Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers
by Bethel Farms on Jul 02, 2023
Did you know that nearly 40% of dogs' brain sensory areas are aligned to the body parts with whiskers?
Whiskers on dogs serve more than just an aesthetic purpose. They are also significant touch sensors that aid in your dog's sensory perception and communication.
In this guide, we will explore the fascinating question: why do dogs have whiskers? Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Dog Whiskers Made Of?
Dog whiskers are made of keratin, the same protein that makes up hair, skin, and nails. But whiskers are different from regular hair. Features of whiskers include:
- Curved and tapered: Not straight like regular hair to help sense the slightest changes in air currents
- Deeper follicles: Situated much deeper under the skin than hair follicles
- More nerves: This makes them more sensitive to touch and movement
Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?
Also known as vibrissae, whiskers are an important part of your dog. Below are a few reasons why dogs have whiskers.
Helps Dogs Get Information About the Environment
Dog whiskers serve as sensory organs. They're connected to sensitive nerve endings, making them highly perceptive to any changes in their surroundings.
With whiskers, your dog can detect changes in air currents and vibrations. As a result, your furry friend can gather information about their environment.
Whiskers also act as feelers, alerting dogs to the presence of objects, such as a natural indoor grass pad. The whiskers' ability to sense air movement can also help your dog navigate in dark or cramped spaces. It allows them to move with precision and avoid collisions.
Helps Dogs Assess Spaces
Whiskers help dogs assess the width of openings. It helps them determine whether they can fit through them.
When the whiskers brush against the sides of narrow spaces, such as doorways, your dog can quickly decide whether to squeeze through or find an alternate route. Dog whiskers can also help assess the size, shape, and texture of objects.
Helps Dogs Express Themselves
Dog whiskers are a form of expression. When your dog is relaxed, its whiskers are usually at rest.
But when it's threatened or agitated, its whiskers may become more erect and spread out. This signals a warning or readiness to defend itself.
Whiskers can also help dogs communicate their intentions. For instance, when a dog's whiskers are pushed forward, it may indicate that they are curious. But if the whiskers are pulled back, it can be a sign of submission or fear.
Observing your dog's whiskers can give valuable insights into its emotional state. Your dog groomer can also use it to assess your dog's comfort level and overall well-being.
Helps Dogs Swim
While not all dogs are natural swimmers, some breeds love water. Whiskers can contribute to a dog's swimming abilities.
When your dog is in the water, its whiskers help them gauge the water's movement and direction. This can aid in navigation.
Whiskers help them assess water currents and ripples so that they can adjust their movements accordingly. This allows them to swim more efficiently.
Additionally, a dog's whiskers can detect changes in water pressure. This alerts them to potential dangers or obstacles underwater.
Helps Puppies Feed
During their early stages of growth, puppies depend on their whiskers for nursing. Since newborn puppies can't see or hear properly, they rely on touch and scent to locate their mother's teats and nurse.
The tactile sensitivity of their whiskers helps them find their mother's milk source. This ensures that your puppies receive vital nourishment for development.
Helps Dogs With Hunting
Dogs are descendants of predatory species. Their whiskers help them in hunting and capturing prey. When dogs are stalking or tracking prey, their whiskers offer valuable information about their surroundings.
As a result, they can detect subtle movements or vibrations in the air. This helps them anticipate the movements of their prey, improving their chances of a successful hunt.
Where Do Dogs Have Whiskers?
Dog feelers play an essential role in their perception and interaction with the environment. Let's explore where dogs have these whiskers:
One of the most prominent areas where dogs have whiskers is the muzzle. Whiskers on the muzzle help your dog navigate their surroundings.
In low-light conditions or dense vegetation, whiskers on the muzzle provide valuable information about the topography of nearby objects. This helps your dog navigate and avoid obstacles with precision.
Dogs also have whiskers above their eyes. These whiskers serve multiple functions. First, they act as a protective mechanism for the eyes, shielding them from potential hazards.
Eyebrow whiskers also help dogs detect changes in air currents. This ability is useful for hunting and changing direction during movement. Additionally, these whiskers can convey subtle expressions and emotions.
