One of the most defining features on a dog's face is their whiskers. All dogs, as well as most mammals, have these thick hairs sprouting from their face. While felines have whiskers in a distinct pattern, dogs tend to have more variety in their whiskers.
They can be found on each side of their muzzle, under their chin, and above their eyes. Every dog's whisker pattern is unique.
While many people view whiskers as an adorable physical trait, they do much more than just improve your dog's looks
Whiskers help your dog navigate the world and can even alert your pup to potential danger before it comes. Needless to say, whiskers are a very important part of your dog's body. So what happens when they're cut off?
The Anatomy of Dog Whiskers
Whiskers are very different to the standard fur you'll find covering your pup's body. They are much thicker. Not only that, but they're often longer. They stick out from your pup's face.
Depending on your dog's breed and color pattern, their whiskers may also take on a different color. Beyond the physical differences, whiskers grow from unique hair follicles. They're rooted about three times deeper than normal hair.
Below the Root
The technical term for whiskers is "vibrasse." This is because whiskers are sensory hairs that can pick up even the most subtle vibrations. They're capable of sensing slight changes in the air. This is why dogs have a better perception of their surroundings than humans do.
When the whiskers move, the vibrations are picked up by receptors in the follicle.
As mentioned earlier, the whisker follicles are very different than standard follicles. They're flooded with blood vessels and nerves. Those nerves are all connected to the parts of your dog's brain that deal with touch information.
Whiskers are like fingertips to humans. We use our fingers to get a better understanding of the world around us. The information we gather from our fingertips is used to determine an object's size, texture, temperature, and more. The same goes for a dog and their whiskers.
Different Types of Whiskers
While they may all look the same, there are a few different types of whiskers. They are distinguished by their location on the face. All whiskers perform the same basic functions to help your pooch understand their surroundings. However, some types of whiskers perform very specific duties.
These are the most prominent whiskers. They come out of the muzzle, just above your dog's upper lip. The whiskers coming from each side tend to be quite long while the whiskers facing forward are significantly shorter.
Mystacial whiskers can help your pup find food and provide general guidance whenever they're exploring.
If you look at your dog's cheek, you may find some genal whiskers sprouting out. They provide better coverage of your dog's face and can provide information about what's going on in their peripheral vision.
Many dogs have interramal tufts of whiskers. They often sprout from moles under the chin. They can help your dog get a better idea of what's below their head where they can't see.
These whiskers can be found above your pup's eyes. They look a lot like eyebrows. The role of supraorbital whiskers is to detect potential issues that could cause harm to their eyes.
Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?
Your canine companion's whiskers do a lot to provide them with continual information about what's around them. While canines do have the same senses that humans do, their senses work a lot differently.
They don't see or hear the world as we do. Whiskers bridge the gap and provide your pup with a lot of additional benefits that we could never imagine.
Have you ever wondered how dogs can get around in the dark so well? It's not because they have special night vision. Their whiskers play an important role in helping them avoid obstacles and get to their destination safely.
The whiskers are sensitive enough to pick up changes in the air as they approach walls or furniture. In the wild, they can even help canines get through tunnels without any issues.
Whiskers also help your dog "see" blind spots around them. When you place a treat on the ground in front of them, they can't see it due to the location of their eyes. However, they'll be able to find it thanks to the mystacial whiskers and interramal tufts under their chin.
The same mechanics come into play when you throw your pup's favorite frisbee or fetching ball. While they can use their sense of hearing to get a general idea of where the item landed, they use their whiskers and sense of smell to find its exact spot.
The supraorbital whiskers above their eyes provide great protection. When your dog is sniffing through bushes, leaves and branches will brush against the whiskers. This sends a signal to your dog's brain.
Essentially, that signal tells them to blink or close their eyes. The whiskers are the first line of defense against physical ocular damage.
Should You Trim Your Dog's Whiskers?
Because they are an important part of how your dog experiences the world, you should never intentionally trim your dog's whiskers. Doing so would remove a huge part of their sensory perception.
Your dog will adjust to the change over time. However, there may be a period where they have some difficulties doing their everyday routine.
It's best to leave them alone and let your dog use their whiskers as they're meant to be used.
What Happens If You Cut a Dog's Whiskers?
If your dog's whiskers get cut off, there's no need to worry. Whiskers go through a growth cycle just like normal hairs. They will fall out on their own throughout your dog's life and grow back with time.
It's a common misconception that dogs feel pain when their whiskers are cut. Despite the complex anatomy of your pup's whiskers, they don't cause physical pain when they're cut. The hairs themselves don't contain nerves. It may feel a bit weird as its being cut, but it won't hurt.
With that being said, you should never pull or twist the whiskers. Remember, the nerves are all located in the follicle. Pulling causing stress and trauma to the follicle, resulting in discomfort and possible pain.
Do Groomers Trim Dog Whiskers?
It's not uncommon for groomers to trim whiskers. In fact, there are many breeds with grooming standards that include a shaven face. Trimming hair around the whiskers is both difficult and impractical. So, most groomers will simply shave right over the whiskers.
While it's not ideal, it's not the end of the world. Your pup will adjust and the whiskers will grow back with time.
How Long Does It Take For Whiskers to Grow Back?
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of studies out there to determine how fast whiskers grow back. Generally, it's believed that whiskers grow at the same rate as the rest of your pup's hair. Usually, it takes a few months to get back to the original length.
Many dogs take upwards of 16 weeks or more. This all depends on your dog's breed and overall health. Hair growth varies from dog to dog, so there's no way to know for sure. If your dog's whiskers fall out or get cut, just be patient and give it some time.
To sum up, your dog's whiskers are quite complex. They do a lot to help your dog live a happy and healthy life. They're like a natural GPS system that lets your canine companion find their way.
You should never intentionally cut them off. But if they are cut or pulled out accidentally, don't fret. They'll grow back before you know it.