Bones have an important role in every vertebrate, being vital in the skeletal system and structural foundation. But the number of bones may vary depending on the length of the pooch’s tail.

How Many Bones Does a Dog Have?

Dogs have between 319 and 321 bones in their body, depending on the length of their tail. Pooches with a longer tail means that they probably have two more bones. This number of bones does not vary regardless of the animal’s size. They all have the same, from small puppies to huge dogs like Danes.

Dogs also have more bones than humans, enabling them to move in ways that humans would not typically move. This makes sense since doggies have four legs and four paws. This helps support their weight and protects vital organs.

Bones also help muscles during running, jumping in many directions. Also, their shoulder bones are not connected with a collar bone like human ones, allowing extra mobility to walk and jump as the pup pleases.

Pet’s anatomy also shares many similarities regardless of breed or size: compact feet and walking on their toes are the most noticeable ones. Flexible forelegs attached to the body with one muscle is also very common. Their hind legs are also more rigid and contain a stifle joining the femur, tibia, and patella.

Dog’s Skeleton Sections

Although pups have many similarities, all dog breeds have more differences in their anatomy than any other animal. A dog's skeleton is considered to be divided into three sections: axial, appendage, and visceral. 

  • Axial section: including the spine, neck, head, sternum, and ribs.
  • Appendage section: Lower body, including legs and feet make up this section.
  • Visceral section: includes small bones, for example those in the inner ear.

The Importance of Calcium and Vitamins

The healthier the bones of a dog are, the better quality of life they will have even during their senior years. Certain vitamins are a must to help growing and maintaining good health, the food given to them from puppy stage onward is very important.

Calcium for building bones and vitamin D are the most crucial ones to help their bodies absorb and form the collagen that growing bones need to function well. Vitamin C also boosts immune systems to fight off and repel germs that a dog could catch.

Protein, magnesium, and vitamin K are also necessary to grow strong bones. Exercise also helps to stay strong. Every dog needs to go for a walk and be part of active playing sessions daily.

Making sure a dog gets their vitamins and protein through food is crucial too. Avoiding supplements unless a vet recommends them is a must. Supplements work correctly in most of the cases, but they can have some side effects if a dog eats too much of them.

A vet needs to order blood tests to determine the dog's blood calcium level before recommending any type of supplement. Too much calcium can actually cause bone abnormalities and other unwanted effects for example.

Bone Health Problems

Dogs can develop problems with their bones, like any other vertebrate. From fractures to deformities, including tumors and arthritis, especially during old age. The most common symptoms for this are dogs not wanting to do activities they used to do, crying when being touched, or seeming tired all day.


Panosteitis is an inflammation on the surface of long bones. Also known as "long bone pain" or "growing pains", oftenly occurs in more than one bone at the same time, causing a “shifting” injury that goes from a bone or leg to another one. The pain associated with it can be relieved with several types of painkillers.


Osteochondrosis is known as the cartilage separation from a joint bone. This separation can greatly vary and involves complete detachment of the cartilage in the most extreme cases. An appropriate diet without lots of calcium can help to prevent this. Asking a vet about the best food for a dog is always a must.

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is an inflammation in the growth plates of long bones. This causes swelling and pain in the joints, leading to fever and a noticeable loss of appetite. It is self-limiting in most dogs, which means it does not leave permanent damage.

Other pups which suffer permanent damage, result with deformed legs. There are treatments and medication that can help relieve associated pains, suppressing bone inflammation.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an improper formation of the hip joints. When the dog’s bone grows, both the head of the femur and the acetabulum (also referred as socket) must grow at an equal rate. When this does not happen, the dog will receive a hip dysplasia diagnosis.

The most common symptoms are inability to walk and difficulty to shift from lying to standing. There are several choices to treat it, depending on its severity. Some pets can be treated with medication, while others will require surgery to fix it.

Osteochondrosis dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans is a defect in the smooth cartilage surface within one or more joints. Commonly affecting the shoulder joint, elbow, hip or knee, it may heal with strict rest and restriction of activity during long periods. Most cases result in a piece of cartilage breaking off, floating in the joint.

This causes pain to the dog, which may vary from mild and intermittent to intense and non-stop pain. Surgery is required in order to remove the floating piece of cartilage.


If an owner ever asks how many bones does a dog have?, it’s important to remark that no matter the dog’s size or breed, they all have between 319 and 321. What varies between having 2 more bones or less depends on their tail size.

The importance of eating healthy food, along with calcium and vitamins can help the dog achieving strong bones and a better life. Excess of calcium and other supplements could bring some health problems, so it is advised to check a vet before.