Dog Discoveries

Five Fascinating Facts About Dog Whiskers

 

Want some fascinating facts about dog whiskers? Well, let’s start with an obvious one: dog owners don’t really pay much attention to them, and sometimes they even cut them off as if they really don’t serve any purpose, but those facial hairs are actually important for several different reasons! You might think that dog whiskers aren’t as fascinating as cat whiskers, but when it comes to canines, those whiskers still play many important roles that we often take for granted. So today, let’s discover five fascinating facts about dog whiskers that will explain why dogs have whiskers in the first place and why you should think twice before trimming dog whiskers.

dog face1) Dog Whiskers Work Like Antennas

Whiskers are unlike any other hairs found on your dog’s body; they are thicker, longer and sprout from a hair follicle that’s highly innervated by an abundance of sensory nerves responsible for helping your dog navigate the world around him.

Also known as “vibrissae,” whiskers tend to work in an antenna-like function.

Basically, when anything in your dog’s environment happens to rub against your dog’s whiskers, the whiskers vibrate, stimulating special nerves found in the hair follicles which in turn provide feedback about the surrounding environment, explains veterinarian Dr. Mary Fuller.  For a good reason the word vibrissae, comes from the ancient Latin word “vibrio” which means “to vibrate!”

dog tipDid you know? Out of all the areas the brain invests in registering tactile information, 40 percent is dedicated to the dog’s facial area, explains Stanley Coren.

2) Dog Whiskers Have Different Nameswhisker

“Tell me where your dog’s whiskers are and I will give you their name based on their location.”

Yes, dog whiskers have different names which can sometimes sound a tad bit technical, but they are sure interesting to discover. Let’s start with the most popular ones, those long, horizontal ones sprouting from the dog’s muzzle which sit comfortably on top of Rover’s upper lip. These whiskers are known as “mystacial whiskers” and that’s because they somewhat resemble a mustache.

If we travel towards the end of the dog’s cheek we’ll find  instead the “genal whiskers,” while if we take a peek under the dog’s chin we may stumble on a mole-like spot that houses a little set of whiskers known as “interramal tufts.”  And what about those whiskers above the dog’s eyes? Those are known as “supraorbital whiskers.” Fascinating stuff, huh?

 

dog whisker under chin3) Dog Whiskers Help with Blind Spots

Cars and trucks aren’t the only ones to have blind spots, turns out dogs have blind spots too. If you ever wondered why your dog doesn’t see that treat that’s right under his nose, it’s either because its color doesn’t stand out in the background as dogs don’t see colors like we do, or because it’s located right within the dog’s blind spot.

While mystacial whiskers provide dogs with information about what’s on their left and what’s on their right right, especially in low-light conditions, his interramal tuft on the chin informs him about what’s found right under his head.

This feature comes handy when he needs to determine how close or far is muzzle is from his food or water bowl or how close his head is from the ground when he’s out and sniffing. Those hairs also turn helpful when he’s digging to his heart’s content and sticks his head in a hole or tunnel.

 

4) Dog Whiskers Have A Protective Function

fingers

On top of providing information about a dog’s surroundings so the dog can navigate safely, whiskers also fulfill an important protective role.

In particular, the whiskers above a dog’s eyes, the “supraorbital whiskers,” function as an extension of the dog’s eyelashes. Basically, they protect the dog’s eyes from any harm by triggering a reflexive blinking action.

This reflex must have played an important evolutionary advantage considering how important a dog’s eyes were in their past when hunting for their dinner or preventing themselves from becoming dinner for other predators.

Still as today, those whiskers can help prevent the eyes from being poked and injured by objects in the dog’s environment.

You might have stumbled on this reflex at some time or another when trying to place eye drops in your dog’s eyes or when upon petting your dog’s head you inadvertently tapped those hairs causing your dog’s eye on the same side of the face to blink.

 

DOG FUR5) Dog Whiskers Tend to Grow Back

“Help! I cut my dog’s whiskers while grooming her, will they grow back?” This is something that many dog owners may be concerned about. No big worries though, groomers tend to cut those dog whiskers at times to attain a neater look of the outline of the jaw.

Whether your groomer cut them off when trimming your dog’s facial hairs or you accidentally cut your dog’s whiskers while shaving her, the good news is that, yes, they will grow back.

In the meanwhile though, there are chances your dog may feel a bit odd and he may need a bit of time to adjust how he navigates around his surroundings, explains veterinarian Roger L. Welton.

 

 

References:

  • Psychology Today, Why do dogs have whiskers? Retrieved from the web on July 15th, 2016
  • Vet Street, What’s the deal with whiskers? Retrieved from the web on July 15th, 2016

 

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