Canine Phalanges - Anatomy & Physiology
Dogs are digitigrade animals; this means that the weightbearing surface of their limbs is their digit. The canine phalanges are thus very important. They are virtually identical in their structure in the hindlimb and forelimb. The main differences are in the forelimb we have metacarpals and the metacarpophalangeal joint, the hindlimb equivalents are the metatarsals and the metatarsophalangeal joint. Also in anatomical planes we use the term palmar for forelimb and plantar for hindlimb. These terms are all interchangeable in the below article depending on whether you want to talk about the fore or hindlimb.
Metacarpals and Metatarsals
The arrangement of the metatarsals are similar to those of the metacarpals in that they are rod shaped bones, numbered from I to V. The 1st is the most medial and is very small, the 3rd and 4th are the longest. The proximal base of each articulates with it's corresponding carpal bone and the adjacent metacarpal. The distal end is its head, which is transversely cylindrical and articulates with the proximal phalanx. Metacarpals II - V possess a sagittal ridge on their palmar aspects.
The proximal phalanx of the main digits (II - V) have a concave articular surface and the palmar border has a groove to accomodate the articular surface of the metacarpus when the joint is fixed. The distal head has two convex areas separated by a groove. The middle phalanx is roughly two-thirds the length of the proximal phalanx and its base has a sagittal ridge on the articular surface which articulates with the groove of the proximal phalanx. The head resembles that of the proximal phalanx. The distal phalanx is made up of a cone-shaped ungual process with a distinct collar called the 'ungual crest'. The deep ungual groove distal to the crest provides attachment for the proximal border of the claw and articulates with the middle phalanx via a small sagittal crest. A bony sesamoid bone is found on the dorsal aspect of the metacarpophalangeal joint. The first digit (sometimes called the 'dew claw') of the forelimb is fully formed and functional. In the hindlimb, the equivalent first digit is often not present or contains only nail, skin and connective tissue (sometimes called 'wolf's claw' in this case)
The metacarpophalangeal joint is able to undergo flexion and extension movements. Each joint (except the first digit) has a pair of sesamoid bones associated with the palmar aspect of the joint which articulate with a concave area of the proximal phalanx. The joint capsule runs between the four bones of the joint extending dorsally under the extensor tendon and part also intermingling with an expanding area of the common digital extensor tendon. Distally it binds to the articular cartilage of the proximal phalanx and on the palmar aspect its dorsal attachment is level with the proximal end of the sesamoid bones. The collateral ligaments bind the the metacarpal bone to the proximal phalanx, with a deep branch attaching to the sesamoid bone. The palmar/intersesamoidean ligament is a mass of fibrocartilage that embeds the sesamoid bones. The palmar aspect of this ligament forms a groove for the deep flexor tendon to run in. The collateral sesamoid ligaments connect the outer aspect of the sesamoids to the proximal phalanx whilst the distal sesamoid ligaments, although not well developed in the dog, connect the distal surface of the sesamoids to the palmar aspect of the phalanx. These ligaments include the cruciate and short ligaments. The superficial transverse metacarpal ligaments surround the flexor tendons and their sheaths at the point of the sesamoid ligaments and the distal annular ligaments cross the surface of the flexor tendons and sheaths at the level of the proximal and middle phalanx.
Proximal Interphalangeal Joint
The proximal interphalangeal joint provides flexion and extension movements. The joint capsule attaches near the articular surfaces of the proximal and middle phalanges and extends slightly in a pouch dorsally and more extensively on the palmar aspect. The dorsal capsule is reinforced by a fibrocartilaginous nodule; the extensor tendon attaches to the capsule here. The collateral ligaments connect the distal end of the proximal phalanx to the proximal end of the middle phalanx and lie in a vertical direction rather than along the bone axis.
Distal Interphalangeal Joint
The distal interphalangeal joint allows extension and slight flexion movements. The joint capsule attaches to the articular periphery of the bones and has a small fibrocartilagenous bead in the palmar aspect. The collateral ligaments connect the distal part of the middle phalanx to the sides of the ungual crest of the distal phalanx. The dorsal ligament connects the proximal dorsal border of the extensor process of the distal phalanx. These are paired in dogs and function is to keep the claw raised until contraction of the deep digital flexor acts to overcome their tension.
The function of the interosseous muscle is to support the metacarpophalangeal joints. It originates from the palmar aspect of the proximal end of the metacarpal bones and inserts on the sesamoid bones of the metacarpophalangeal joint, where it then continues as extensor branches that wrap round the dorsal aspect of the digit to join the extensor tendons.
