What’s Normal?

We came across a statement the other day that struck us as odd, particularly because it was written by a veterinarian. The good doctor wrote: “Some dogs, often Dachshunds, have extra ribs sticking out that feel like tumors under the skin or have weird cartilage at the ends of their ribs that make them “flare” out funny.” The vet referred to these as floating ribs.

We wondered how many other people think that floating ribs are unique to certain breeds (let alone veterinarians like the one above). The fact is, all dogs regardless of breed, have them. All dogs have 13 pairs of ribs (nine sternal, four asternal) for a total of 26 ribs. The first seven ribs attach to the sternum and are known as “true ribs,” but cartilage in the last pair of ribs in dogs, while attached to the spine, don’t extend all the way around to the frontal part of the ribcage,  the sternum. Because those last ribs don’t connect, they’re called a “floating ribs.” The bony protrusion that owners sometimes see in some dogs is the end of a floating rib,  the cartilage that caps it off, but we’ve read about people who either felt or saw this bony end, and thought their dog had broken a rib.

In the world of dogs, there are all sorts of things that can be misinterpreted by uninformed owner as either illness, malformation, or ribs,occipute,myth,structuresomething else.  Even in this day and age, there are some owners who cling to what amounts to urban myth, often because a respected uncle or family friend told them it was so. Case in point: The occiput. This protuberance is normal, and in some breeds, it’s more pronounced, but there are still people who believe that dogs with this bump are more intelligent than other dogs,  and the more pronounced the bump, the smarter the dog. There are some colorful names for the occipital bone based on this belief, and they include the knowledge knot, the brain bump, dumb bump, and wisdom bump.  Another old myth about the occiput is that it’s an indicator of a superior sense of smell, possibly because occipital protuberance may be more pronounced in some hound and breeds.

It pays to have basic knowledge about dogs, and ones own breed.  Why?  Using the occiput as an example, there is such a thing as “masticatory myositis” which can cause the occipital protuberance to become increasingly visible because muscles are atrophying. Knowing what’s normal and what isn’t could save a dog’s life.  On the other hand, it can help give your dog a lot of comfort. The occiput has several nerve endings, and is an area that often gets a lot of attention from canine therapeutic massage specialists. Ahhhhhhhh.

Our image is of a healthy Azawakh who is used here because owners of this breed are often accused of not feeding their dogs enough.  It pays to know what’s normal in our dog breeds! For more on this, read this post.


One thought on “What’s Normal?”

  1. My oldest has that cartilage that flares out funny on the end of the last pair of ribs. This is the first time I’ve encountered the phenomenon, and I thought someone had broken his ribs. But it’s the same on both sides although more pronounced on the right, and it doesn’t seem to bother him so I figured I’d leave it alone.

    Thank you for the education on this anatomical feature. 🙂

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