Pet owners often wonder if whiskers, on cats and dogs, grow back if they are trimmed. Many times children, out of curiosity, cut whiskers to see if they will grow back, so a concerned adult may want to know if their pet will be okay.
The answer to the question is yes, whiskers will grow back; however, it is best not to cut off, or “bob,” an animal’s whiskers frequently, even though they are similar to human hair or fingernails and grow back every time they are cut. Whiskers not only look cute, but they also play a key role in helping dogs find their way.
What Purpose Do Whiskers Serve?
Dogs, like cats and many other mammals, come with whiskers jutting out from both ends of the muzzle, upper lip, chin, and above the eyes. Technically, the hairs sticking out from either side of a dog’s muzzle are not just hairs but are highly sensitive, multifunctional growths that serve as a GPS system for them.
They Pick Up Different Frequencies of Vibrations & Sounds
The whiskers of a dog or cat enable the animal to pick up different frequencies of vibrations or sounds, thereby letting it identify the source. The hairs function as antennae, lending the dog tactile ability. The dog uses his whiskers to navigate his way through unfamiliar territory, or even figure out the size of an adversary or quarry from a distance.
Shields against Harmful Objects
The facial hairs also come in handy when the dog needs to shield his face from harmful objects like thorns or glass shards. The hairs also help protect the dog’s mouth and eyes from dirt and grime as he blinks when his whiskers touch the same.
Helps in Sensing Objects through Touch
The whiskers are the first hairs to emerge and develop as a puppy. A dog’s whiskers, in sharp contrast to a feline’s, do not grow in an orderly fashion but tend to be more diverse. The pattern or outline of how a dog’s whiskers develop depends on its heredity and breed.
Unlike hairs on other areas or parts of the body, a dog’s whiskers happen to be coarser and thicker. The follicles of whiskers are embedded at least three times more deeply compared to normal hairs. Since the whiskers’ roots are more firmly placed, it follows that they are surrounded by blood vessels and nerves.
Therefore, each and every whisker functions as an ultrasensitive receptor, allowing the dog to sense objects through touch. Objects brushing against the whiskers or the movement of air around the hairs excite the nerve cells inside the whiskers, making them vibrate. The vibration in the whiskers enables the dog to distinguish what lies ahead or on its sides.
How Much Time does it take for a Dog to Grow Whiskers?
The National Center for Biotechnology Information, under the support of the National Institute of Health, conducted a trial on the duration it takes for a dog’s whiskers to regrow. NCB carried out the study using 11 Labradors retrievers where the researchers bobbed the dogs’ fur. They observed that it took about 13.6-15.4 weeks for the furs to regrow to the length they had when they were clipped.
Based on fur regrowth rates, the researchers concluded that the dogs’ whiskers might also take the same time for growth if clipped.
While whiskers do grow back, it is better to leave them alone so that dogs can use them to stay out of danger and to experience the world around them.