The Wonder of Whiskers (And Why They’re Necessary)
Cats have them, dogs have them, and we may even jokingly refer to human chin stubble as whiskers, but did you know that whiskers play an important role in the life of your pet? While most people appreciate the aesthetics of long, wispy cat whiskers, they may not realize what their function is for both dogs and cats.
The team at Schertz thinks whiskers are pretty darn cute and oh so important to your pet’s wellbeing. Keep reading to learn why!
How Do Whiskers Work?
Whiskers aren’t just part of your pet’s overall “look;” they work to help your pet navigate the world around him or her. Whiskers, formally referred to as vibrissae, are stiff hairs that are deeply embedded in the skin. These hairs have an ample blood supply, and several nerves are concentrated at the base of each whisker.
These highly attuned “feelers” are actually designed to “whisk” in vibrations or air currents in the environment. This helps detect the presence of objects in low light, including any potential danger or threat. Vibrissae aren’t unique to cats and dogs either; they can also be found on most mammals, including bears, coyotes, foxes, big cats, rodents, and the wonderfully whiskered seal.
Obviously, protecting the head is of importance to all animals since they’re so dependent on sensitive eyes and ears to live. Through these extrasensory receptors, animals can determine the distance of an object, its size, and general qualities, and they can avoid coming into contact with it. Whiskers are also integral to spatial awareness, like determining whether a space is big enough to safely fit through or if something is coming close to the eyes (in which case, a whisker can send the message to “blink”).
Lastly, whiskers help your pet communicate with you (and others)! Have you ever noticed how your pet’s whiskers will change rigidity or direction when agitated, calm, alert, or ready to play? Like ear position and posture, whiskers can say a lot about what your pet may be thinking.
Now that you know just how vital whiskers are to your pet’s well being, there’s no doubt that you’ll want to protect them, too. When it comes to kitties, most of us would think it’s odd to snip off those important feelers. However, it’s very common for dogs to go through the discomfort of unnecessary whisker trimming or shaving. Since their whiskers are every bit as wonderful and useful as a cat’s, we recommend asking your groomer to “keep those whiskers” for the sake of your dog’s total wellness.
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Schertz Animal Hospital
Since 1976, Schertz Animal Hospital has offered the greater San Antonio area outstanding pet care. Our state-of-the-art animal hospital in Schertz, TX compliments our stress-free handling and experienced veterinary staff. Make an appointment online or give us a call at (210) 659-0345 today!