Ask the Vet: Hair of the Dog

Is dog hair unsanitary?


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Question: My husband, who didn’t grow up with dogs, worries that it is unsanitary for our toddler to hug and bury her face in our dog’s fur, while I say it’s fine. Can you help?

Answer:  Researchers did an intriguing study that should help your husband feel comfortable with your daughter’s affection for her dog. They identified bacteria on the neck fur of 30 dogs of various breeds and compared them with bacteria on the beards of men ranging in age from 18 to 76. They found bacteria that cause human infection on only 13 percent of dogs’ fur compared with 39 percent of men’s beards. Total bacterial counts were significantly lower on dogs’ fur than men’s beards. Bacterial sampling of the participants’ mouths also showed significantly lower bacterial counts in dogs’ mouths than in the men’s mouths. If your husband has facial hair, his beard likely carries more bacteria than your dog’s fur. Even if he has no beard, he should feel reassured letting your daughter hug her healthy, well-cared-for dog.


Ask the Vet is written by veterinarian Lee Pickett, VMD. Send questions to [email protected] and read more at

This article is featured in the July/August 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. This is good information to know for peace of mind. When dogs get a bath, it should be with an all-natural dog shampoo, of course. There are also companion products to keep their fur fresh, soft and clean between baths that are great. Same if the dog has short fur, like a Boston Terrier. Very helpful in the colder weather.


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