Skip to Content

Floating Ribs In Dogs: 7 Things You Should Know (2022)

Floating Ribs In Dogs

It’s another day of enjoyable bonding with your dog. 

Suddenly, you notice a bump on their ribs. 

What happened? Was it there all this time?

Did they break their bones, or are they sick? 

The sight can be alarming and leave you confused. 

But in this article, you’ll find the answers. 

Read on to discover:

  • When does this condition become a problem.
  • 7 vital things you should know about floating ribs.
  • How to tell the difference between a floating rib and a broken rib.
  • And so much more…

#1: Are floating ribs in dogs bad?

Seeing a bump on our dogs can be alarming at first. 

But to reassure you, floating ribs aren’t bad for your pooch. 

In fact, all dogs have them too. And even humans can have the same thing. 

Floating ribs are only more noticeable in certain breeds.

And these dogs are the ones with longer bodies and have short coats, such as:

  • Boxers.
  • Vizslas.
  • Beagles.
  • Basenjis.
  • Dalmatians.
  • Dobermans.
  • Bull Terriers.
  • Greyhounds.
  • Great Danes.
  • Dachshunds.
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Floating ribs are easier to spot in these 11 breeds compared to others. 

And now, if you look at the bone structure of dogs… 

You’ll see that they have 13 ribs. The last pair aren’t attached to their sternum.

It’s the bone right in the middle of the chest. And it acts as the pillar that supports the rest of the rib cage.

Thus, with their natural body structure…

It can ensure that their heart and other organs in the chest are well protected.

As for the floating rib, it’s attached to the backbone instead of the sternum. 

Thus, it seems to react along with your pooch’s spine. That’s why the bump looks like a moving tumor whenever your dog moves.

But in reality, it’s not an alarming sign of cancer, or of anything else. Rather, it’s a normal part of their anatomy.

And with this information, most vets declare that floating ribs in dogs aren’t bad at all. 


#2: What causes floating ribs in dogs?


So if floating ribs aren’t dangerous for dogs…

What causes it in the first place? 

As explained above, it’s only the natural form of their bones. The last pair of ribs inside your dog is much shorter. 

And when you compare it to the rest of the other bones…

They’re all attached to the center of their chest. But the last rib is the only one connected to the spinal cord.

“But why is the 13th rib shorter?” 

I know it sounds concerning, but it’s not a birth defect. 

All dogs have floating ribs, as I mentioned before. The only known reason why it’s shorter is to have a link to their spinal cord. 

As a tip, you can also try to look at the bone anatomy of a dog’s rib cage. 

At first, the bones start long but gradually become shorter in the end. 

Due to the length, the last rib can only attach to the spine. With that, it acts as a support for the backbone. 

Furthermore, the 13 rib also gives protection to your dog’s kidney. 

And since it still serves a good purpose in our furry friend’s bodies… 

Then fur parents shouldn’t have a reason to worry about a floating rib.

Also, you can still learn more about a dog’s skeletal anatomy.

Check out this educational video: 


#3: Can floating ribs cause problems?


In most cases, floating ribs don’t cause problems in dogs. 

Thus, vets would normally tell fur parents to ignore them. But it’s fair to still worry about the safety of your pooch. 

So, is there a chance that floating ribs can lead to some health risks? 

Yes, in rare cases they can cause pain in dogs. 

But how does this happen? 

According to research, a case of floating ribs leads to severe pain. This is caused by their abnormal movements.

This issue happens if the bones aren’t properly aligned.

Plus, it can lead to a condition known as “slipping rib syndrome.”

A study states that once floating ribs reach this stage, it’ll cause chest pain for dogs.

“But what can I do if this happens?” 

First, you need to confirm whether your furry companion has this concern or not.

To do this, you can try gently touching the bump on their body. 

Next, focus and feel the way the floating ribs react. Do they move too fast upon touching? And do they feel too loose? 

Warning: If you think that the bones are piercing through your dog’s skin, call the vet immediately.

But other than that, you can also pay attention to your dog’s response.

Is your furry pal acting weird since you noticed this bump? 

And are they showing signs of pain? Does your pooch refuse when you try to touch that area?

If your dog seems to act normal, then you can relax that they’re not in danger.

