Our canine buddies come in every manner of shape and size. The one thing they have in common though is those cute dog whiskers on their muzzles.
Most dog owners think of dog whiskers as being decorative. But the truth is, they play a much bigger role. So should you cut your dog’s whiskers? More importantly, do dog whiskers grow back once they are trimmed? The following post provides detailed answers to these questions and more.
Do Dog Whiskers Grow Back?
As a general rule, most dog whiskers will grow back after they have been cut, and they may grow back faster than their muzzle hair. Like the rest of your dog’s hair, whiskers fall out throughout their life and grow back. If your dog’s whiskers do not grow back then a check by a vet is needed.
What Are Dog Whiskers Called?
Dog vibrissae is the technical term given to the tiny hairs that grow on the face near the dog’s muzzle. The word vibrissa is derived from Latin’s “vibrio”, which translates to “vibrate”.
Anytime an object in the dog’s surroundings rubs against these hairs, they “vibrate” and operate like antennas that then transmit the sensory information to the brain. This way, the dog is able to know whether there’s something in his path that he should avoid.
It’s important to note that whiskers are very different from the hairs present on the rest of his body. First off, they’re way stiffer, and more deeply lodged into the skin.
Another distinguishing characteristic of whiskers is that at the base of every vibrissa, there’s a high buildup of touch-sensitive neurons. This explains why a neural response is produced at the slightest tension exerted on these hairs.
Dog whiskers are known by many other terms depending on where they’re growing. Dog whiskers on the side of the face or near their muzzles are known as mystacial whiskers.
You may also find dog whiskers under the chin or by the cheeks, and these are referred to as genal.
The last group entails dogs’ eye whiskers, usually growing at the top of their eyes and they’re known as supraorbital whiskers.
What Do Dog Whiskers Do?
One question asked by a lot of pet owners is, “do dogs need their whiskers?” The short answer to this is a resounding yes! Here’s a brief overview of why dog whiskers are important:
Aid with vision
There are times when you throw a treat or toy and it lands right in front of your pooch. But for some reason, he just can’t seem to see it. Instead, he begins sniffing around for the lost treasure until he finds it.
The reason why this happens is that some breeds are farsighted. This means that they have a vision impairment that hinders them from seeing things clearly, especially when they’re in close proximity.
Wondering why some dogs are farsighted? Well, consider the size of the dog’s snout. Some breeds have very long muzzles, which block part of their visual field. As a result, they’re unable to identify objects that are right in front of, or underneath their chins.
For such breeds, their canine whiskers play a very crucial role when it comes to their visual system. The specific whiskers that help are those that point downward from the upper lip and those that point downward from underneath the chin.
Once the whiskers detect the proximity of objects under the muzzle, they relay this information to the brain, so your pet is able to respond accordingly.
When you want to know how your pet dog is feeling, you most likely observe his ears and tails. For instance, his ears may twitch to show that something in his surroundings has piqued his interest. Similarly, he’ll wag his tail to show that he’s happy.
But another feature that can give you a clue to how he’s feeling entails his whiskers. The minute he starts sensing danger, his whiskers flare and start pointing in the forward direction towards the threat.
Researchers believe that this is your dog’s way of being defensive when he encounters a combative situation.
On the other hand, if your pup is calm and relaxed, his whiskers will appear relaxed as well. And when he’s thrilled, they’ll be elevated upwards.
Protect their eyes
Another function that dog whiskers play is that of protection. Dog’s eyes are highly susceptible to injury if they get poked by objects in their surroundings.
Consider a situation where you’ve taken your dog out on a hunting or camping trip. If this outdoor activity is taking place in a heavily forested area, then you risk your dog’s eyes getting exposed to objects that could harm him; thorns, sticks, branches, and more.
This is where the supraorbital whiskers come in handy. In addition to framing his eyes, they double up as extensions for his eyelashes. They evoke a reflexive blinking response so that he can close his eyes in time to avoid getting poked by a stick or thorn.
