This is the very common question of pet lovers: how many toes does a dog have. You will find 18 toes altogether in most of the dog breeds. Here, I will explain how there are 18 toes present in the dog with a labeled diagram.
I will also show you the anatomy of dog toes from the front and back legs. Then, you will easily understand how the toes are formed in a dog’s leg and the number in each leg or paw.
This article will also provide the number of toes in other animals like cats, camels, elephants, and wolves. Okay, first, let’s know how many toes a dog has and how.
How many toes does a dog have
The term toe means any five or four digits at the end part of each limb (fore and hind) of a dog. These toes are part of the dog’s paw. The number of toes in the dog’s front and back legs is different. Okay, let’s see how many toes does a dog have on each foot or paw.
Quick answer: There are 18 toes found in most dog breeds (5 in each front leg and 4 in each hind leg). But, sometimes, you may find more or less the number of toes in some breeds of the dog. You may find an extra toe in some giant breed of dog. Then the total number of toes will be 20 altogether.
So, the normal calculation on the number of toes are –
Each front leg of the dog possesses 5 toes, on which 4 are regular toes, and another one is a dewclaw.
Again, each back leg (pelvic limb) contains 4 toes.
So, the total number of toes in a dog will be 18.
But, some authors will tell you there are only 16 toes present in a dog. That means there are 4 toes in every four limbs of the dogs (excluding the dewclaw from each front paw).
Again, some giant dog breeds possess an extra toe in their front paw (altogether 20 -22 toes). It is very rear condition in a few breeds of dogs. This extra toe condition of the dog is known as polydactyl. It is not a problem to have an extra toe in the dog’s foot, so you should not be worried about it.
Thus, the number of toes may vary from 16 – 22 in a dog (based on different breed).
How the toes are formed in a dog
Do you know how the toes are formed in a dog? Nice, the toes are the end part of the dog’s foot. Or, you may tell, toes are the part of a dog’s paw. These toes are formed by three or two phalanges bones (regularly three phalanges), muscles, nerves, veins, and skin.
In most of the toes, you will find the proximal, middle, and distal phalanges. But, in dewclaw, you will find only proximal and distal phalanges. You will find the detailed anatomical facts of these three phalanges in the next section of this article.
Should I explain a little about the paws of a dog? Well, the paws of a dog resemble the hand of a human. That means a dog’s paw consists of carpal, metacarpal, and phalanges bones along with muscles, vessels, nerves, and skin.
On the other hand, a dog’s toes are the end part of the paws. The toes of the dog resemble the fingers of a human hand. I hope you can understand the terms paws and toes of the dogs.
Now, you may learn the detail of a toe’s formation (anatomy) in dog’s paw or foot.
Dog toes anatomy
If you want to know the anatomy of the dog’s toes, you might know the bone involvement along with the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. You might also know what the exceptional features of the skin of the dog’s toes are. Fine, I will describe all the anatomical facts of the dog’s toes one by one with diagrams.
You will find three or two phalanges in the dog’s toes anatomy. These phalanges are the digital skeleton (digit) of the dog anatomy. You already know there are five or four total digits or toes in each fore and the dog’s hind leg.
The dog’s first toe or digit is rudimentary, and the other four are well-developed. Again, the first toe is also known as the dewclaw in a dog. You will find only one dewclaw in each limb of the dogs. But, some giant breed of dogs possesses double dewclaws in their legs.
Each toe or digit contains three phalanges and two larger sesamoid bones. The three phalanges are proximal, middle, and distal and possess an almost similar structure in both fore and hind legs.
Again, the sesamoid bones of the phalanges locate at the metacarpophalangeal joint in the case of the foreleg and metatarsophalangeal joint in a hind leg.
You will also find digital muscles (extensor and flexor) in the dogs’ toes from both fore and hind legs. In the toes of the dog’s forelimb, you will find the arterial supply from the branches of the superficial brachial, median, and caudal interosseous artery. Again, these toes are innervated by the branches of radial, median, and ulnar nerves.
All other anatomical features of the dog’s toes will be discussed in the specific part of this article.
Phalanges of the dog toes (forelimb)
So, how many phalanges does a dog have in its toes? The first toe of the dog’s front leg is short and possesses only two phalanges – proximal and distal. The rest of the toes of the dog’s foreleg possess three phalanges. The third and fourth toes of the dog’s foreleg are larger and equal in length.
