Dog Whiskers: 5 Common Questions Answered
Mentally draw your dog’s face. The ears, eyes, and nose. The tongue hanging from their mouth. The color of their coat. And lastly, the whiskers. Wait…did you remember to draw whiskers?
Even while staring at your pup’s face, those long, thin hairs are easy to overlook. This can be for a few reasons, but it's most likely related to your dog’s coat color, texture, or length.
While we can’t always easily see them, dog whiskers are shockingly essential in your furry friend's daily life! We answered five common questions to help you learn more about these hairs.
Do All Dogs Have Whiskers?
Yes, all dogs do have whiskers. The number and exact location can vary, but all types of dog breeds have them.
In general, whiskers can be found above the eyes, next to the nose, and below the chin.
Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?
Because whiskers are almost entirely made up of blood vessels and nerve fibers, they serve many functions—most of which you may have never considered—and have a significant impact on dogs’ wellbeing!
Check out five reasons why dogs have whiskers.
Reason #1: Protects Eyes – One function of dog whiskers is very similar to human eyelashes. The whiskers above a dog’s eye work to limit or prevent any particles or unwanted irritants from entering the eye. In fact, when such particles touch these whiskers, the hairs send a signal to the brain for the eyes to blink so that they are not affected, according to Psychology Today.
Reason #2: Enhances Vision – Dogs’ sense of smell and hearing are pretty remarkable; in fact, there are sounds that only dogs can hear! But when it comes to vision, dogs are not as perceptive. The range of color dogs can see is quite limited in comparison to humans. Plus, the closer objects are to our furry friends, the blurrier they become. This is known as far-sighted vision. Thankfully, whiskers help dogs navigate by transferring sensory information from the environment to the brain so that our furry friends can travel with confidence—even in the dark! Today, whiskers can help our furry friends locate their play toys and chew toys at any time of day.
Reason #3: Measures Body Width – Dogs like to explore new areas and walk through some tight spaces. However, because of their far-sightedness, sometimes it is hard to gauge whether they can fit in or between a space. In this case, whiskers serve as a natural tape measure. Because whiskers are generally the same width as dogs’ faces or bodies, they help dogs understand whether they can or cannot travel through a given space.
#4: Communicate Emotions – Dogs communicate in so many wonderful ways—even with their whiskers! That's right; these skinny hairs can help pet parents read their fur pal’s feelings and emotions.
When your dog is relaxed, their whiskers likely lie flat against their face. If they are happy or excited, the whiskers above the eyes will become elevated. Dogs who feel threatened or scared will flare out their whiskers toward the unfamiliar object. These indications could enhance playtime or even help avoid an unwanted interaction with another creature, so use them to your advantage!
Can You Cut a Dog’s Whiskers?
Because dogs rely so heavily on their whiskers to see and explore their world, you cannot trim or cut off a dog’s whiskers. It is not life-threatening for a dog to have whiskers removed or cut, though it can impact their wellbeing. Your dog may become stressed out and disoriented due to a lack of sensory information being sent to their brain.
While it’s common to remove show dogs’ whiskers for aesthetic purposes, it is otherwise suggested that dogs keep their whiskers for their own independence and navigational intelligence. This includes plucking whiskers, which can be painful for dogs and result in bleeding.
If your dog’s whiskers were recently shortened or removed, try to avoid any circumstance that could agitate them. Keep an eye on your dog and limit any potentially dangerous objects that they can get their paws on to ensure they do not harm themselves.
Do Dog Whiskers Fall Out?
Whiskers may shed just like fur, though this does not occur as frequently or as commonly.
If your dog’s whiskers regularly fall out, you should visit a veterinarian. It could signify an underlying health concern such as malnutrition, stress, hormonal imbalance, or alopecia areata (which occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles).
Do Dog Whiskers Grow Back?
Yes, dog whiskers do grow back over time. Though, unlike fur, it may take several weeks for them to grow back to their original length.
Don’t “Whisk” Whiskers Away
Dog whiskers are incredible tools meant to help dogs live up to their full paw-tential. With these common questions answered, we think our furry friends' whiskers are something to appreciate! Besides, whiskers have a significant impact on dogs’ sense of awareness—and that includes you!