Several studies have shown that complex communities of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites, known as the microbiome inhabit the human and animal body. These communities are actually beneficial. They act as our assistants, competing with pathogenic microbes for nutrients, producing numerous metabolites and modulating our immune system, allowing human and animal bodies to thrive. These diverse microbial ecosystems known as microbiomes, inhabit the skin, digestive, respiratory and reproductive tracts within the body, but are variable across body sites and individuals.
Age, sex, diet, hygiene, lifestyle and the environment influence the composition of the skin microbiome. Information on the feline microbiome is sparse but seems to be highly diverse, as observed in the skin of dogs. Balance and integrity of the diverse microbes play an essential role in preventing pathogens from invading skin. Moreover, some skin diseases show a preference for certain skin sites and for specific breeds.
It has been demonstrated that imbalances of the microbiome are associated with inflammatory skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (AD). Dysbiosis (i.e. an alteration to the normal microbiota) in microbiota has been universally considered an important factor in the pathogenesis of AD, and how to achieve and maintain a balance between skin microbiota and the host has become a hot research topic in the field of AD treatment!
Some symptoms that might imply skin dysbiosis are:
- Red spots and rashes or sores on the skin
- Itchiness, hot spots
- Excessive hair loss (shedding more than normal)
- Brownish (as if dirty) skin
- Smelly, oily, skin
It seems it is very important for skin microbiome to stay balanced. When it’s healthy and perfectly functional, it acts like a biodynamic shield, making decisions about what is allowed to enter the skin and what is blocked. A healthy barrier traps moisture in, and keeps irritants and potential pathogens out.
Research in infants has shown that continual use of harsh, drying, imbalanced pH cleansers can lead to irritation and even breakdown of the skin barrier. Maintaining a healthy skin barrier and healthy skin microbiome are important factors in maintaining overall skin health and in managing skin disorders. Nowadays, since the COVID-19 pandemic has led us, and by extension our pets, to a hyper-hygienic atmosphere, new cleanliness protocols and over use of disinfectants and shampoos for the skin and paws, it is more important than ever to listen to our microbiome’s needs.
It is therefore important to use products specifically formulated for our dogs to support the normal processes of the skin barrier development, including the healthy development of the skin microbiome. It is therefore important to use skin care products that help maintain the physiological skin pH, and deeply moisturize our best friends’ delicate skin.