See the wiry strands of hair that protrude along both sides of your dog’s muzzle, above their eyes or below their chin? (Yes, whiskers!) You must admit that those stiff hair strands somehow add to your dog’s charm, like how some men look good with a beard or mustache, for instance. But what exactly are dog whiskers, and do they have a special purpose beyond how adorable they look to our furry friends?
Whiskers are technically called vibrissae and are amazing sensory tools that help dogs navigate the world around them. These hair strands can be differentiated from other hairs on your dog’s body. For one thing, they are tougher, with roots that go deeper into the skin. More importantly, the vibrissae contain neurons that are more sensitive to touch.
Vibrissae can sense if something is near a dog's face, serving as a warning to prevent dogs from bumping into things or walls. At the same time, it signals if something is coming near that may hurt their eyes or face, thus protecting them. You can test this by gently tapping your dog’s whisker, and if you notice, they will blink on the same side where you tap their whisker and may likely turn their head on the opposite side.
Stop Googling - Ask a Real Vet
- Can You Cut Dog Whiskers
- Do Dog Whiskers Grow Back
- Are Dog Whiskers Sensitive
- Is It Normal for Dog Whiskers to Fall Out
Can You Cut Dog Whiskers
Grooming is part of keeping dogs healthy. But when your dog is about to have their hair cut, you may be wondering, Can you cut a dog’s whiskers too?
Yes, you can. However, the question is, do you need to, and is it bad to cut dog whiskers? Because whiskers are sensory tools for a dog, they help them gather sensory information about their environment. In the dark, whiskers also help dogs sense their surroundings. According to NCBI research, with the help of whiskers, blind dogs can easily navigate new environments that other people may mistake them for being able to see.
Effects of Cutting Dog Whiskers
What happens if you cut a dog’s whiskers? Since whiskers are what may be described as “feelers” or sensory receptors that help a dog navigate the world, they may seem less attuned to things around them if their whiskers are cut. When it is dark, they may feel more uncertain about how to move and may tend to move slower. On the other hand, they might not sense if they’re about to bump into objects or walls. This is especially true for blind dogs.
Without the help of sensory tools such as whiskers, dogs may be more prone to accidents. While minor bumps may not cause harm, they may also be susceptible to more severe accidents that require immediate veterinary care. Emergencies may cause stress to both pets and pet owners, not to mention the high costs. As such, having the needed support and assurance during such critical times would greatly help. Here is where the Pet Emergency Fund comes in handy.
Petcube’s Pet Emergency Fund welcomes pets regardless of age, breed, and medical history during pet emergencies. It has a coverage of $3000 a year for up to six pets, providing access to emergency treatment for your pets when they need it. They also have an online vet service for pet-related questions anytime and anywhere. With such features, pets and pet owners will surely benefit. As a way to thank our blog readers, we are offering an exclusive discount of 27% if you follow this link.
Cutting Dog Whiskers
Sometimes, a dog’s whiskers are trimmed or clipped as a result of facial grooming, especially in dog breeds that have long facial hair, such as Schnauzers and Poodles. This may be done to keep their face clean and make it easy to remove tear stains or food from their face. Meanwhile, some dogs who join dog shows (e.g., Westminster Kennel Club) may be advised to have their whiskers cut to show the head’s silhouette more clearly.
Notwithstanding, since whiskers are great sensory receptors, it’s best not to cut them. So the next time you have your dog groomed, let the groomer know that you want to retain your dog’s whiskers. But if your dog’s whiskers have been cut, what happens next? This leads us to the next question.
Do Dog Whiskers Grow Back
If your dog’s whiskers were trimmed, you might be wondering, “Will dog whiskers grow back?” The good news is — Yes, dog whiskers do grow back. However, unlike normal fur, the speed of growth takes more time (it takes several weeks before it goes back to its original length).
Are Dog Whiskers Sensitive
Like what was mentioned above, a dog’s whiskers are sensory tools. As such, questions such as “Are a dog’s whiskers sensitive?” and “Do dog whiskers have nerves?” may enter your mind. To these questions, the answers are yes and yes.
A dog’s whiskers have follicles that contain numerous nerves and blood vessels. In fact, almost 40% of the dog’s brain that constitutes sensory receptors is linked to the parts of the dog’s body where whiskers are. In addition, the sensitivity of a dog’s whiskers is akin to that of the fingertips in humans. More so, they can even detect the faintest vibrations in the air, like natural radar detectors.
Is It Normal for Dog Whiskers to Fall Out
Do dog whiskers fall out? Just like how dogs shed fur, a dog’s whiskers may also fall out. However, it isn’t that common, nor does it frequently happen. So if you notice your dog’s whiskers frequently falling out, it would be best to have your dog checked by their veterinarian. But why do dogs’ whiskers fall out?
If dog whiskers are falling out frequently, it may be a symptom of an underlying condition such as stress, a hormonal imbalance, malnutrition, or alopecia (a condition where the hair follicles are attacked by the immune system).
To detect any symptoms that are out of the ordinary, regular monitoring of your pet can go a long way. To help you monitor your pet, innovative and good-quality cameras such as the Petcube Cam are a good investment. Aside from being affordable and having innovative features, you also get access to a 24/7 online vet service that allows you to consult with certified vets anytime and anywhere.
Does it hurt dogs to cut their whiskers?
Dogs don’t feel pain when their whiskers are cut or trimmed. However, since its base contains numerous nerves and blood vessels, it will hurt a dog if their whiskers are plucked.
What can whiskers sense in a dog’s environment?
A dog’s whiskers can sense air movement, touch, and objects nearby. Whiskers help dogs navigate the world. They can help determine the form, size, and speed of objects. Whiskers may also help them “see” in the dark.
Can dog whiskers communicate emotions?
Yes, they can. When a dog is happy, for example, the whiskers above their eyes may rise. Meanwhile, if a dog feels a threat, their whiskers may erect forward.
Whiskers are quite amazing, as they help dogs navigate the world around them. As one of their useful sensory tools, it can help protect and guide them as they move about. So the next time you look at your dog, pause and appreciate the stiff strands of hair that allow them to better “feel” their surroundings. And when grooming your dog, remember not to cut their lovely whiskers.
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