tumors – Rib Tumors, retrieved from the web on November 7th, 2016

Photo Credits:

By Ruth Lawson. Otago Polytechnic. The original uploader was Sunshineconnelly at English WikibooksTransferred from en.wikibooks to Commons by Adrignola using CommonsHelper. CC BY 3.0



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