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Why do dogs have whiskers?

Many animals have whiskers. I have a golden doodle that I love dearly. He has lots of hair on his face and around his mouth but he also has whiskers. When it came time to cut his hair, I started to think about his whiskers and whether or not it was ok to cut those whiskers. I did some research and I learned a ton about why dogs have whiskers and the benefit that whiskers have to dogs. 

Dogs have whiskers to aid in their sensory input. Whiskers on a dog help them to determine where objects are in space so they can successfully navigate them. Dogs have many whiskers around their mouth because they rely heavily on their mouths to perform many important functions such as eating, drinking, and socializing. 

When I was first learning to trim my golden doodle, I struggled with the head and face. On one of his groomings, I decided to go a little shorter on his head and face to see if I could make it look better. I trimmed all the hair and whiskers on his face and head very short. He looked terrible! I felt so bad for him and I just hoped and prayed that I hadn’t ruined his whiskers forever. I quickly did some research and was very relieved to find that even though I had made a mistake, the whiskers would eventually be fine and fully functional. 

Whiskers are pretty amazing. They help dogs with much more than I thought. After researching how awesome and useful whiskers on a dog actually are, it made me want some useful whiskers on my face. 

How do whiskers benefit a dog?

Whiskers are also called tactile hairs or vibrissae because they allow dogs to “feel” their way around. They are highly functional. You will find most whiskers on a dog above the eyes, around the mouth, and on the chin. These whiskers help dogs to know exactly what is close to their face. 

The most important feature of whiskers on a dog is aiding in navigating the environment. As humans, we rely heavily on what we see to help us navigate our environment. Dogs, however, have several different inputs that help them navigate their environment. They do rely on vision, but they also rely heavily on their sense of smell and also the sensory feedback that comes from their whiskers. 

These whiskers are embedded deeply into the dog’s skin. Whiskers are embedded much more deeply than the regular hair that covers most dogs. When something touches the whisker and bends it. This bend then triggers a sensory response to allow the dog to know there is an object close to their face. This allows the dog to position its face to eat, grab onto things with its mouth, or alert them of danger close to its head. 

All of these functions of whiskers are crucial for helping dogs. Just like many other animals, dogs rely on their whiskers just as we as humans rely on our senses. 

Are there dogs without whiskers?

All dogs have whiskers. As we discussed before, whiskers are a very important part of helping to guide a dog through its environment. Dogs without whiskers would not be able to navigate their mouths or faces nearly as well as dogs with whiskers. In fact, many mammals have whiskers. Next time you get a close-up view of a cow make sure and notice the whiskers! I would not recommend looking closely at the whiskers on a pig, or any dangerous type of mammal for that matter. However, feel free to search pictures of mammals online and you are sure to find that many of them have whiskers. 

Just like dogs, many mammals use their whiskers to navigate their environments. Many animals use their faces and mouths to help them find food. Whiskers play a huge role in helping these animals know what is around them and close to their face. Dogs are no different than these other animals and they rely on whiskers in many of the same ways. 

Can I cut my dog’s whiskers?

Cutting or trimming the whiskers on a dog is a topic of debate. We have already established that whiskers are very important in helping a dog navigate the environment. It allows the dog to feel when there is something nearby such as food or a toy. If the whiskers on a dog are cut, they will not be able to use this sense in the way that they normally do.  This can inhibit your dog from knowing what is close to its face and you may find that if you cut the whiskers on your dog, your dog will have a harder time with spatial awareness. 

Like I said before, I have a golden doodle whom I love dearly.  He gets regular haircuts, and it is almost impossible not to cut the whiskers on his face.  Although it is difficult not to cut the whiskers during the grooming process, it is possible to leave the whiskers longer so that they can still benefit the dog. This is one reason that a common doodle haircut leaves the hair around the mouth and eyes a little bit longer. When the hair is left longer around the mouth and eyes, the whiskers can still perform their proper function while still looking neat and tidy.

Will it hurt my dog to cut his whiskers?

Most hairs of a dog insert into the skin very shallowly and can come out easily.  Whiskers are not this way.  Whiskers embed very deeply into the skin of a dog. Whiskers are not easily removed from a dog’s skin because of this deepness. The whiskers are embedded deeply in a dog’s skin so that they can trigger receptors at the base of the hair when the whisker is bent. 

The sensory receptor is at the bottom of the whisker. The whisker itself has no sensory receptors, and specifically no pain receptors. This means that cutting the whiskers on a dog does not cause the dog any pain. The dog will, however, know exactly where your clippers are on its face as you pass over the whiskers. 

It is not recommended to cut the whiskers completely to the skin on a dog because this will cause the dog to lose the benefits that the whiskers provide. Cutting the whiskers extremely short will cause the dog to lose confidence in spatial awareness and may have difficulty grasping things with its mouth or eating. 

Will my dog’s whiskers grow back?

Yes, whiskers will grow back. Even though whiskers are specialty hairs that provide much more function than regular dog hair, they will grow back just as normal hair does. Dogs will actually shed their whisker hairs and regrow them much like the regular hair that they have. 

No need to worry if you accidentally cut your dog’s whiskers too short. Just monitor the skin to make sure there is nothing wrong and wait for the hair to grow back. Like we talked about before however, it is not recommended to cut whisker hairs short on a dog so try to avoid doing so if you can. 

I am so glad that whiskers can regrow because I made a big mistake and cut the hair on my golden doodle’s face way too short. Luckily, the whiskers regrew and I learned my lesson. 

Does my dog have too many whiskers?

Dogs can have up to 20 whiskers per side of their face. If a dog has many whiskers, the dog will receive more sensory input from those whiskers. It is not likely that your dog has too many whiskers. It is possible that your dog has more whiskers than average, but there is nothing wrong with having an above-average number of whiskers. It is not recommended to shave off whiskers although whiskers on a dog that are shaved will grow back as was discussed earlier.

What are the moles with whiskers growing out of them?

It is possible that your dog has a mole on its face from which whiskers grow. These moles are totally normal and they contain the sensory fibers to which the whiskers attach. Moles that have whiskers growing from them on a dog’s face are normal, especially if they have been there from birth. 

It is possible that your dog will develop a mole or a growth on its skin from which either whiskers or normal hairs grow. Some of these growths are benign and pose no threat to the health of your dog. If you notice a bump on your dog’s skin, it is important to consult with your veterinarian to make sure the mole is not caused by a health problem. 

Dog whisker bump infection

Another reason to talk with a vet is if you notice signs of infection near the whiskers on your dog’s face. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, pus, and warmth of the skin. If you notice signs of infection near whiskers or anywhere on your dog’s skin, it is important to see a veterinarian.