Determine the direction of the wind
Dog whiskers are also useful in detecting the direction of the wind. This is particularly useful when your pup wants to locate prey.
Why Are My Pup’s Whiskers Falling Out?
Given how important they are, you may be alarmed when your dog’s whiskers start falling out.
Do dogs shed their whiskers naturally? Yes, they do. As with any other hairs on their body, it’s not unusual for your pup to shed whiskers. It’s a natural phenomenon that shouldn’t worry you, especially because they’ll grow right back.
That said, if you notice your dog losing whiskers all at once, this is definitely a cause for alarm. More so if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as loss of appetite or a decrease in energy levels and activities.
On the same note, if your pooch is shedding his whiskers in an unusual manner, you should seek medical attention.
For instance, it’s not routine to have a dog missing whiskers on one side. In an ideal situation, he’ll shed these hairs evenly. So if you notice anything out of the ordinary, there could be an underlying problem.
Causes Of Whisker Loss
Wondering why your dog’s whiskers fell out? Well, there are several medical conditions that could result in your dog losing whiskers, namely:
If your pooch has or is currently undergoing chemotherapy, it’s totally normal for him to experience whisker loss. The good thing about this is that once he’s done with treatment, the whiskers will naturally grow back. However, they may have a slightly different texture.
There are a couple of skin-related problems that may also lead to whisker loss.
For instance, dogs diagnosed with demodectic mange may experience substantial whisker loss. This is often accompanied by thinning hair and reddened skin.
Alopecia is another condition that can cause your dog’s whiskers to fall out. If you notice your dog scratching whiskers off, there’s a good chance that he has a skin infection triggering it.
Can You Cut Dog Whiskers?
It is not recommended to cut your dog’s whiskers unless you have a dog with long hair on its face. Examples of such dog breeds are the Airedale Terrier, Shih Tzu, and Poodle just to mention a few. Even if you do have to cut them, never pull your pet’s whiskers out as it will be extremely painful for them.
For a short-haired dog breed like a Miniature Pinscher, Boston Terrier or Beagle, there’s no aesthetic reason to trim their whiskers or facial hair.
Does it hurt to cut dog whiskers?
One of the most commonly asked questions by dog lovers is, “do whiskers have nerves?” The answer to this is yes, which is why you should never try to pull or yank them out. If you do, your pooch will feel intense pain.
Wondering what happens if you cut dog whiskers? This is one subject that’s been hotly debated. Some believe that cutting dogs’ whiskers causes them to lose their spatial awareness. Others believe that trimming does not cause any negative effects.
Ultimately, these whiskers play a crucial role in their ability to navigate. It means that if you were to trim all their whiskers, this would certainly affect their navigation. But if you’re just cutting a few whiskers to give your dog a cleaner look, this won’t have as big of an impact on their navigation skills.
Do groomers cut dog whiskers?
It’s standard practice for groomers to trim whiskers. This is particularly so for dogs with wiry, stiff hair, as it prevents the hair from forming mats.
The easiest way to know whether your groomer intends to trim your poodle’s whiskers is to ask. If you don’t want him to, then be sure to tell him that right off the bat.
Most groomers claim that they’re following breed standards when they trim a dog’s fur. But it’s important to note that not all standards specify that whiskers should be cut.
The best thing is to do your own due diligence, and find out whether it’s mandatory to trim your Schnauzer whiskers. If it’s not a must, then make your own decision, don’t let your groomer decide for you.
How long does it take for dog whiskers to grow back?
Not a lot of research has been carried out on the subject. Experts estimate that the regrowth rate is about the same as that of the fur on a dog’s body. Usually, a dog’s fur regrows within 3 to 5 months.
My furbaby Victor, my 8-year-old miniature poodle cross, has had his whiskers cut at the groomers since he was a puppy. I have noticed they grow back slightly quicker than his mustache as he is getting closer to his next grooming session.
I have not noticed any ill effects from his whiskers being cut and it would be quite difficult to cut his mustache without cutting them.
I hope this article helped, I’d love to hear your experience on this topic, send me a comment and let’s chat.