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Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

Dogs are covered in fur or hair, but some especially long, coarse hairs serve a special purpose. A dog’s whiskers help to provide additional sensory input that aids in navigation and spatial reasoning.

Whiskers, more formally known as vibrissae, are long hairs found on a dog’s muzzle, chin and above the eyebrow. These hairs are connected to a special nerve-packed follicle that collects sensory information and sends it to the brain.

Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

A dog’s whiskers are sensitive to changes in air current. This helps the dog identify the size, shape and speed of nearby objects. It’s how a dog can tell how wide an opening is or how far they need to reach to grab a nearby item. Whiskers allow dogs to “see” in the dark so they can navigate even in poor light, and they help to compensate for a dog’s naturally poor eyesight.

Dogs aren’t good at seeing things up close. Instead they rely on their nose and whiskers to find objects nearby objects. For example, a dog may use his whiskers to help find food dropped on the ground.

Whiskers also help to protect a dog from eye injuries. Just as humans will blink if something touches their eyelashes, dogs will instinctively blink when something brushes against their whiskers. This helps them to protect their eyes against debris when foraging around outside.

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Can I Trim My Dog’s Whiskers?

Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

Because whiskers serve an important purpose to a dog’s ability to sense the world, it’s not a good idea to trim them. A dog without whiskers is at a disadvantage when it comes to traveling in the dark or moving around in crowded spaces.

A dog will not feel pain if you cut the whisker. Whiskers are like other hairs and do not have feeling in the shaft. If you accidentally trim a dog’s whiskers while shaving, you won’t hurt him. However, you may cause him to be disoriented for a while as he learns to navigate without the extra sensory input. A dog without whiskers is impaired much like a person without their glasses.

Plucking is a different story. Whiskers are among the first hairs to grow on a newborn puppy, and their roots go very deep. A whisker is twice as thick as ordinary hair and rooted three times as deep. The whisker’s root is connected to many nerve endings. Whiskers don’t come out easily and are painful to pull. You should never pluck a dog’s whiskers.

Why Did My Dog’s Whisker Fall Out?

You may sometimes find an occasional stray whisker in your dog’s bed or elsewhere in the house. If so, it is no cause for alarm.

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A dog’s whiskers are constantly growing, and new whiskers will erupt to replace old ones over time. When this happens, the old whisker may be pushed free of the follicle so the new one can burst through. A dog will usually replace one whisker at a time. This growth and replacement cycle keeps the whiskers in good working order and helps to replace any that become damaged by day-to-day wear-and-tear.

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Last update on 2020-01-19

Random Dog Quote:

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
-- Groucho Marx

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