Whiskers are long, coarse hairs that act like a dog’s GPS. Whiskers are sensitive to air currents, touch or vibrations so can help your dog find his way, especially in the dark.

Dog’s whiskers, or feelers, are called vebrissae.

They are sophisticated devices to help him get around.

Part GPS, part antenna and part sense of touch, whiskers are long coarse hairs that are packed with nerves at their roots or follicles.

a dogs whiskers are like antenna

 A dog’s whiskers are like antennae.

The nerves at the base or follicle of each whisker are highly sensitive, and send messages to the dog’s brain.

When a whisker touches a surface or is moved by wind, it vibrates right down to the nerve which transmits that message to the brain.

Whiskers are SO sensitive, that they can pick up small changes in air currents.

 

Whiskers themselves have no feeling, but when they are touch or moved, the nerves at their base send signals to the dog’s brain.

Whiskers help a dog determine how smooth or rough a nearby surface is. This is helpful because dogs can’t focus well on close up objects.

whiskers on dogs

Whiskers can be hard to see on a Morkie, but they are there.

Rats, seals, walruses, and monkeys all have prominent whiskers.

Most mammals have whiskers. Biologists think they first developed to help the animal in the dark, especially cats who tend to be nocturnal.

Did you know that a cat’s whiskers grow out to be exactly as long as a cat is wide/high? This is because cats use them to figure out if they can fit somewhere.

most mammals have whiskers

When kids draw cats, they always include whiskers; but they rarely include whiskers when drawing dogs.

 

drawings of cats by kids


drawings of dogs by kids

 

There are FOUR types of whiskers on dogs and each one has a special function

A dog’s superciliary whiskers – basically very long eyebrows – have another function. When they touch something, the dog’s eyes automatically close, so he doesn’t get poked in the eye.

Mystacial whiskers on either side of the upper lips pick up shifts in air currents. A dog can have up to 20 on each side. They’re sometimes called moustache whiskers.

That little tuft of whiskers under your Morkie’s chining — called an Inter-ramal Tuft – help him figure out how far away the food bowl is, and what’s right under his nose, which is where most dogs have a blind spot.

What happens if you cut a dog's whiskers?

Don’t ever cut your Morkie’s whiskers. But if you do by mistake, you should know it can leave him feeling disoriented and lost. The stress of that might make him cranky and growly.

It doesn’t HURT a dog to cut his whiskers but it does limit hunting and playing for a while. Dogs NEED their whiskers to get around their environment.

 

More questions about dog whiskers

1. What are whiskers made of?

Whiskers are the same as hair, but they’re about three times thicker. Whiskers and hair are made from keratin, a strong fibrous protein.  These specialized hairs are called vibrissae because they vibrate.

2. Can I pluck my Morkie’s whiskers?

NO, definitely not. There are so many nerves at the base of a whisker that pulling one out will certainly hurt. Quite a bit. Plus each whisker is deeply embedded, much more so than a regular hair.

3. Do dogs’ whiskers fall out?

They do fall out from time to time and it’s nothing to worry about. A new whisker grows in to replace the old one. However, if your Morkie is losing a LOT of whiskers at once, it’s a good idea to see your Vet. This could be a sign of something else going on, such as mange or ringworm.

4. Why do groomers sometimes cut off a dog’s whiskers?

Some groomers think that whiskers look scruffy, so cut them off for a clean look. Dogs who are in shows sometimes have their whiskers trimmed off too. But it’s not a good idea. Whiskers are much more than cosmetic, they serve a purpose. 

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