“I hope you have a good idea on how the toes are named I, II, III, IV, and V. The medial toe or digit or dewclaw is the first one (I); the lateral one is V. Please see the dog’s toes labeled diagram.”
You will find only one palmar sesamoid bone at the metacarpophalangeal joint for the first toe (dewclaw). The rest contain two larger sesamoid bones at the metacarpophalangeal joint. Again, there are some cartilaginous structures in between the interphalangeal joints of each toe.
Now, let’s discuss every three phalanges of the dog’s toes.
Proximal phalanx of dog toes
The proximal phalanx of the four main toes is medium-length rod bone with two enlarged extremities. You will find a proximal base, long body, and distal head in this phalanx.
The base of the proximal phalanx bears a transversely concave articular surface. You will also find a sharp dorsal border and bi-tuberculate palmar border in the base of the proximal phalanx of the toes.
In between the tubercles of the palmar border, you will find a deep groove. This deep groove receives the sagittal crest of the metacarpal bone of the dog’s paws. Again, the tubercles of the palmar surface join with the distal end of sesamoid bones.
The body of the proximal phalanx of the dog’s toe is almost cylindrical. You will find a saddle-shaped articular surface at the distal end of the head of the proximal phalanx.
Different digital muscles, nerves, and vessels insert into the medial and lateral aspect of the proximal phalanx. These features will discuss the special parts of this article (please read muscle, nerve, and blood supply portions).
A middle phalanx of the dog toes
You will find the middle phalanx in every four main toes of the dog’s leg. But, there is no middle phalanx present in the first toe of the dog. The middle phalanx is rod-shaped but one-third shorter than the corresponding proximal phalanx.
You will also find a proximal base, a medium body, and a distal head in the middle or second phalanx of the toes. The middle phalanx base possesses an articular surface that articulates with the distal end of the proximal phalanx of the dog’s toes.
Again, you will find an intermediate sagittal ridge on the proximal end of the middle phalanx. There are also two tubercles present at the palmar surface of the middle phalanx. But, the groove in between these tubercles is not so deep as the proximal phalanx.
The body of the middle phalanx of the dog’s toes is also cylindrical. You will find a convex articular surface at the distal part of the middle phalanx (head).
In between the interphalangeal joint of the dog’s toes, you will find a cartilaginous structure.
The distal phalanx of the dog toes
In the four main toes of the dog’s foreleg, you will find the same-sized distal phalanx. But, the size of the distal phalanx of the first toe (dewclaw) is smaller but possesses the same structure.
You will find an enlarged base at the proximal end and a conical compressed ungual process at the distal end. Again, there are some other structures will find in the third or distal phalanx of the dog’s toes –
- The extensor process of the distal phalanx
- An ungula crest
There is a thin shelf of bone on the lateral and dorsal surface of the base of the ungual process. This is the ungual crest that overlaps the claw and forms a band around it. Again, a round dorsal part is present in the base, which is the extensor process.
The proximal part of the distal phalanx posses shallow, sagitally concave articular surface for the distal part of the middle phalanx. This concave articular surface forms the distal interphalangeal joint in the dog’s toes. You will also find rounded, low tubercles at the palmar surface of the distal phalanx of the toes.
The distal end of the third phalanx possesses a laterally compressed cone (ungual process). A keratinized claw covers this ungual process.
Sesamoid bones of the dog toes
You will find two elongated sesamoid bones at the palmar surface of each metacarpophalangeal joint of each main four toes. They articulate with the head of each metacarpal bone and palmar tubercles of each proximal phalanges.
Again, you know there is only one sesamoid bone present in the palmar surface of the first toe. So, the total number of sesamoid bones in the toes is nine (9).
In addition, you will find the bony nodules on the dorsal surface of the four main toes (at the metacarpophalangeal joint). There are also cartilaginous nodules present in both the dorsal and palmar aspects of the interphalangeal joints of the toes.
Muscles of the dog toes
Do you know what are muscles does a dog have in their toes? The toes of the foreleg contain the superficial digital flexor, deep digital flexor, lateral digital extensor, and lateral common digital extensors muscles. But, you might also know some other muscles from the toes of a dog’s front leg.
Again, the toes of the dog’s hind leg consist of a long digital extensor, short digital extensor, lateral digital extensor muscles. You will also find the superficial digital flexor, deep digital flexor, and lateral digital flexor muscles in these toes.
