What Are Vibrissae?

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Vibrissae are the whiskers found on a dog’s muzzle, under her jaw line and above the eyes. These extra-thick hairs act as sensitive receptors to convey important information to a dog about her surroundings. The vibrissae pick up on air currents and alert a dog to any movement or changes in their immediate surroundings.

The whiskers also protect a dog’s muzzle and face, as they act as a warning when an object, person or other animal is too close. The vibrissae are sensitive to touch; they can cause a dog to retreat, close their eyes, or snarl their teeth if they are touched too abrasively. Many dog owners have experienced this sensation when blowing into their dog’s face.

Vibrissae on a dog contain a base follicle dense with nerve endings that connect to the brain, making them important receptors of information. In fact, a dog’s vibrissae are so integral to how they operate on a day-to-day basis that if the whiskers are cut, a dog will noticeably act different than when whiskers are present. A dog without vibrissae often moves tentatively, is more suspect of its surroundings, and can seem overly cautious of objects, people and other animals.

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