Dogs Need Their Whiskers

Dogs’ whiskers serve many important functions. Veterinarian Katie Grzyb DVM writes; “Dog whisker follicles contain clusters of tactile receptor cells (Merkel cells) that are essential for sending signals to the brain. If a whisker is touched by another object, or air currents move a whisker, that vibration transmits nerve impulses from a dog’s whisker follicles to their brain. Whiskers can detect the size, shape, and speed of nearby objects based on the movement of air currents. Whiskers in different areas give a dog specific information about their environment:

• Muzzle Whiskers: Mystacial whiskers along the muzzle extend toward an approaching object to help determine the shape, proximity, and texture of nearby surfaces as a dog moves their head back and forth. These whiskers help dogs detect food and water and measure distances.

• Eye Whiskers: Superciliary/supraorbital whiskers detect potential threats to the eyes by responding to tactile stimuli or air currents. When the whiskers are moved, they send signals to a dog’s brain that trigger the blink reflex to close their eyelids.

• Cheek Whiskers: Genal whiskers help with peripheral perception of the environment, such as navigating through tight spaces and keeping a dog’s head upright while swimming.

• Chin Whiskers: Interramal whiskers grow from a mole under a dog’s chin. These moles contain clusters of cells that provide sensory and tactile information to the brain. They are incredibly useful in detecting food, water, and other objects that are out of the normal field of vision.”

I also theorize that some of these vibrissae may act like dowsing rods or bio-sensors, enabling animals to detect bio-electrical-and geo-magnetic fields so they can better navigate their territories.

There is no reason for show- dogs to have their whiskers trimmed and this practice may border on being an inhumane mutilation. As Dr. Grzyb asserts: “Removing whiskers by any means may cause significant stress to a dog. It affects their sensory function and can cause disorientation and a temporary disruption in normal activities like hunting, swimming, and play. In some dogs, trimming whiskers may cause aggression as a stress response.—– From an animal welfare perspective, trimming or plucking whiskers is considered an amputation of a functional sensory organ rather than a cosmetic improvement, and it has been banned in several European countries.”

The American Kennel Club might improve its reputation from being more than a registry for pedigree dogs ( including millions from puppy mills) and prohibit whisker trimming in local and national dog shows.