How Many Hairs Are on a Dog: Should You Count Or Weigh?

Last Updated on: June 11, 2024

A general estimate suggests a dog’s skin has 5,000 to 20,000 hair follicles. Smaller breeds often have more hairs per square inch than larger breeds. Likewise, double-coated breeds may have more hair follicles than those with a single coat.

As such, dogs can have a thousand to a million hairs, and it’s impossible to state how many hairs are on a dog. Further, the number of hairs dogs shed daily can also fluctuate, influenced by factors like the dog’s age, health, and seasonal changes.

How Many Hairs Are on a Dog? The Layers

A dog’s hair is a multifunctional feature that serves vital roles in temperature regulation, protection, sensory perception, communication, and self-cleaning. It’s an integral part of a dog’s anatomy, contributing to its overall well-being and helping them thrive in various environmental conditions.

Most dogs have two layers of hair: the topcoat and the undercoat. These two layers serve different purposes and are characteristic of various dog breeds.

very hairy dog

Topcoat (Guard Hair)

The topcoat has longer, coarser, and often stiffer dog hair that protects your pet from the elements. As such, this layer repels water and shields a dog’s skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. The topcoat also plays a role in providing insulation.

Undercoat

The undercoat is a dense layer of softer, finer dog hair that sits close to the pet’s skin. It serves primarily as insulation, helping to keep the dog warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. 

The undercoat can be thick in some breeds and is often responsible for a fluffy, insulating appearance.

Not all dogs have both layers of hair. Some have a single coat without a distinct undercoat. For example, a German shepherd has a double coat with a dense undercoat and a coarser outer coat.

Factors that Influence Your Dog’s Hair Mass

The dog with the most hair or the thickest, longest coat varies depending on the specific characteristics of individual dogs, such as the following:

Fur Type

Different dog breeds have varying types of fur. Some have a single coat, while others have a double. Single coats have one layer of fur, while double coats have an undercoat and an outer coat. The number of hairs on a dog can be higher in breeds with double coats, as they typically have more follicles. 

Hence, the number of hairs on a German shepherd would be in the thousands or even tens of thousands because it has a double coat.

The texture of the fur, such as whether it’s smooth or curly, can also influence the number of hairs. Curly or wiry dog hair may have fewer individual hairs than straight or coarse hair.

Fur Packing Density

The packing density refers to the close arrangement of individual follicles on a dog’s skin. Some dogs have densely packed follicles, while others have sparser distributions. Breeds with dense packing will naturally have more hairs per area.

A breed’s evolution and genetics determine the density of follicles. For example, breeds adapted to cold climates might have denser packing to provide insulation. That’s why a puli has a weather and water-resistant coat, ideally suited to its role as a herding dog in Hungary’s diverse and sometimes harsh climates.

Dog Size

The size of a dog can have a significant impact on its fur density. Generally, larger dogs tend to have a lower fur density than smaller dogs. That’s because the number of follicles on a dog’s body is determined early in life and is almost constant throughout its lifetime.

Larger dogs have a larger body surface area, but the number of follicles doesn’t proportionally increase to cover that larger area. Consequently, the fur density per skin area is lower in larger dogs, resulting in a thinner coat.

On the other hand, smaller dogs have as many follicles as their larger counterparts, but theirs occupy a smaller surface area. Hence, smaller dogs have a higher fur density, giving them a thicker and more luxurious coat.

Dog Health

Health plays a critical role in the growth and maintenance of fur. Dogs that are healthy and well-nourished are more likely to have a lush and full coat with a higher number of hairs.

Poor health, stress, or underlying medical conditions can lead to hair loss, thinning, or less hair. Such a pet’s body diverts nutrients and resources from the follicles to deal with health issues.

How Many Hairs Per Square Inch Does a Dog Shed?

dog sheddings

Like human hair, dogs have a hair growth cycle that includes a growth phase, a resting phase, and a shedding phase. Note that how many hairs a dog sheds daily can vary widely depending on the breed, age, health, and other factors. 

Many dogs shed seasonally, with a heavier shedding phase occurring in the spring and fall. Pets with thick or double coats shed more, especially during seasonal changes, as they have an insulating undercoat and a protective topcoat. These include the huskie, German shepherd, malamute, and golden retriever. In contrast, hypoallergenic pets shed very little, if at all. 

Since shedding affects hair density, your pet may have different fur lengths and densities depending on the growth phase. Brushing and grooming your dog regularly can help manage shedding by removing loose hair and keeping the coat healthy.

Hair loss becomes worrisome when it becomes excessive, noticeable, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms. For example, if your dog is losing hair in patches, experiencing significant bald spots, or if the hair loss appears to be spreading, this could be a sign of an underlying issue such as allergies, skin infections, hormonal imbalances, or parasites.

Additionally, if your dog is scratching, licking, or biting at the affected areas excessively, it may indicate discomfort or irritation.

Conclusion

The hairs per square inch vary significantly among breeds. Some have a single coat without a distinct undercoat, while others have a combination of both, known as a double coat. The double coat is common in many northern or cold-weather breeds, which helps them cope with extreme temperatures.

In addition to multiple coats, it’s challenging to determine how many hairs a dog has because of the natural shedding process. As such, even if a breed like a golden retriever has a high hair density, you can’t estimate the thousand or million hairs per square inch because it’ll shed some.

FAQs

Do all dogs have the same number of hairs?

No, not all dogs have the same number of hairs. Smaller breeds have a higher density of hair follicles per square inch than larger breeds. Additionally, double-coated dogs have more hair follicles than those with a single coat. There are even hairless dogs.

Can I estimate my dog’s shedding based on its breed?

While you can get a general idea of how many hairs your dogs shed based on the breed, the results vary from one individual pet to the other. On top of that, dog shed patterns also depend on factors like genetics, diet, and overall health.

Can my pet’s excessive shedding mean it has a problem?

Yes, excessive shedding can sometimes be an underlying health issue in dogs. If your dog suddenly experiences a significant increase in shedding or if you notice other concerning symptoms, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian to rule out health problems.

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