As a vet I get asked a lot of questions about pet anatomy. One that particularly tickled me came from my friend, Chris. He whatsapped me a snapshot of his cat’s tummy, pointing to a lump.
He texted, What is this on Tiger’s belly? Should I be worried? I was gonna pick it off him, but then thought I better ask you first.
After careful scrutiny I texted back, Hey Chris, don’t go twisting that off! I’m pretty sure that you’ll find a few more of those flesh covered bumps on his tummy…because I think that’s one of his nipples.
Yes, as a vet I’m often texted pictures of cat nipples, dog bottoms, and X-rays—it makes for interesting dinner conversations when friends scroll through my iPhone photos.
So, number 1: Male cats and dogs have nipples. It might sound silly but I get asked about male nipples all the time. Male canines and felines possess these vestigial lactiferous projections in the same areas as their female counterparts…so don’t try to pinch them off!
Number 2: Your dog has a penis bone. It’s called the os penis and is easily identified on radiographs. Can a dog have a fractured os penis? Yes, it’s possible. So if your dog is mating with a female and seems attached—as in, they are inseparable—don’t forcibly try to pull them apart. Both animals could be seriously injured.
(There is no bone in your cat’s penis…but there are small barbs on its surface which, again, make it unadvisable to force apart two romantically involved felines.)
Number 3: Dogs and cats have anal glands. These are two small internal glands in your pet’s rectum. Your pet uses them to mark territory and to communicate with other bottom sniffing species. However, they can become impacted, infected, and if their excretions are released your olfactory senses will be assaulted by their pungent aroma. If you see your pet dragging his bottom on the floor or constantly licking his back end, visit your vet to ensure there isn’t an issue with his anal glands.
Number 4: Dogs and cats have sweaty toes. Dogs and cats don’t have sweat glands all over their bodies like we do. Most of their sweat glands are located in the pads of their feet—a much smaller surface area to help deal with overheating. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to keep your pets out of the heat and to never leave them alone in a car if it’s at all warm outside.
Number 5: Birds have cloacas. Most birds and reptiles have just one opening at their back end from where feces, urine, and eggs are evacuated.
(Most birds have cloacas. The Mallard duck actually has a penis.)
Do you have questions about your pet’s anatomy? Please ask below in the comment section and I’ll answer to the best of my ability!