Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?
They sure look cute, the bristly whiskers that stick out from either side of your dog’s snout. But why are they there? Do they serve a purpose? And is there anything special you should be doing to look after them?
WHAT ARE WHISKERS?
Whiskers or vibrissae as they are known scientifically speaking are a specialised type of long coarse hair that sends sensory messages that helps dogs navigate the world.
That upper lip whisker hair is thicker and more rigid than regular hair, they are embedded more deeply into the skin than the hair that covers the rest of a dog’s body.
Though you’ve probably noticed the longest whiskers sprouting out from either side of your dog’s snout, they also grow above the eyes and below the chin.
WHY DO DOGS NEED WHISKERS?
We all know that dog’s have a great sense of smell. They don’t, however, have great eyesight, no matter what the Big Bad Wolf said to Little Red Riding Hood at Grandma’s house!
Those whiskers on your dog’s face are actually connected directly to his brain controlling spatial awareness via a complex network of nerves that send sensory information back to your dog’s brain.
When even the most subtle of air currents moves a whisker, a dog notices, so much so they are able to detect something moving in their vicinity, a handy skill if an aggressor might be trying to sneak up when your dog is sleeping.
CAN YOUR DOG FIT UNDER THE BED?
Some people have observed dogs testing the size of an opening to determine whether or not they’ll be able to squeeze through, making whiskers a handy, built-in measuring system.
You can gently test to see how well your dog’s reflexes are working by very gently touching the tips of her whiskers on one side of her muzzle. The eye on the same side of her face will wink shut which would protect her eye against damage if she were hiking through the brush or coming too close to something while wandering around in the dark.
DOGS AREN’T ALONE IN THE WHISKER DEPARTMENT
Dogs aren’t the only mammals who sport bristles on their faces.
Horses, cats, seals and walruses are just a few other creatures who share this feature.
Seals, in fact, may use their whiskers to detect prey, though most domestic dogs no longer need to use their whiskers for this purpose.
WHAT ARE DOGS WHISKERS FOR?
Some evidence suggests that a swimming dog may use his whiskers to help stay level in the water and we’ve all seen dogs twitching their whiskers as they point into the wind.
This is likely useful when trying to determine exactly where a smell is coming from and very helpful when a pack of wild canines might be out hunting and need to keep track of each other, as well as whatever it is they are hoping to catch for dinner.
SHOULD YOU CUT A DOG’S WHISKERS?
No. Though it may be tempting to snip those whiskers off, it may not be the best idea.
Some pet owners report that after they’ve had their whiskers cut off their dogs bump into things, particularly in low light conditions and they don’t have quite as good a sense of where they are in relation to furniture and tight spaces.
If you didn’t read that last sentence in time to save your pup’s whisker collection, no worries. They do grow back so for all of the dog owners out there, there is no need to panic!
Here at Rawmate we never get tired of observing our dogs, watching them feel their way around the world. And, we love seeing photos of other people’s adorable pups.
Why not check out our Raw Food Meal Plan Blog. We chat about the importance of complete and balanced pet dinners and silly things like do dogs dream? or why are dogs noses wet?
Do you have a shot that shows off your dog’s glorious whiskers? Post on Instagram using the hashtag #rawmate so we can find and enjoy them, too!
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