Reconstruction and morphometric analysis of the nasal airway of the dog (Canis familiaris) and implications regarding olfactory airflow

Brent A. Craven, Thomas Neuberger, Eric G. Paterson, Andrew G. Webb, Eleanor M. Josephson, Edward E. Morrison, Gary S. Settles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


The canine nasal airway is an impressively complex anatomical structure, having many functional roles. The complicated branching and intricate scrollwork of the nasal conchae provide large surface area for heat, moisture, and odorant transfer. Of the previous anatomical studies of the canine nasal airway, none have included a detailed rendering of the maxilloturbinate and ethmoidal regions of the nose. Here, we present a high-resolution view of the nasal airway of a large dog, using magnetic resonance imaging scans. Representative airway sections are shown, and a three-dimensional surface model of the airway is reconstructed from the image data. The resulting anatomic structure and detailed morphometric data of the airway provide insight into the functional nature of canine olfaction. A complex airway network is revealed, wherein the branched maxilloturbinate and ethmoturbinate scrolls appear structurally distinct. This is quantitatively confirmed by considering the fractal dimension of each airway, which shows that the maxilloturbinate airways are more highly contorted than the ethmoidal airways. Furthermore, surface areas of the maxilloturbinate and ethmoidal airways are shown to be much different, despite having analogous physiological functions. Functionally, the dorsal meatus of the canine nasal airway is shown to be a bypass for odorant-bearing inspired air around the complicated maxillo-turbinate during sniffing for olfaction. Finally, nondimensional analysis is used to show that the airflow within both the maxilloturbinate and ethmoturbinate regions must be laminar. This work has direct relevance to biomimetic sniffer design, chemical trace detector development, intranasal drug delivery, and inhalation toxicology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1325-1340
Number of pages16
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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