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Puppy asleep in person‘s hand

The essentials

  • Every dog has a belly button — However, instead of being an innie or outie like a human’s navel, theirs is a smooth, flat scar.
  • If you notice a small or large soft bulging bump in the belly button area, it could be a hernia — Inform your vet of the development so they can treat it.
  • Puppies’ belly buttons look different than adults’ — A newborn puppy will have a small bump left of the umbilicus. As they age, it falls off and develops as a small scar.

While giving their dog belly rubs, many people wonder why they can’t see their dog’s belly button. This leads a lot of pet parents to think that dogs don’t actually have belly buttons — at least not like the belly buttons that we have. But actually, they do! They just look a little different.

Why do dogs have belly buttons?

Like all mammals, dogs develop in their mother’s womb inside a gestational sac attached to the mother’s placenta. Unlike birds, reptiles, or fish, mammals do not lay eggs that contain the embryo and a yolk. The mother provides nutrients to the puppies through the umbilical cord attached through the sac to the puppies’ belly. Unlike our belly buttons which are located in the middle of our belly, a dog’s belly button is closer to the bottom of their rib cage.

Where is my dog’s belly button?

A dog’s belly button is located on the abdomen below the bottom of the rib cage and above the pelvic waistline. For most dogs, it’s difficult to find because it heals differently than ours do. Instead of a circular scar that develops as an innie or outie, they have a small, smooth scar. It can look like a smooth vertical oval or like a small wrinkle in the skin. If your dog has fur over it, it may swirl around it and form a little tuft.

If you have difficulty locating it visually, you can try feeling for it. It will feel like a small knot of scar tissue just under the surface. Don’t worry if you can’t find it at first, dogs don’t typically feel pain when you press and look for it.

White dog sleeping on sofa

The function of a dog’s belly button

Similar to human belly buttons, dog belly buttons don’t have a purpose once they’re born. Most dogs don’t pay any attention to the area where their belly buttons are. If you do see a bulge or swelling where their belly button is, or if they start paying attention to it, you might need to look a little closer. It could be the most common type of hernia: an umbilical hernia.

Umbilical hernias

An umbilical hernia is where a small portion of abdominal fat, and in rare circumstances the intestines, has protruded through the belly button scar. It will look like a small lump under the skin, and may be tender and soft to the touch. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to umbilical hernias like the Airedale terrier, Basenji, beagle, and Pekingese, but all breeds can get umbilical hernias.

If your dog is still in early puppyhood, then there isn’t any need to worry — they should still have a small bump while the umbilical stump heals. But if your dog is in late puppyhood, this could mean that they are experiencing improper muscle closure. Most times, this will heal itself within three or four months, but you should still inform your veterinarian. They could prescribe stool softeners to make pooping easier and reduce any strain.

If your dog is an adult, inform your vet of the possible hernia. Don’t worry, though. Umbilical hernias are easy to treat and have a great success rate.

Whether older puppy or adult, it is recommended to surgically repair the weak spot in the abdominal wall and ‘reduce’ or repair the hernia for health reasons and prevent potential health problems later down the line. For the most part, hernias cannot heal themselves.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

What about my cat’s belly button?

Since cats are also placental mammals, they have belly buttons, too! Similar to a dog’s belly button, you can find a cat’s belly button near the bottom of their rib cage. Just like a dog’s, cat belly buttons are small, smooth scars that are hidden by their fur.

Like all mammals, pups have their own belly buttons inherited from their mothers. Luckily for them, they don’t have the same worries we do about how they look. Although no special care is needed for them on a day-to-day basis, keep an eye on them. If you notice a change when they lay down or poop, you may need to go to the vet.

Frequently asked questions

What does a dog’s belly button look like?

A dog’s belly button is a small, smooth scar. Sometimes it looks like a vertical oval and sometimes it looks like a small wrinkle in the skin. If they have fur over the area, it may grow in a swirl around it.

Can you feel a dog’s belly button?

Yes, you can feel a dog’s belly button! It’s a small knot of scar tissue right below the surface of the skin.

Why do dogs not have belly buttons?

Dogs actually do have belly buttons, they just don’t look like ours do. Instead of an innie or outie, they have a completely smooth one.

Does each puppy have its own umbilical cord?

Each puppy has its own umbilical cord because they develop in their own gestational sac. While in the mother’s uterus, the umbilical cord provides nutrient and waste removal for the puppy.