If a Dog Loses a Whisker Is That Bad?

"I lost a whisker today, but it's OK because I have this cool hat."
"I lost a whisker today, but it's OK because I have this cool hat." (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Everyone calls them whiskers, but technically those wild hairs protruding from the area around Sparky's nose and mouth are called vibrassae. While they enhance his cute looks and personality, they're for much more than show. Don't worry if he loses one of these navigational feelers; it will grow back.

Whiskers, Feelers, Vibrassae: More Than Hair

Though they look like coarse hair, Sparky's whiskers are so much more. His vibrassae are deeply rooted to a network of nerves that feed information to his brain. In a "Psychology Today" article, Stanley Coren notes about 40 percent of the information Sparky gathers through his sense of touch comes from his face; a large amount of that comes from the whiskers on his face. It's no surprise that those vibrassae are information gatherers for him, acting as his personal radar system.

Work Those Whiskers

Sparky uses his whiskers to help judge width and depth. They distinguish changes in air current and help him find prey. His whiskers don't actually feel anything, but when something, such as a gust of air or an object, brushes up against a whisker, it stimulates the follicle and sends a message to his brain. This efficient system helps Sparky find his way to bed in the dark if you turn in before he does.

Whisker Wear and Care

Sometimes Sparky will drop a whisker, which is perfectly normal. Occasionally, a whisker or two will split or be damaged, particularly if he's been up to some frisky business. If that happens, don't worry. Leave his damaged whiskers be and he'll develop new ones to take their place. Even though his whiskers may be traveling every which way on his cute little face, resist the temptation to clean them up. Dogs generally don't like people messing with their whiskers because they are so sensitive to touch. Never pluck his whiskers because it can cause bleeding.

More Than A Whisker

If Sparky's dropping more than a whisker here and there, pay attention to the rest of his hair. Hair loss and skin issues should be checked out by the vet. As a rule, losing a whisker is nothing to worry about, but if he has other symptoms, it's better to be safe than sorry.

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