Dogs are mammals and that’s why hairs are present all over their body. Unlike humans, dogs have an even distribution of hairs on their bodies. But do you know, what are dog whiskers?
Well, a set of stiff hairs emerging from the sides of a dog’s muzzles are called whiskers. They are also called vibrissae and differ from other hairs present on a dog’s body. Although humans may have whiskers on their faces, they can’t be compared with dog whiskers.
Probably, you might have been curious to know more about, “what are dog whiskers for?” If so, this article is ideal for you and could be extremely beneficial. So, let’s get started.
Before we jump into details, it’s important to know, “what are dog whiskers for?”
Like other hairs, whiskers originate from hair follicles but they stand out on a dog’s body. Their thickness is more than regular hairs and they have deep roots. However, they are not present on his entire body like regular hairs.
You might have seen these whiskers present above the dog’s eyes, above the upper lip, and on the chin. But they are present in different locations and patterns in different breeds. All dogs no matter what their age is, contain whiskers. These hairs are also present at the time of a puppy’s birth.
The sensitivity of whiskers is more than regular hairs. That’s because their follicles contain numerous blood vessels and nerves. In other words, they are sensitive like your fingertips. Just like your sense of touch is in the fingers, your dog’s sense of touch is related to his face.
What Are Whiskers For?
Now, you might be thinking why are dog whiskers important? So, here’s the answer.
Whiskers are an important part of a dog’s facial features. In addition to facial enhancements, they also play an important role. So, what are dog whiskers for?
Whiskers are particularly tuned sensory equipment that guides him through daily activities. They help with vision and work just like insect antennae, therefore, providing additional sensory input. As a result, a dog can navigate its environment.
On detecting objects or movements, these vibrissae pass the information to sensory cells. This information might be the size, shape, and speed of surrounding objects. In this way, a dog can navigate his surrounding with the help of these whiskers.
Let us explain what these whiskers are for.
Dog Whiskers Are Radar Sensors
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Dogs have an amazing sense of smell and hearing. But unfortunately, their vision is not so good. Although they can see right at distance, but can’t focus clearly on closer objects.
For this purpose, whiskers send information constantly to a dog’s brain, making his visibility clear for close objects. They act like radar sensors and even detect small vibrations that occur due to changes in air currents.
In the wild, whiskers also signal the dog about the presence of his enemies or prey. On the other hand, domestic dogs find their food or toys during the night because of whiskers. Therefore, whiskers aid your dog in hunting during the night and also prevent him from obstacles in the dark.
Dog Whiskers Communicate Emotions
Whiskers are active when a dog is active. Has your dog ever given you a cute innocent appearance while opening his eyes wide? That’s the moment when he elevates the whiskers above his eyes to give this cute look to you. At the time of danger, he will flair them on his muzzle and put them forward toward the danger.
Whiskers Are Protectors
These specialized hairs even show response to the smallest particles. This will protect a dog’s eyes from the damage of a tiny dust particle.
In addition, whiskers also prevent dogs from getting stuck in the narrow passage or turning over furniture. Consequently, a dog remains out of trouble in many ways.
Whiskers Require Protection
A major portion of a dog’s brain is responsible for processing data from touch sensors. In this case, whiskers are quite reliable. Almost, 80% of the brain’s sensory area connects to the body parts containing whiskers.
In short, whiskers are quite important for safe dog movement in the surroundings. So, avoid pulling or plucking your dog’s whiskers as it can be painful for him. While grooming your dog, avoid cutting his whiskers. This might leave him confused while performing normal activities like walking or hunting.
Do All Dogs Have Whiskers?
What are dog whiskers for? Do all dogs have whiskers?
Well, yes, all canines have whiskers including traditionally hairless breeds. However, their length and number may vary among breeds. Curly-coated breeds have curled whiskers instead of straight ones. But the fact is that they play the same important role in sensory perception.
Should You Trim Dog Whiskers?
It’s a common question from many pet owners, should they trip their pet whiskers?
The answer is no, not at all. Cutting or shortening whiskers can create trouble in your dog’s movement, balance, and ability to sense the environment. The reason is quite simple, whiskers are important for the balance and sensory perception of your dog.
Removing whiskers can cause stress in dogs resulting in aggression. It affects their sensory functions disrupting their normal activities such as swimming, playing, and hunting. After cutting whiskers take several weeks to grow back to their normal length.
During that period, their sensory ability gets reduced until they grow back. Moreover, plucking whiskers can cause extreme pain and bleeding.
Cutting your dog’s whisker accidentally won’t hurt him. They will grow back, however, be careful while trimming your pooch’s fur near their whiskers.
Dangers of Removing Dog Whiskers?
Are there any dangers in removing dog whiskers? Here’s the answer.
Dogs without whiskers have difficulty focusing in dim light. That’s why they move slowly as they are not receiving any information regarding where things are present.
With these specialized hairs, dogs don’t necessarily need physical contact with the surface to know its location. They are also called tactile hairs and even record slight changes in air currents.
On hitting any surface like a wall, some of the air that he stirs up while movement bounces back from surfaces. Consequently, a dog’s vibrissae bend slightly. The resulting neural response informs him regarding nearby objects before he touches them.
Do Dog Whiskers Fall out?
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Well, just like normal hairs on a dog’s body, whiskers also undergo shedding. A new whisker requires several weeks to get a mature length. The brittleness or breaking of whiskers depends upon age, poor nutrition, or other health condition (skin infections, hormonal imbalance, and stress).
Alopecia areata results in the loss of hairs and whiskers from a dog’s head, face, and ears. In the worst-case scenario, dogs also lose hair on their legs and trunk. In mild cases, this condition can be solved spontaneously. However, in the worst-case scenario, drugs such as cyclosporine can be effective.
To sum up, “what are dog whiskers for?” Whiskers are specialized hairs that contribute significantly to a dog’s sensory perception. These whiskers are present above the dog’s eyes, upper lip, and chin.
They act as radar sensors and communicate emotions. They help inform dogs about nearby objects in their surroundings. Cutting or plucking whiskers is not a good idea, so avoid doing it while grooming your dog.