Do Dogs Have Belly Buttons?

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There's nothing your dog loves more than belly rubs, and if you pay attention, you may be able to see or feel their belly button. Do dogs have belly buttons? While they might not be as noticeable as yours, dogs have belly buttons—most mammals do, except for marsupials like koalas, wombats, kangaroos, and egg-laying mammals. 

Your dog's belly button is located in a similar place as yours. You may be able to see it when your dog rolls on their back to show you its belly, but dog belly buttons often become less noticeable over time. In dogs, the belly button is a scar left from where the placenta was attached to the puppy while in the womb. This article will discuss dog belly buttons, how dogs get belly buttons, and potential complications with them.

Mammals And Their Belly Buttons 

Now you have the answer to your question, "Do dogs have belly buttons?" But what are belly buttons for, and why does your dog have one? Like humans, dogs are placental mammals. When in the womb, they depend on their mothers for nutrition and oxygen to help them grow, which might make you wonder, "Do dogs have umbilical cords?"

All placental mammals have umbilical cords to connect the mother's nutrients to the growing puppy in the womb. The oxygen and nutrition passed from the mother come through the puppy umbilical cord, which is connected to the placenta. Each puppy in a litter has their own umbilical cord connecting their bellies to their mother's supply of nutrients. 

How Do Dogs Get Their Belly Button?

The navel, also known as the umbilicus, is created after the puppy is born. While in utero, the umbilical cord connects the puppy to nutrients from the mother. However, after puppies are born, they'll feed on their mother's milk, so there's no need for this connection anymore. When human babies are born, the umbilical cord is tied and cut, but when puppies are born, the mother chews through it a few inches away from the dog's belly. Then, over the next few days, the remaining umbilical cord dries up and falls off. What's left is a residual scar known as the belly button.1

Dog belly buttons are slightly different from humans' because they're smaller and less obvious. If they heal properly, they may look like a thin line, and some dogs have more noticeable belly buttons than others, depending on how their umbilical cord wound heals. However, some puppies may experience various problems, including hernias, swelling, protrusion, or itchy belly buttons.2 

If you want to find your dog's belly button, you can look in the same place you would look on a human. They're located in the center of the belly and under the rib cage. If you spot the belly button, you can gently press on it to feel scar tissue under the skin. If the puppy hasn't had any complications, the belly button will eventually get smaller and less noticeable.

Can dogs have an innie or outie belly button?

Since dog umbilical cords are chewed off instead of tied and cut, belly buttons can come in many shapes and sizes. However, because most belly buttons appear as thin lighter-colored lines, there's no true innie or outie like there is in human belly buttons. Instead, some belly buttons may be more pronounced than others. Outie belly buttons in dogs are more visible, and puppies typically have more swollen belly buttons because they're still healing. Outie belly buttons are not common in pets, but they can happen due to poor muscle closure that results in a hernia.2

What Are Umbilical Hernias?

Umbilical hernias occur when dog belly buttons protrude because the abdominal muscles don't fully close around the umbilical cord during development, leaving an opening in the abdominal wall.2 Umbilical hernias can be dangerous if not treated as soon as possible. There are two types of umbilical hernias in dogs: complicated (reducible) and uncomplicated (non-reducible). 

Most umbilical hernias are uncomplicated and not harmful to a dog's health, but they'll likely have visible swelling.3 Meanwhile, complicated hernias cause the abdominal cavity contents, including intestines, to pass through and get trapped. While most dog umbilical hernias are not life-threatening, there are rare cases in which the blood supply is cut off in the intestines, resulting in death without immediate treatment. If your dog has an umbilical hernia, they may experience several symptoms, including:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Pain and swelling
  • Depression3

Whether you're adopting a dog or your dog is having puppies, you should always examine them for signs of illness, especially young dogs that are susceptible to umbilical hernias. 

Causes of umbilical hernias

Most puppies are examined for umbilical hernias during their first vet visit after birth, but if you notice your dog's belly button protrudes more than it should, it's best to consult your vet. There are a few potential causes of umbilical hernias in dogs, including: 

  • Genetics: Some dogs inherit herniated belly buttons, so if a dog's parents had them, their pups may. 
  • Injury: Trauma to the abdomen can cause an umbilical hernia because the navel is swollen and even infected. 
  • Breed: Some breeds are predisposed to umbilical hernias, including Basenji, Airedales, and Pekingese.2

Treatment

Treatment for umbilical hernias in dogs depends on the size. Small hernias may not need treatment and can heal on their own. However, large hernias will need corrective surgery to close the opening and prevent the intestines from coming through the abdominal wall.2 Without corrective surgery, complicated navel hernias can cause painful infections and even death, so if the intestines become entrapped, your dog will need immediate surgery. 

