If you own a dog, chances are you’ve never bothered to count how many hairs he or she has. The task would be immensely time-consuming, punctuated by the occasional questioning look from your dog. The exact number of hairs on a dog may not be important—but the amount certainly is.
Dogs have about 2,160,000 hairs on every square foot of skin. A dog’s hair and fur can potentially create issues around the home; these issues come mainly from shedding and parasites. Dog hair and fur can also trigger allergic reactions in humans.
If you’re in the market for a dog and are wondering which kind to get, part of your research should include how much hair the dog has. The health of you and your family may depend on it. It is also useful to know what dogs use all that hair for, which we will address now.
Why Dogs Have So Much Hair
To picture a dog is to imagine fur, walks, treats, pats on the head, and an array of other happy things—but it’s mostly fur. Or hair, depending on the breed you have in mind.
Beyond its use for visual appeal, human hair scarcely serves a purpose anymore. For dogs, however, it’s a different story. Dogs need their natural coats for various reasons:
- To protect the skin from sunlight.
- Protection against cold and hot weather.
- To repel dirt and water.
Some breeds have two coats of fur to do these jobs—an undercoat for insulation and a topcoat that acts as a kind of robe to circulate cool air near the skin. Be it one coat or two, chances are your dog has a lot of hair.
Or is it fur? There are differences between dog hair and dog fur. To avoid becoming confused as you read along, let’s break these differences down.
What’s the Difference Between Dog Hair and Fur?
Casual dog owners—those who like to share a bag of popcorn with their four-legged friend while watching old reruns on TV—are sometimes surprised to learn that not all dogs have fur. Many breeds have hair instead. How can we tell the difference between the two?
Dog hair is longer than fur and has an extended growth cycle. Dog breeds with hair will not shed nearly as often as those with fur, nor are they as prone to suffering from parasites. Fur is denser and can grow in more than one layer, which veterinarians refer to as a double coat.
Dog hair continues to grow throughout the dog’s life, whereas fur does not. Because of its longer growth cycle, hair doesn’t shed as much. Whether your dog has hair or fur, the amount often affects its susceptibility to parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites.
How Dog Hair and Fur Harbor Fleas, Ticks, and Mites
Fleas and ticks are common external parasites. These blood-sucking vampires live just about everywhere in the world, becoming even more abundant when the weather turns warm. When your dog is outside, fleas and ticks hop into his fur (or hair) and work their way down to the bare skin to sip blood like the shameless sycophants they are.
The number of hairs on a dog profoundly affects how much fighting owners do against external parasites. Hair density is also a huge factor. Fleas and ticks adore deep, dark hiding spots. They lay eggs in walls, carpets, and, of course, dog hair. Mites, on the other hand, are less concerned with density. They are microscopic, so owners won’t easily spot them, no matter how thin a dog’s coat is.
Checking a dog’s skin for infestations is as easy as parting the hair and having a look. Ticks will appear as eight-legged creatures attached to the dog with a proboscis. If your dog has fleas, they will not be hard to find crawling around behind the ears, between the toenails, or on other parts of the body that make for extra good hiding places.
Mites are much harder to see. They burrow into the skin and cause diseases such as mange. When a dog is infected with mites, the first telltale sign is constant itching; the second is large patches of bare skin where hair has fallen out.
Depending on how many hairs an infected dog has, as well as the severity of the infection, a veterinarian will attempt to eliminate these pests with internal or external medication.
Merriam-Webster defines shedding as a means “to rid oneself of temporarily or permanently as superfluous or unwanted.” This is precisely what happens when dogs shed their coats. Whether it’s made of hair or fur, your dog’s coat will come off naturally in cycles to allow for new growth.
The Amount of Shedding Depends on the Breed of Dog
Earlier in this article, I mentioned that dogs average over two million hairs on every square foot of skin. This goes for almost every dog, meaning the number of hairs your dog has is proportionate to the dog’s size. How much shedding you’re going to get depends more on the breed.
Big dogs such as doberman pinschers and dalmatians are guilty shedders. They are large, single-coated, short-haired dogs that lose their hair year-round as new hairs replace them. If not properly groomed, shedding from breeds like these can wind up all over the house.
Double-Coated Dogs Shed Seasonally
If your dog is double-coated, you’re grooming fur instead of hair. It also means you’ll be doing it more often, as breeds in possession of a “topcoat” shed seasonally (twice per year as a rule) and more abundantly. Two popular double-coated breeds are the German shepherd and the golden retriever.
Whether your dog has hair or fur, two coats, or only one, you will always need to cope with at least some shedding. No matter what breed you happen to own, the question of how many hairs on the dog’s body will soon become how much hair is on the furniture if regular grooming is not performed.
Are Dogs With Lots of Hair Hard To Groom?
People in the market for a dog get choosy about breeds for several reasons. Some folks are looking for a good house guard; others just want a lapdog to cuddle. Others hope to find a pet that is tame, sweet, and, best of all, low maintenance.
Some dog breeds with lots of hair are more challenging to groom than others, but none are especially difficult. There aren’t many steps to the process. Indeed, most people can learn how to groom them in a matter of minutes.
How often your dog needs grooming depends on how long and thick of a coat (or coats) he has, but here are the basics:
- Brush your dog 1-2 times per week.
- Bathe your dog 1-2 times per month.
- Trim overlong hair as needed.
All over the web, there are good tips to be found for grooming your dog.
Now, if you’re still wondering how many hairs are on a dog and why you should care, this is an excellent time to bring up allergies. If you or someone you know suffers from allergies but would still like a dog, the following section provides some helpful information.
How Hair and Fur Triggers Allergies
Earlier in this article, I wrote a section about shedding. In it, I didn’t mention allergies because I wanted to give this particular beast a room of its own. Allergies can easily be triggered by a dog’s shedding of skin, hair, or fur.
Dog shedding—sometimes referred to as dander—can cause symptoms for those prone to allergies. These symptoms can range from coughing to sneezing to severe breathing difficulty.
If you happen to be an allergy sufferer, be aware of heavy shedders such as the Siberian Husky and the briard. Hypoallergenic dogs such as the Shih-Tzu, poodle, or Scottish terrier make for safer breed choices.
It’s essential to know how many hairs are on a dog to understand three key concepts: parasite control, grooming, and the triggering of human allergies. For more information about these issues, ask your veterinarian. Good dog owners love their pets like part of the family. You take care of each other, which is precisely the way it should be.