Dogs often have longer muzzles that extend beyond their eyes. This can limit their direct line of sight to objects located under their mouths. Chin whiskers help compensate for this as they provide critical spatial information.
They allow dogs to gather data about objects located near their lower face. This enhances their perception and spatial awareness.
Cheek whiskers in dogs also gather information about the surrounding environment. These whiskers detect air currents and physical contact, allowing dogs to gather sensory input from their immediate surroundings.
Can You Cut Dog Whiskers?
Cutting a dog's whiskers is not recommended. Whiskers play an important role in a dog's sensory perception. Trimming or cutting them can disrupt dog senses and affect how they interact with their surroundings.
When you cut your dog's whiskers, it can disrupt their spatial awareness and make them feel insecure. They may bump into things more often. What's more, they may be hesitant to explore new environments.
It can cause confusion, disorientation, and anxiety or stress for the dog. Since whiskers are deeply rooted and have nerve endings, cutting them can also be uncomfortable for the dog. If your dog's whiskers appear excessively long or unkempt, just leave them untouched.
Can Dogs Shed Their Whiskers?
Whiskers naturally shed. But it's only occasional. If your dog sheds excessive whiskers, it may signal an underlying health problem such as alopecia areata.
Dental issues can also cause whisker loss. If you have concerns about the whiskers your dog sheds, consult a professional dog groomer or your veterinarian for guidance.
Do Dog Whiskers Grow Back?
If your dog has lost some whiskers for whatever reason, they won't remain without whiskers forever. The whiskers will grow back. Regrowth time and pattern may vary.
However, you may notice full-length growth at 12-16 weeks. If your dog has an underlying medical illness such as alopecia, regrowth patterns may be a bit different.
How to Care for Dog Whiskers
Given the importance of dog whiskers, it's essential to take proper care of them. Here are a few tips to ensure your dog's whiskers look healthy:
Avoid Trimming or Cutting Whiskers
Resist the temptation to trim or cut your dog's whiskers. It can cause discomfort and disrupt their sensory abilities.
Keep the Whiskers Clean
Your dogs may accumulate food, dirt, or debris around their whiskers. Ensure you keep them clean. Regularly wipe their whiskers with a damp cloth or a gentle pet-safe wipe to remove any dirt or residue.
When cleaning your dog's face or whiskers, avoid using strong soaps or cleansers. This can irritate or cause discomfort to your dog. Opt for mild, pet-safe cleansers or plain water instead.
As you groom your dog, be mindful of their whisker areas. Use a soft-bristled brush and gentle strokes to clean the area. Be careful when brushing your dog's fur around their whiskers - don't tug or pull on their whiskers.
Treat your dog's whiskers with care. Avoid pulling, tugging, or bending them. This can cause discomfort or pain.
If your dog is participating in activities where their whiskers may be damaged, such as agility or fly ball, use a protective sleeve or helmet. Additionally, find quality, whisker-friendly grass for dogs to play on.
Whiskers are highly sensitive. Avoid excessive touching, brushing, or playing with the whiskers often. This can cause discomfort or stress to your dog.
Provide Proper Nutrition
A balanced diet is essential for maintaining healthy whiskers. Make sure your puppy treats offer adequate nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. This can contribute to overall hair health, including whiskers.
Prevent Whisker Stress
Whisker stress occurs when a dog's whiskers continuously touch the sides of narrow food or water bowls. It can cause discomfort.
This may also lead to a refusal to eat or drink. Choose wider and shallow bowls to prevent whisker stress
Regular Veterinary Check-Ups
Take your dog to regular veterinary check-ups. When you do, ask the veterinarian to examine their whiskers and ensure they are in good health. They can offer guidance on proper whisker care and address any concerns you may have.
Take Proper Care of Your Dog
Now that you have the answer to "why do dogs have whiskers", you need to take the right steps to care for them. From aiding in expression to sensory detection, these feelers are invaluable tools for your pet.
Gotta Go Grass can also help you take care of your dog's whiskers. We offer organic grass pads that are friendly to your pet's whiskers. Contact us today to learn more about our grass pads and how they can help your furry friend.