Dog Belly Button: Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my dog licking its belly button?

Dogs may lick their belly buttons for a variety of reasons. However, dogs with pain or infections will likely lick their belly button more often to ease their discomfort. For example, dogs with umbilical hernias may lick their belly buttons to try to heal themselves, although it's not an effective treatment. In most cases, though, as long as your dog's belly button is not swollen or infected, they're likely licking it for fun or because they like the taste. 

Reasons your dog is licking its belly button may include:

  • Seeking attention
  • Showing affection
  • Grooming
  • Curiosity
  • Allergies

However, if your dog is excessively licking its belly button, it could indicate a health concern, especially if they have a protruding or sore stomach. If you notice your dog licking their belly button more than usual, lay them on their back and examine their belly for signs of infection, inflammation, or trauma. 

Why is my dog's belly button red and swollen?

Adult dogs have fully healed belly buttons, so if your dog's belly button is red and swollen, it likely indicates a health issue. Meanwhile, if your puppy's belly button is red and swollen, you should take them to the vet immediately to ensure they don't have an umbilical hernia. 

Common reasons why an adult dog's belly button would appear red and swollen include: 

  • Irritation: Anything can irritate your dog's belly button. Since the belly button is scar tissue, the skin can get itchy and dry. Many types of skin issues, including dog alopecia and lice, can cause irritation and hair loss, so it's important to get your dog's skin issues treated as soon as possible. 
  • Skinfold irritation: Skinfold irritation can occur in overweight dogs because they create a moist environment that can be an ideal breeding ground for bacteria that causes irritation. Obesity can cause a host of other symptoms and health conditions, so learning the feeding guidelines for dogs can help prevent major health complications later in life. 
  • Yeast infection: Yeast infections can occur anywhere on a dog, including in their ears and on their bellies. They cause red, irritated, and itchy skin in the area. 
  • Mites/mange: Mites burrow into the dog's skin anywhere on their body, including their stomachs, causing a range of symptoms like swelling, itching, inflammation, and hair loss. 
  • Allergies: Food and environmental allergies can cause red and swollen skin on your dog's stomach. Probiotics for dogs and a change in food may reduce food allergy symptoms like itchiness, while dogs with environmental allergies may benefit from medication. 
  • Fleas or ticks: While ticks don't normally cause itchiness, they can cause skin irritation that makes your dog's belly button appear red and swollen. Meanwhile, fleas can cause itching throughout the entire body, including the ears, neck, back, and belly. 

Do dogs' belly buttons go away?

Dog belly buttons never truly go away because they're a scar from when the mother chewed off the umbilical cord. However, with age, the scar will fade and become less visible. As your puppy's belly button scar fades, don't be concerned, as this is a normal part of the healing process. However, if your dog's belly button scar doesn't fade or becomes inflamed and red, take them to the vet immediately to prevent potential health complications that could be fatal. 

Happy dog getting a belly rub from owner 

Final Notes

Do dogs have a belly button? Of course, they do! They're just not as visible as yours. While puppy belly buttons heal over time and become less visible, some complications can arise from the wound left by the umbilical cord. Consult a vet if you're worried about your puppy's belly button. Dutch's telemedicine for pets can help you learn the ropes as a new puppy parent, especially if your dog has puppies and you need to take care of a litter. 

With our online vet care, you can get answers to all your questions while we diagnose and treat your pup from the comfort of your own home. Whether you're looking for tips on bathing a dog or you're worried about worms in dogs, a Dutch vet can help. Try Dutch today. 

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References

  1. Sparwath, Meg. "Do Dogs Have Belly Buttons?" HowStuffWorks, 7 Nov. 2019, https://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/dog-belly-buttons.htm.

  2. "Do Dogs Have Belly Buttons?" Dogs, Cats, Pets, 19 July 2020, https://dogscatspets.org/dogs/belly-button/do-dogs-have-belly-buttons/.

  3. "Umbilical Hernia in Dogs." PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/musculoskeletal/c_dg_umbilical_hernia_in_dogs.

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