The function of the superficial digital flexor is to facilitate flexion of the digits. It originates from the medial epicondyle of the humerus and inserts on the palmar aspect of the middle phalanges. The deep digital flexor muscle also allows flexion of the digits. It originates from the medial epicondyle of the humerus, proximal radius and ulna. It inserts on the palmar aspect of distal phalanges. The common digital extensor is an extensor of the digits and originates from the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. It inserts on the extensor process of the distal phalanx. The lateral digital extensor also allows extension of the digits. It originates from the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and inserts on the proximal phalanx.
The long digital extensor muscle allows extension of the digits. It originates from the extensor fossa of the lateral femoral condyle and inserts in the flexor aspect of the tarsus and branches which continue onto the extensor process of each of the distal phalanges. It divides into four branches at the level of the tarsus and are bound by the fibrous transverse bands of the proximal and distal retinaculum and are enclosed by a common synovial sheath. The lateral digital extensor also allows extension of the digits. It originates from the proximal fibula and lateral collateral ligament of the stifle. It joins to the tendon of the long digital extensor to insert on the distal phalanx of the 5th digit. The long extensor of the first digit muscle allows extension of the first phalanx. It originates from the proximal fibula and inserts on the metatarsophalangeal joint of the 2nd and 1st digit. The superficial digital flexor muscle provides digital flexion. It originates from the supracondylar tuberosity of the femur and is firmly united to the lateral head of the gastrocnemius. It inserts on the middle phalanx of the 2nd to 5th digits. The muscle belly converges into a strong tendon at mid-tibial level and runs medially to the gastrocnemius to the point of the hock forming a broad cap. This cap is held in place by medial and lateral retinaculae. A synovial bursa lies between this cap and the calcaneal tuberosity. It then runs over the plantar aspect of the hock and splits twice at the level of the dorsal tarsal bones, thus forming it's four branches for insertion. The deep digital flexor muscle consists of three separate heads; the caudal tibial muscle, the lateral digital flexor muscle and the medial digital flexor muscle which all facilitate flexion of the digits. The lateral digital flexor muscle originates on the caudal surface of the tibia and fibula and inserts by fusing with the medial digital flexor tendon on the plantar aspect of the tarsus forming the deep flexor tendon. This then branches and inserts on the distal phalanx of each digit. The origin of the medial digital flexor is the head of the fibula and the popliteal line of the tibia. It inserts by fusing with the medial digital flexor tendon forming the deep flexor tendon. The caudal tibial muscle originates on the caudomedial surface of the tibia and the tendon then radiates into the medial ligaments of the tarsus and doesn't form part of the deep flexor tendon.
- Arteries of the Forelimb
- Veins of the Forelimb
- Lymphatics of the Forelimb
- Arteries of the Hindlimb
- Veins of the Hindlimb
- Lymphatics of the Hindlimb
The Canine Paw
The canine paw is composed of four weight-bearing toes, each with a claw and footpad. In addition there is a metacarpal/metatarsal footpad.
The epidermis of the footpad is thick, pigmented, keratinised and hairless. It is arranged into conical papillae with sweat/merocrine glands opening onto the surface of the footpad. The dermis of the dense connective tissue is papillated. The subcutaneous tissue is mainly adipose tissue with reticular, collagenous and elastic fibres. These help form digital cushions deep to the foot pad. The digital pads are oval shaped and support the distal interphalangeal joints whilst the metacarpal/metatarsal pads are heart shaped, with the apex pointing distally and supporting the metacarpophalangeal joints. A small carpal pad is present medial and distal to the accessory carpal bone.
The claw is the horny covering of the distal phalanx. The walls of the claw, which are continuous dorsally, embrace the soft flaky horn of the sole when they touch the ground. The proximal part of the claw, called the coronary border fits between the ungual groove and the ungual crest, where it is continuous with the skin, making the claw fold. The periosteum of the distal phalanx is continuous with the dermis, which is arranged in papillae. Papillae cover the dorsal aspect of the phalanx and contain the germinative layer which is the flat keratinised epidermal cells which are considered responsible for horn formation. The lateral and medial walls are formed by dermal laminae, rather than the papillae. The plantar aspect of the claw is produced by papillae but this horn is very friable. Canine claws grow at rapid rate and so if they aren't worn by active wear they must be trimmed. Care must be taken as the dermis is highly vascular and bleeding will occur if it is cut into.
- Budras, KD, McCarthy PH, Fricke, W, Richter, R (2007) Anatomy of the Dog, Schlütersche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH&Co.
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