Structure and Function of the Whiskers in Dogs

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Below is information about the structure and function of canine whiskers. We will tell you about the general structure of the whiskers, how the whiskers work in dogs, and common diseases that affect the whiskers in dogs. 

What Are Whiskers?

Whiskers, or vibrissae, are coarse, long, widely spaced sensory hairs located around the muzzle of most animal species. They are very sensitive to touch.

Where Are Whiskers Located on Dogs?

Whiskers or vibrissae are among the first hairs to grow in puppies. They are located on the sides of the nose/muzzle above the upper lip, on the chin, and on the forehead above the eyes.

What Is the General Structure of the Canine Whiskers?

Whiskers are extremely large hairs – more than twice as thick as ordinary hairs – and are identical to normal hair except for size. The roots are set three times deeper. Whiskers have an endothelium-lined blood sinus between the inner and outer layers of the dermal portion of the follicle with a rich nerve supply. This makes each whisker an intricate receptor.

What Are the Functions of the Whiskers in Dogs?

Whiskers serve as delicate sense organs of touch and are believed to be as sensitive as our fingertips. They are sensitive to vibrations in air currents. As the air moves, the whiskers vibrate, and dogs use messages in these vibrations to sense the presence, size and shape of nearby objects. Whiskers help protect the eyes. Any touch to the whiskers causes the eyelids to blink.

What Are the Common Diseases of the Whiskers in Dogs?

  • Pyoderma of the hair follicle
  • Demodectic mange
  • Trauma
  • Burns
  • Hair follicle dysplasia
  • Malicious cutting of the whiskers. In some breeds of dogs, it is common to groom the hairs of the muzzle, chin and forehead very short. In these breeds, it is acceptable to trim the whiskers short, also.
  • What Types of Diagnostic Tests Are Used to Evaluate the Whiskers?

    Since diseases that affect whiskers also affect the skin and hair coat, most dermatologic tests can be used to evaluate problems with the whiskers.

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