“What if my dog seems to be in pain? What should I do?” 

If your dog does have a painful floating rib, the best course of action is to see the vet ASAP. 

They can assess whether your dog can recover with regular treatment or if they need more than that.

And if they only need medications, they’ll prescribe pain-relief drugs for your pooch. 

Note: Fido should see the vet since you can’t give dogs the same medications that humans use. 

And there are only a few products that are safe for dogs. 

So, which ones are effective against painful floating ribs? 

According to vets at PetMD, here are 5 dog-friendly medicines:

  • Grapiprant or galliprant.
  • Deracoxib a.k.a deramaxx.
  • Firocoxib like previcox and equioxx.
  • Meloxicam a.k.a metacam and rheumocam.
  • Carprofen such as rimadyl, zinecarp, and novox.

Further note: Most of these aren’t available in general stores. With that, you’ll need a vet’s prescription to get them.

“But what if they’re not available? Are there other ways to help my dog?” 

Aside from medication, you can follow some simple tips to ease your pooch’s pain. 

  • Skip intense physical activities.
  • Let your dog rest as much as possible.
  • Apply a warm or cold compress to the affected area.

While these tips may not seem a lot, they can still help prevent worsening the situation.

Extra tip: If there are kids at home, keep them away from your dog for now. Many children love to play, and some dogs will get excited over that. 

That kind of reaction can lead to more accidental trauma on their ribs. 


#4: Do floating ribs go away?


Floating ribs don’t go away. 

And in general, they don’t need to go away. They’re a natural and harmless part of your dog’s body, after all. 

It’s not the best idea to get rid of them without a medical problem. 

Slipping rib syndrome is an example of a reason to remove floating ribs.

Floating Ribs Go Away Through Surgery

Another situation is if the bone is piercing through an organ. This can cause internal bleeding and fatal damage. 

With that said, a floating rib can only go away through surgery

On the other hand… what does go away is the discomfort it can cause. 

Most dogs can recover from floating rib pain without the need for surgery.

And that’s because the issue often goes away with proper treatment.

“But how will I know if my dog doesn’t need surgery?” 

Your pooch doesn’t need it if the pain from floating ribs isn’t severe. 

And to make this easy, imagine this scenario: 

Your playful pooch is running along the stairs. Due to their overexcitement, they missed a step. 

As a result, they strained their legs. 

And that could’ve harmed their spine or chest. But what’s attached to the bones in those parts? Their ribs. 

So with that, it can cause some minor pain in your pooch.

But like I mentioned, this type of incident doesn’t need surgery at all.

In most cases, pain-relief drugs can resolve this issue.

For others, they only need to let their furry friends rest. And then, the pain from their floating rib will go away by itself.

Note: In case you’re still concerned, always consult the vet. After all, pain in dogs can be hard to detect if the injury isn’t visible.

#6: What is the difference between a floating- and a broken rib?

Once you’re familiar with a normal floating rib… 

You’ll know right away if your dog has a broken one. 

As I explained before, floating ribs are harmless. So if your pooch has it, nothing will change with the way they behave or act. 

But if your dog has a broken rib, they’ll easily show the difference. 

For one, they’ll struggle to walk. And in other cases, they can’t even sit due to the pain.

But some dogs will ignore their broken ribs. 

Thus, they’ll still play and act like everything’s fine.

So, there’s one more way to find out if your pooch has a broken rib.

And that would be: having a swollen chest. If they do have this, try touching the area. 

Warning: If their chest feels soft, there’s a chance that their lungs got damaged. This can be fatal, so go to the vet right away.

#7: How should I deal with my dog’s floating rib?

The best way to deal with your dog’s floating rib is to do nothing

But it’s reasonable for fur parents to still worry about this. After all, it can be an unusual sight for you. 

So, to ease your mind… 

You can visit the vet for a quick check-up. 

Only an expert can assess your pooch properly. And if they say that you can ignore the floating rib, then follow their advice. 

In case you still have doubts, you’re always free to get a second opinion. 

And you can do so by visiting a different reputable clinic. 

All in all, floating ribs are safe in general. Once again, all dogs have them. 

Plus, it’s rare for them to experience problems caused by their floating rib. 

And if they do have minor issues such as pain…

You can review what I discussed in tip #3.