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Using heat-treated lactobacillus for canine atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects many dogs. Dogs with atopic dermatitis are usually very itchy, with inflamed skin. This disease is caused by genetics and can be made worse by environmental factors like food, pollen, certain chemicals, etc. Researchers at the University of Florida explored the potential use of heat-treated microbes to treat atopic dermatitis in dogs. Here’s what they did.

Beagle puppy scratching neck on green grass outdoors in the park on a sunny day.


Atopic dermatitis (AD) has many treatment options with varying degrees of efficacy. In recent years there has been an upward trend in the use of natural and alternative treatments. Human studies have shown that the use of heat-treated bacteria can reduce clinical signs of AD. 

The theory behind this effect is that the heat-treated “good bacteria” influences the local population of bacteria and alters immune responses in the area. Since this theory has never been studied in dogs, the objective of the scientists from the University of Florida was to assess the effects of a spray version of a veterinary product containing heat-killed lactobacilli (L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri) as a treatment for AD in dogs.

Probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus under a microscope.

What they did

Heat-treated lactobacilli were mixed with water to create a spray treatment. The treatment was sprayed on the abdomen of 10 privately owned dogs, diagnosed AD. The spray was administered every 24 hours for 28 days. Clinical scores, skin barrier function and owner assessment were evaluated on day 0, 14, 28, and 42. Bacteria population on the skin was analysed on day 0 and day 28.

What they found

The researchers found a rapid decrease in clinical AD symptoms after the use of the lactobacillus spray. There was also a lower hydration score observed but no changes in skin bacteria.

Take home message

According to the results of this study, a spray treatment of lactobacilli may be on the horizon, as it has proved effective in lowering the clinical symptoms of AD in dogs. More research is still needed but lactobacilli shows potential as there are little to no adverse risks associated with the treatment.

Golden Retriever puppy scratching with hind leg on sidewalk on a sunny day.
Golden Retriever puppy scratching with hind leg on sidewalk on a sunny day.

View Sources

Santoro, D., Fagman, L., Zhang, Y. and Fahong, Y. (2020), Clinical efficacy of spray‐based heat‐treated lactobacilli in canine atopic dermatitis: a preliminary, open‐label, uncontrolled study. Vet Dermatol.

Santoro D, Marsella R, Pucheu‐Haston CM, et al. Review: Pathogenesis of canine atopic dermatitis: skin barrier and host‐micro‐organism interaction. Vet Dermatol 2015; 26: 84‐e25.

Pucheu‐Haston CM, Bizikova P, Eisenschenk MN, et al. Review: The role of antibodies, autoantigens and food allergens in canine atopic dermatitis. Vet Dermatol 2015; 26: 115‐e30.

Guéniche A, Hennino A, Goujon C, et al. Improvement of atopic dermatitis skin symptoms by Vitreoscilla filiformis bacterial extract. Eur J Dermatol 2006; 16: 380– 384.

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February 20, 2024
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