About Dogs - Tell me Why...


Why do dogs have whiskers

Q: Why do dogs have whiskers? Do they serve some purpose, or are they just for decoration? RSVP at your convenience, this is obviously not critical information....just curious. Thanks. Nancy

PS, I have two wonderful border collies; they're little rocket scientists in puppy suits and provide endless joy and occasional consternation.

A: Nancy- I could not find any really solid information on why dogs have whiskers. The closest thing I could find was a pretty good study of why rats have whiskers. I am not sure it applies but the short answer is that rats have whiskers to allow them to judge whether or not their body was going to make it through a hole their head could get through (at least that's what I think it said). I found this article in the Veterinary Information Database but it was written by M. Brechtm et. al., in Behav Brain Res, March 1997.

How to you tell lazy from lethargy

Question: Dr. Richards,

I know this question may sound crazy, but without showing any signs of illness, how would you determine lethargy from laziness, in an aloof (breed) adult dog?

Answer: I don't know any really good way to distinguish between laziness and lethargy in all cases. For my dog, if she won't get up to play I might think she is being lazy today, but if she won't get up to eat without encouragement, then I would think she was truly lethargic. Other dogs probably have different things you could judge the difference with.

Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...