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5 studies prove probiotics benefit dogs with skin allergies

Bacteria aren’t all bad. After years of fearing germs and bugs, we’re beginning to learn our microscopic friends—including probiotics—are possibly the most important part of our overall health. In fact, recent discoveries suggest they’re critical to our dog’s health and wellbeing too.

One of the key benefits of probiotics for dogs is preventing and treating skin allergies. Just as oats are widely considered good for dogs with skin issues, probiotics are another "food" many pet parents have begun using to treat symptoms.

Conditions like atopic dermatitis or flea allergy dermatitis can play havoc on canines. They leave our dog’s skin red, itchy and extremely sore.  In trying to help alleviate these symptoms, the solution may be a dose of healthy bacteria, i.e., a probiotic.

So what’s the evidence supporting probiotics for dogs with allergies? And aside from the benefits, are there any side effects to be concerned about?

We researched the latest scientific literature from the National Institutes of Health to find five insightful studies into the benefits of probiotics for dogs.

What is a probiotic?

Probiotics. Prebiotics. Postbiotics. Synbiotics. Nutritional jargon often leaves us more puzzled than ever.

Let's clear up the confusion.

Probiotics are living bacteria designed to boost our dog’s health after being consumed. You’ll find them in certain supplements, as well as fermented foods like kefir.

Unlike the harmful bacteria we often hear about, probiotics are helpful bacteria – assisting with digestion, vitamin production, destroying disease-causing cells, and much more.

Commonly consumed probiotics include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. However, there are numerous other species that give our four-legged friends and us a helping hand.

Benefits of probiotics for dogs

Probiotic mechanism

Before we begin – it’s important to establish how probiotics work. Following years of fearing germs, it seems strange hearing the benefits of probiotics for dogs with allergies.

But, as one paper published in Clinical Infectious Diseases explained, probiotics can reduce levels of IgE. This protein is a key indicator of allergy. High levels are routinely found in humans and dogs undergoing an allergic reaction [*].

Probiotics, therefore, may work by exposing animals to different bacteria, thereby reducing the allergic response. Like how eating peanuts when you’re young decreases the chance of developing an allergy. 

The probiotics may also help by digesting certain proteins that would otherwise cause an allergic reaction.

After all, skin allergies – and allergies in general – are a symptom of an overactive immune system. Little wonder that healthy dogs demonstrate more species diversity on their skin.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis or canine atopy presents with dry, scaly, itchy skin. Causes include genetics and a dog’s environment. But other factors like dust mites, pollen, mold spores and food allergies have also been implicated.

Probiotics for a dog’s skin allergies may hold the answer.

In a 2012 study, early exposure to probiotics decreased allergen-specific IgE. Remember: that’s a key indicator of an allergic response [*].

Meanwhile, another allergic marker, IL-10, was significantly higher in the control group. That suggests probiotics for dogs were having a meaningful and positive impact.

A second study backed those findings. Here, Beagle puppies were exposed to probiotics from 3 weeks to 6 months of age. The results were remarkable. At six months, those exposed to probiotics were significantly less likely to have higher allergic markers [*].

Skin microbiome

Far from damaging a dog’s skin, bacteria keep our dog’s skin healthy and blemish-free. It’s known as the skin microbiome.

Microbiome refers to a community of microorganisms living together on or inside our bodies. In the case of skin, it includes all manner of bacteria and fungi, which work collectively to prevent any dangerous bacteria from taking hold.

One study compared the difference between the skin microbiome of healthy and allergic dogs. After extracting and analysing the DNA of the dog’s skin, researchers found allergic dogs have lower species richness than healthy dogs [*].

That suggests that probiotics for dogs could replenish these depleted levels, helping to reduce skin allergies.

Gut problems

Increasingly, scientists believe gut disorders cause skin allergies like atopic dermatitis. Part of the solution may include using probiotics to alter the gut microbiota. The exact mechanism isn’t fully understood. However, initial studies are showing positive results.

Lactobacillus and Enterococcus are the two probiotics for dogs most often examined. It’s theorised that they tweak the immune cell response – stopping the allergic overreaction [*].

That means probiotics can work through multiple mechanisms. And can be added to a dog’s diet to great effect.

Probiotics for dogs side effects

Few treatments work flawlessly. But, in general, probiotics appear to be completely safe for dogs. In one study, dogs were given a probiotic blend of seven strains of bacteria for three weeks.

The healthy dogs did not show any negative gastrointestinal effects, nor was their immune system negatively affected [*].

That does depend on giving the correct dose, however.

Nevertheless, every dog is different. If you decide to add a probiotic into your dog’s diet, start with a small quantity and increase it over the first 2 weeks to allow their digestive system to adjust.

Since probiotics can help with digestive issues including constipation—nausea, vomiting and diarrhea could result if you feed your dog too much too quickly. If you have any concerns, speak to your veterinarian before starting your dog on a probiotic.

These symptoms are rare, and your dog will most likely not experience any negative reaction.

The bottom line

Probiotics for dogs with allergies are nothing short of remarkable. With a growing evidence base, they’re an easy and healthy solution to the nightmare of doggie allergies.

The latest scientific research suggests an imbalance of gut bacteria can cause allergic skin reactions. Probiotics, being a mix of healthy bacteria, are an obvious solution.

When used carefully, they can lead to amazing results. That's why we formulated the Perfect Probiotics Dog Food Topper so you can include 9 science-backed probiotic strains in your dog's diet.

Our healthy topper includes this probiotics blend as well as 2 prebiotics (pumpkin and inulin) that feed the probiotics so they work optimally.

No matter what, it's worth trying probiotics if your dog is suffering from skin allergies. Even if they reduce the symptoms, it'll make a meaningful difference in your dog's wellbeing.

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