Can a dog lose their sense of balance if his whiskers are cut?

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A dog wouldn’t necessarily lose his sense of balance if his whiskers were cut, but a noticeable shift in behavior would occur. The whiskers, called vibrissae, are an important part of a dog’s sense of touch. A dog uses vibrissae to pick up information from airflow, such as whether an object, person or other animal is nearby, as well as the object’s shape, size and texture.

If a dog’s whiskers are cut, he may lose the ability to pick up and read this important sensory information. A dog without whiskers will move more tentatively, be more cautious about his surroundings, and rely heavily on other senses like sight and smell. Eliminating a dog’s whiskers is akin to taking away a cane from a blind person; it limits the ability to sense surroundings safely.

Many groomers and dog owners have the vibrissae trimmed or removed to give a dog a cleaner look, unaware of the damage they are doing. Dogs rely on the whiskers to not only pick up airflow and sense their surroundings from afar, but also to test out surfaces, other dogs and people in close proximity. A dog will use his whiskers to make first contact with a surface so he does not have to touch anything without knowing whether it is a safe situation for more direct contact.

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