Are you wondering as to why dogs have Whiskers? A dog’s whiskers have many purposes: they let the dog detect its environment, and they allow the dog to express its feelings.
Find out more about your dog’s whiskers, including their purpose, whether they regrow if they fall off , and if you should ever trim them.
What is whiskers?
Even though whiskers grow from hair follicles like other hairs, they stand out on dogs. Whiskers are thicker and coarser than regular hair, with three times deeper roots. Whiskers don’t cover the body like ordinary hairs. They are carefully placed over the eyes, chin, and upper lip. The design and position of whiskers vary per breed. All-ages dogs have whiskers, unlike humans. Whiskers, one of the first hairs to mature, are present at birth in puppies.
Whiskers are more sensitive than regular hairs because their follicles include blood vessels and nerves. In fact, canine whiskers are as delicate as human fingers. Dogs use their faces to touch the world, whereas humans use their fingers.
The most common groups of whiskers are:
- Supraorbital whiskers: These are the whiskers that grow above the eyes. They can help animals to sense objects or threats in front of them or to protect their eyes from dust or debris.
- Mystacial whiskers: These are the whiskers that grow on the upper lip, where a mustache would be. They can help animals to explore their surroundings, to locate food, or to express emotions.
- Genal whiskers: These are the whiskers that grow on the cheeks. They can help animals to sense objects or predators on their sides or to protect their face from injuries.
- Mandibular whiskers: These are the whiskers that grow on the lower jaw, pointing down. They can help animals to sense objects or prey below them or to measure the width of narrow spaces.
Some animals have additional groups of whiskers, such as:
- Interramal whiskers: These are the whiskers that grow between the chin and the throat. They can help animals to sense objects or food in their mouth or to groom themselves.
- Carpo-digital whiskers: These are the whiskers that grow on the forelegs and feet. They can help animals to sense the ground or the terrain or to manipulate objects with their paws.
Why do dogs have whiskers?
Since whiskers are almost entirely made of blood vessels and nerve fibers, they serve many purposes, most of which you may not have thought of, and have a big effect on a dog’s health.
Check out the reasons why dogs have whiskers.
- Protects Eyes: Dog whiskers have a function that is similar to what eyelashes do for people. The whiskers above a dog’s eye work to keep small bits or other things that might bother the eye from getting in. Psychology Today says that when these particles hit these whiskers, the hairs send a message to the brain to make the eyes blink so that the eyes don’t get hurt.
- Enhances Vision: Dogs have amazing senses of smell and hearing. In fact, there are some sounds that only dogs can hear. But dogs are not as smart when it comes to seeing. When compared to people, dogs can only see a small number of colors. Also, things get less clear the closer they are to our animal friends. This is called being able to see far away. Whiskers help dogs find their way by sending sense information from the surroundings to the brain. This means that even in the dark, our furry friends can move with comfort. Whiskers can help our animal friends find their toys and chew toys at any time of the day or night.
- Measures Body Width: Dogs like to walk through small space and discover new places. But because they can see so far, it can be hard to tell if they can fit in or between a space. In this case, beards work like a natural measuring tape. Because dogs’ whiskers are usually the same width as their mouths or bodies, they help dogs figure out if they can go through a certain place or not.
- Communicate emotions: Dogs can talk in so many different ways, including with their hair. Yes, these thin hairs can help pet owners figure out how their animal friend is feeling. When your dog is at ease, its whiskers probably lie flat on its face. When they are happy or excited, their hair will stand up above their eyes. When a dog feels scared or threatened, it will stick out its ears toward the strange thing. Use these signs to your advantage. They could make playing more fun or even help you escape an unwelcome encounter with another animal.
Do All Dogs Have Whiskers?
Yes, all dogs have whiskers, even types that usually don’t have hair. The length and number of whiskers can change by breed, though. Curly-coated types may have whiskers that grow in a curly shape instead of straight, but these whiskers are still very important for a dog’s sense of smell.
Do Dog Whiskers Fall Out?
Yes, a dog’s whiskers fall out just like other parts of its hair. A new whisker can take up to a few weeks to reach its full length. Whiskers that are broken or weak can be a sign of old age, bad diet, or other health problems (such as mange, stress, an unbalance in hormones, skin diseases like ringworm, etc.).
Can I cut my dog’s whiskers?
You can technically cut your dog’s whiskers, but the question is whether you should. Whiskers are not just regular hairs, but sensory tools that help your dog perceive and navigate the world.
Cutting your dog’s whiskers may not cause them pain, but it may cause them discomfort or confusion. Your dog may lose some of their sensory abilities and feel less confident or secure in their environment. Your dog may also have trouble expressing their emotions or reading other dogs’ signals. Cutting your dog’s whiskers may also affect their appearance and personality
Thus, dogs’ whiskers should not be trimmed unless medically necessary. Trimming your dog’s whiskers should be done lightly and rarely. You should also consult your veterinarian before cutting your dog’s whiskers, as they may have some advice or precautions for you
What happens if you cut off a dogs whiskers?
Cutting off a dog’s whiskers is not a good idea, as it can affect their sensory perception and communication. Dogs use whiskers to feel and express their emotions. Whiskers can sense form, size, texture, and movement, particularly in the dark or underwater. Whiskers can also protect dogs from potential threats or injuries to their eyes or face If you cut off a dog’s whiskers, you may cause them discomfort or confusion. Your dog may lose some of their sensory abilities and feel less confident or secure in their environment. Your dog may also have trouble expressing their emotions or reading other dogs’ signals. Cutting off a dog’s whiskers may also affect its appearance and personality
Is it OK to touch a dog’s whiskers?
Just touch one of your dog’s whiskers and you’ll see how this works. She might pull her face away from your hand or move that hair away from your finger. It’s not painful, but if you touch it a lot, the nerve’s response to the movement could be annoying.
Do dogs like it when you pet their whiskers?
Dogs’ whiskers don’t have feelings, just like our hair doesn’t. Dogs may be uncomfortable or confused when their whiskers are touched. Touching your dog’s whiskers may overstimulate their sensory system and cause blinking, flinching, or pulling away. You shouldn’t touch, tug, or play with your dog’s hair, and respect their feelings and actions. You may pet your dog behind the ears, under the chin, or on the chest if they prefer it.
Do whiskers grow back on dogs?
However, if you or your groomer accidentally cuts them, it’s not the end of the world. Trimming does not cause pain to your dog, and as long as the follicle at the root is not damaged the whiskers will grow back.
According to Simon, it can take up to two or three months for them to grow back to their original length, depending on how much is cut.