Pet parents love nothing more than to do a little navel-gazing. While for most people this means contemplating the big questions in life, dog owners take the term a bit more literally. We love to look at our pets' bellies. But after a good, long stomach-staring sesh, you may begin to wonder if your dog has a belly button.
You can rest easy. All placental mammals have belly buttons — armadillos, lions, dogs and even whales. Animals that hatch from eggs do not have belly buttons, which includes marsupial mammals like kangaroos who incubate their young in pouches. Platypus are mammals who also do not have belly buttons because they're weirdos and hatch from eggs.
The hole story
What are belly buttons, anyway? Belly buttons are actually scars left behind from umbilical cords that connect mothers to their offspring inside the womb. The umbilical cord transports nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the fetus, who, in turn, sends waste back to the mother for evacuation.
In the wild, mama dogs often chew through both the sac that contains the puppy, and the umbilical cord, which effectively seals the cord shut and stops the bleeding. Domestic dogs may sometimes need a little more assistance because they've lost some of the instincts of their wilder cousins.
Why can't we see a dog's belly button?
The short answer is that dogs' belly buttons are often obscured from view by a thin layer of fur. But more often than not, humans are looking for a belly button that resembles their own. And according to Dr. Natalie Mylcinczenko, a veterinarian at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, "no other mammal has an innie or an outie like we do." In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Mylcinczenko said gorillas and chimpanzees have belly buttons that almost resemble ours with what she calls an "in-betweeny" — it's neither in or out.
Where is a dog's belly button located?
According to VCA Animal Hospital, the belly button is located just beneath your dog's rib cage, about halfway down the abdomen. Look for a scarring or a slight, barely-noticeable bump.
What do dog belly buttons look like?
Dogs technically have an innie, but it looks nothing like a human belly button. It typically resembles a healed-over scar, which is another reason a dog's belly button can be difficult to locate.
When dogs have an outie — typically puppies — it's considered a herniated belly button, which is also known as an umbilical hernia. It can appear as a large lump with a sore-looking belly button in the middle. Herniated belly buttons need medical attention.
While developing in the womb, mothers nourish their puppies by transferring nutrients through umbilical cords that connect directly to their developing stomachs. A hernia occurs when the abdominal muscles surrounding the cord do not heal properly and the tissue or intestines protrude. Herniated belly buttons are congenital defects present at birth, and are not caused pulling too vigorously during manual removal of the cord at birth.
Your dog's belly button may be hard to find, but it's so worth it! Give your pup some belly scratches while you explore the tummy jungle. Just remember that a dog's belly button looks nothing like yours.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.