Above these are the main muscles in the toes of dog’s front and hind legs. But, there are also some of the special muscles present in the dogs’ toes.
Muscles of the front leg toes
The lateral digital extensor muscles of the toes lie between the common digital extensor and ulnaris lateralis muscles. It originates from the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and ends at the proximal part of all the phalanges of the toes III, IV, and V.
The common digital extensor muscle is shaped like that lies caudal to the extensor carpi radialis on the lateral aspect of the forearm. This muscle also originates from the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and ends at the extensor processes of the digital phalanges of toes II, III, IV, and V.
The superficial digital flexor is a fleshy muscle that lies beneath the skin and antebrachial fascia on the caudomedial aspect of the forearm. It originates from the medial epicondyle of the dog humerus bone. Again, it inserts to the palmar surface of the base of the middle phalanges of the toes II, III, IV, and V.
The deep digital flexor muscle of the toes has three heads of origins. They lie at the caudal surface of the radius and ulna bones of the dogleg. This muscle is inserted at the flexor tubercle on the palmar surface of the digital phalanges of each toe.
You will find three special muscles in the first toe of the dog’s front leg – abductor digit I brevis, flexor digit I brevis, and adductor digit I muscle. Again, in the fifth toes, you will find three special muscles – adductor digit V, flexor digit V, and abductor digit V muscle.
But, the second toes of the dog’s front leg contain only one special muscle. Adductor digit II is the special muscle of the second toe of the dog’s front leg.
Muscles of the pelvic leg toes
The long digital extensor of the dog’s hind limb toe is a spindle-shaped muscle. These muscles are partly covered by the cranial tibial medially and fibularis longus laterally.
This long digital extensor muscle of the toe originates from the extensor fossa of the femur bone. Again, it inserts into the extensor processes of the digital phalanges of the toes II, III, IV, and V.
The lateral digital extensor muscle of the toes locates beneath the peroneus longus on the lateral aspect of the dog’s hind leg.
In addition, the superficial digital flexor muscle of the toes are spindle-shaped. This muscle arises from the femur’s lateral supracondylar tuberosity with the gastrocnemius muscle’s lateral head. The insertion site is the base of the middle phalanges of toes II, III, IV, and V.
The deep digital flexor muscle runs the caudal surface of the dog’s legs and inserts toes. Again, the small medial digital flexor muscle lies between the lateral digital flexor and popliteus muscles.
It originates from the caudal aspect of the proximal two-thirds of the tibia and the proximal half of the fibula bone. You will find the insertion of this muscle in the flexor tubercle on the plantar surface of the base of each of the digital phalanges.
The first toes of the dog’s hind leg are usually absent. But, you may find it as a dewclaw and receives special branches from the extensor and flexor groups of muscles. You will find the branches of abductor digit I, flexor digit brevis I, and adductor digit I muscles.
Arteries of the dog toes
The arterial supply of the dog’s toes from the fore and hind legs is so complicated. But, I will try to make it simple for you to understand the basics of the arterial supply of the toes.
In the case of the dog’s front leg, you will find a dorsal common digital artery I and dorsal common digital artery II, III, IV, and V. The dorsal common digital artery I is the continuation of the medial branch the cranial superficial antebrachial artery. Again, the dorsal common digital artery II – V arises from the lateral branch of a cranial superficial antebrachial artery.
The dorsal common digital artery II-V divides into axial and abaxial digital arteries II, III, and IV. In addition, you will find the palmar common digital arteries I, II, III, IV, and V in the toes. These palmar common digital arteries are also divided into axial and abaxial proper digital arteries.
In the hind leg, the dorsal common digital arteries II, III, and IV arise subcutaneously over the long digital extensor muscle’s tendon. They arise from a small trunk formed by the anastomosis of the cranial branch of the saphenous and superficial branch of a cranial tibial artery.
These dorsal common digital arteries of the hind leg’s toes again divide the axial and abaxial proper digital arteries. On the other hand, you will also find the planter common digital arteries that also subdivides into axial and abaxial branches.
Nerve supply of the dog toes
The nerve supply of the dog’s toes is also complicated. Please read the full guide on the dogs’ forelimb and hind limb nerve supply. Then, you will easily understand the nerves supplying the dog’s toes.
