You might have never heard about your dog’s inter-ramal tuft, but rest assured, you have likely noticed this anatomical feature on your dog many, many times. This technical sounding word simply refers to that little batch of whiskers found under your dog’s chin. It may feel tempting at times for some dog owners to grab a pair of scissors and remove these hairs, but it’s worthy of thinking it over twice, especially after we discover why these hairs are there in the first place and the important role they play in a dog’s life. So today, let’s have the dog’s inter-ramal tuft do the talking so that we can better understand these facial hairs and tell us their story.
Hello, and thank you for stopping by and listening to my story! I am your dog’s inter-ramal tuft, a solitary tuft of hair found under your dog’s chin. My name may appear a tad bit technical and some people like to refer to me as simply the “tuft of whiskers under the chin.” This is fine with me too, as I technically fall under the whisker category.
You see, when people think about dog whiskers, they tend to mostly think about the hairs sprouting from the dog’s muzzle, right above the lips. These whiskers are known as “mystacial whiskers” perhaps because they appear in the area where in humans mustaches tend to grow.
Dogs have more whiskers though, such as those found on top of the eyes (superciliary), by the cheeks (genal) and then under the chin (yup, that’s me, the inter-ramal tuft!) As other whiskers, I am made of thick hairs that often sprout from a dark little spot of skin.
I Transmit Information
Not many people give thought to dog whiskers, but they are not there just for decoration, they actually have a purpose. You see, dog whiskers are a tad bit different from the rest of your dog’s hair. They are thicker, longer hairs that are equipped with hair follicles that are heavily innervated with sensory nerves.
You can think of them as powerful antennas that provide sensory information. Basically, when something in your dog’s environment rubs against them, they tend to vibrate and stimulate nerves in the hair follicles, explains veterinarian Dr. Mary Fuller.
The stimulated nerves then transmit information to the brain under the form of feedback about their surroundings. If you think about it, this explains why whiskers are also known as “vibrissae.” The word vibrissae comes from the Latin word “vibrio” which means to “vibrate.”
The World Below Me
Think cars and only trucks have blind spots? Think again! Dogs have blind spots too and one of them is just under their chins. Now you know why your dog has sometimes a hard time seeing that treat you just tossed him that is right under his nose!
While your dog’s mystacial whiskers provides your dog with sensory information about what is on his left and what is on his right, I provide your dog with information on what is found right beneath his head so to keep him informed and safe.
So it is thanks to me, the inter-ramal tuft, that your dog is able to tell how close or far his head is from his food bowl and water bowl. I also help dogs when they go on their digging adventures and try to fit their heads in holes or inside tunnels or when they sniff with their noses close to the ground. From an evolutionary standpoint, I have a history of helping dogs they were digging with their noses and nosing around looking for foods near the ground.
As seen, I am not just sitting there thumb dwindling all day nor am I am there for decorative purposes. I perform some important functions to keep your dog’s head protected and safe. I therefore tend to cringe when I see dogs going to the groomer and having me chopped off just to provide for “a cleaner” outline of the jaw.
Many times groomers are forced to chop me off, as it would be very difficult to avoid me as the dog’s facial hairs are trimmed off (think poodles). However, the good news is that once trimmed off, I will readily grow back. In the meanwhile though, according to veterinarian Roger L. Welton, your dog will need to adjust to the way he senses his surroundings.
I hope this has helped you understand me better! Hiding, down right under your dog’s chin, I live a bit in the shadow, so it is easy to forget about me! Now that you know me better, you can have a better idea of what I do when you watch your dog navigate the world. In the meanwhile, I send you dear regards.
Did you know? According to Stanley Coren, there are several areas of the dog’s brain purposely crafted to register tactile information. Out of all these areas, nearly 40 percent is dedicated to the regions of the dog’s facial area, particularly the areas of the dog’s upper jaw.
- Vet Street, What’s the Deal With… Whiskers? by Dr. Mary Fuller, retrieved from the web on May 23, 2016.
- Psychology Today, Why do Dogs Have Whiskers, by Stanley Coren, retrieved from the web on May 23, 2016
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