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I am Your Dog's Thymus

For Monday's Marvels we would like to introduce the dog's thymus. We don't hear much about this organ of the lymphatic system, other than perhaps when there are problems associated with it.

dog fast mapping

Simply because it's an organ that's not that popular, we thought that it would be interesting learning more about it and how it affects our dog's bodies.

Our references point to some intriguing tasks carried out by this organ that make our dog's bodies so interesting to learn about. So here's what our dog's thymus has to say.

Let Me Introduce Myself!

Hello, it's your dog's thymus talking today! You may not know me well as I am not so popular as other organs such as the liver, heart or stomach, but don't let my lack of popularity belittle my role in ensuring your dog stays healthy and happy. I play some quite important roles that help orchestrate the immune system, so everything runs smoothly and your dog's body is protected from the harm of any foreign invaders.

As a lymphoid organ, I am responsible for the development and deployment of special types of white blood cells the help maintain your dog's immune function. I am located just above your dog's heart and right below the trachea. I am born relatively large, but as it happens in humans, I tend to shrink in size with age.

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I protect the fortress from invaders.

I protect the fortress from invaders.

I am an Instructor

My main function is to educate. My trainees are certain blood cells of your dog's immune system which are known as "T cells."

T-cells are born in your dog's bone marrow, but then are sent to me for their education, (hence their "T" name.)

What do I teach these cells? I coach them on how to distinguish cells that are part of your dog's body and those who aren't supposed to be there.

Just imagine your dog's immune system as being protected by a fortress surrounded by walls and many troops. Sometimes, among the troops, there may be invading soldiers who dress up like the troops and try to infiltrate in hopes of gaining access to the fortress.

My job is teaching my troops how to identify these invaders so they can be captured and removed before they do harm.


Meet My Troops

Interested in getting more acquainted with my troops? I have different types of soldiers that help protect my fortress and engage in different tasks.

My "helper T cells" work hard cooperating with other types of white blood cells so to develop a strong immune response.

My "killer T cells" are specifically trained to detect those foreign invaders such as harmful bacteria. While I try to do my best in training these latter soldiers, not all of them excel in their tasks.

In this unfortunate instance, they aren't given a second chance to make up for their mistakes. I must promptly take action because their mistake can be costly to your dog's body. So I fire them on the spot and they are gone once and for all.

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Finally, I have a team of "suppressor T-cells" meant to keep things under control. You see, when invaders arrive, they stir up quite a conflict and things can get out of hand. Their job is to keep things under control.

Puppy's Best Friend

Awww.. so cute!

Awww.. so cute!

We love puppies as much as you do! Remember how I mentioned that I am born relatively large and then shrink in size with age? Well, there's a good reason for this.

My role is most important during puppy hood when puppies need to rely on their immune system the most. When puppies are born, they really don't have much immunity, so my role is to help kick start the immune system to help these vulnerable beings.

I also play a role in what is known as "adaptive immunity," also known as "acquired immunity."

I help make sure that those vaccinations protect your puppy as they should. You see, certain memory t-cells have the uncanny ability to remember exposure to certain foreign invaders.

So let's say the puppy is given a vaccination against distemper. The soldiers with the good memory will remember the distemper antigens so that, should these antigens show up in the system, they can fight them promptly and efficiently so your dog can survive and thrive for as long as there is protection (something to obviously discuss with your vet!)

As seen, I am quite important! I hope this has helped you understand me better.

Best regards,

Your dog's thymus. 

Dog Pawprint

Disclaimer: The article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If your dog is sick, please see your vet.


Merck Veterinary Manual, Immune System Responses in Dogs

Pet Education, Lymphatic System Anatomy and Function

Pet Education: The Immune System

The Canine Immune System and Disease Resistance, Dr. Jean Dodds, 

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