Here, I will only tell you the nerves’ branches that supply the toes from both the front and hind legs. The branch of the radial nerve supplies the dorsal aspect of the dog’s toes. This radial nerve gives the dorsal common digital nerve I and dorsal common digital nerve II-IV.
The dorsal common digital nerve II, III, and IV divide into axial and abaxial digital nerve proper (II, III, and IV). Again, the median nerve supplies the palmar aspect of the toes and divides into the following nerves –
- Abaxial palmar digital nerve I, and abaxial palmar digital nerve proper I,
- Palmar common digital nerve I,
- Axial and abaxial palmar proper digital nerves I and II,
- Palmar common digital nerves II and III.
Again, the ulnar nerve of the dog supplies both the dorsal and palmar aspects of the toes. The diagram shows all the branches from the dog’s ulnar nerve.
In the case of the hind leg, you will find planter common digital nerve II, III, and IV, plantar proper digital nerve I, and abaxial plantar digital nerve I in the toes.
Please learn all the fore and hind limb nerve supplies with their details courses.
I hope you got the basic idea of the anatomy of the dog’s toe. Now, it is clear that the number of toes of doglegs.
How many toes does a dog have on each back leg or paw
What will be your answer if I ask you how many toes a dog has on each back leg or paw? Ideally, 5 toes in each front leg and 4 toes in each back leg. So, altogether you will find 18 toes in the front and back legs of the dogs.
In the dog’s front leg: each paw contains 4 developed toes and 1 underdeveloped toe or dewclaw; So, the two front paws contain a total of 10 toes.
Again, in the back leg of the dog: each paw consist of 4 developed toes. So, the two back legs contain a total of 8 toes.
I hope you can understand how there are 18 toes present in the dog’s legs or paws.
Dog toes labeled diagram
Here in the diagram, I will show you the structure of the dog toes. I tried to show you the structure from both the front and back legs toes. The toes I, II, III, IV, and V are shown in this labeled diagram from the front paw.
Again, the toes I, II, III, and IV are shown in the toes labeled diagram from the hind paw. If you need more diagrams on toes structure, you may join anatomy learner on social media. When any change makes on the toes labeled diagram, you will notify through the social media of the anatomy learner.
Frequently asked questions on toes in animals.
So, how many toes do other animals have compared to the dog? Okay, in this part, you may find your desired answer (number of toes in different animals).
Do all dogs have 18 toes?
This 18 number of toes is ideally present in the most dog. But, not all dogs possess these 18 numbers of toes. Sometimes you will find 16 toes or even 22 toes in a different breed of dogs.
The number of toes varies in the front paw of the dogs. It may contain 5 toes in each paw or even contain 6.
Why does my dog have 6 toes?
This is also very normal to have 6 toes in each paw of the dogs. Your dog has an extra pair of toes in each paw, so your dog has 6 toes. You know when these extra pairs of toes are present in the dog’s paw, this is known as polydactyly condition.
What breed of dog has 5 toes?
You will find the 5 toes in each fore and the hind leg of the Norwegian Lundehund breed.
Do dogs have fingers or toes?
The finger or toes are usually formed by the digital phalanges – proximal, middle, and distal. In the case of a dog, these fingers are known as the toes.
Do dogs have 20 toes?
Yeah, you may find 20 toes in the doglegs. It may be 5 toes in each front and back leg.
Do dogs have 4 toes or 5?
Normally, the front paw contains 5 toes, and the back paw contains 4 toes. But, this number may vary with the breed of the dogs or even within the same breed.
How many toes does a cat have?
The cat also possesses ideally 18 toes altogether, but you may find this number varies from 18 – to 22. You will find the details guide in the cat anatomy section.
How many toes does a camel have?
You will find 2 toes in each foot of a camel. So, there are altogether 8 toes present in the camel legs.
So, the number of toes may be different in different animals than that of the dogs. You may read other articles from the dog anatomy learning section of anatomy learner.
Anatomical features of dog legs (front and hind) with diagram
I think you got your answer – how many toes does a dog have any why. You may tell; ideally, there are 18 toes in a dog, but the number may vary from 18 to 22 depending on the breed. Again, you got the idea of the ideal pattern of toes arrangement of the front and hind legs.
You should count the number of toes from the live dog practically. But, make sure you know the details anatomy of the dog toes first. Both the anatomy of toes and the number of toes are equally important for a veterinarian and the pet owner.