All about Whiskers

Dogs have whiskers that grace their face. This we all know. But why do they have them? Well, dogs and cats have a series of vibrissae, the technical term for whiskers. These hairs are longer and more pronounced than that of other hairs on a dog. Try lightly tugging at them and you may get an adverse reaction from your pet. Dogs use their whiskers as a part of tactile sensation, playing a pivotal role in helping dogs to determine where they are in a given space. Dogs use their whiskers to explore the world, whereas young children explore the world through touching things. On a dog’s snout or whiskers, there is a concentration of Merkel cells, cells which are receptors similar to nerve terminals on a body.

A dog’s whiskers are extremely important. A dog’s whiskers have an extremely wide amount of functions. Among them are helping with food acquisition and communication with different species, as well as aggression, dispersion of pheromones, maintaining head position in swimming, and monitoring their environments. Whiskers also help them to determine the shape and size of nearby objects, which help them view and understand these objects more clearly. Whiskers even help dogs to see in low light scenarios. Whiskers can also alert us to how a dog is feeling. When threatened, a dog may instinctively move their whiskers forward, just like cats do. They are unique because whiskers are full of nerves. The nerves on a dog’s whiskers send electrical signals to their brains, which gives them their unique functionality.

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