What is our dog’s skin microbiome?
Just like the gut, the skin is home to a community of billions of friendly living microorganisms, also known as skin flora. This community is called skin microbiome.
Just think of it as an invisible eco-system that lives on the skin (both ours AND our dog’s) that’s working to help keep it healthy and in good condition.
These microorganisms living on the skin are harmless and even beneficial—playing a vital role in immune system strength and skin health.
A disruption in the microbiome can create inflammation, irritation, dry, itchy skin, dermatitis, and even worsen some skin diseases.
Effects of Chemical Based Products on Skin Biome
Products can shape specific skin microbial communities by changing their chemical environment.
The chemicals in most do shampoos or soap causes barrier damage due to the high charge density of the carboxyl head group, which promotes strong protein binding. This characteristic of shampoos ensures excellent cleansing and removal of protein debris. However, it damages the stratum corneum proteins, denatures enzymes, and alters corneocyte water-holding capability.
Most animal shampoos are too often harsh and can result in excessive drying of the skin, which leads to overcompensation by the oil glands and ultimately to more oil on the surface of the skin.
Unfortunately, the diversity in microbiomes is as much as half as diverse as it once was. The culprits of the dwindling number of beneficial microbiota? Modern hygiene practices—such as regular bathing and the use of shampoos and or coat conditioners the contain aggressive detergents, toxic chemicals and synthetic fragrances —along with less healthful diets.
Also an important thing to note is the lack of interactions with plants, soil, and the microbiomes of livestock and other wildlife, are showing to have an impact. Our dogs today are just not spending time outside on clean/chemical free dirt and grass or being exposed to microbiomes available through a walk in the woods or romp in a livestock pasture.
Bathing your dog more then once or twice a year is not necessary and in fact now you know that regular bathing can not only ruin the natural balance of oils and the pH of your dog’s skin but that bathing your dog regularly destroys the GOOD, microbiome on the skin!
Should your dog roll in the mud or in something that smells horrid to you then bathing is surely in order. However, you can just rinse the dog off with warm water in most cases of being in the mud.
More Brushing and Less Bathing
Regular brushing is much healthier for your dog’s skin and coat as it removes old dead hair and skin while keeping the pores open and helping to spread the natural oils and microbes through the coat. Brushing your dog is also healthy and beneficial in that it is relaxing and stress reducing for your dog.
Dogs love to be brushed, especially when started early on in their lives and done regularly. It massages the skin and feels wonderful. Most dogs experience a real relaxation from it.
If you combine your brushing with the diffusion of therapeutic grade essential oils or home made grooming sprays formulated from pure essential oils (such as Young Living) , like lavender or chamomile, the aroma has relaxing properties for both you and your dog!
Another benefit of regular brushing is the time spent gives you the opportunity to get to know what your dog’s body is normally like.
In dogs that have an under-coat or longer hair, make sure you spread the hair apart to look at his skin and feel for any bumps, lumps, or abrasions while grooming.
Brushing also is important to keep his or her hair mat free. Mats form when you allow your dog’s hair to tangle. . Mats will form tightly to the skin in a short time, making them painful. They can become smelly, harbor insects or debris, and create numerous skin problems.
Mats should always be carefully removed with a mat breaking grooming tool or carefully cut out with a pair of scissors.
When bathing your dog is necessary, make sure you bathe him/her with a 100% natural shampoo base enriched with herbs, pure essential oils and vegetable proteins. This is the best way to help clean the coat and nourish the skin instead of drying it out and clogging the pores with chemicals.
Toxic Ingredients in Dog Shampoo
Most commercial shampoos contain phosphates and sodium based detergents that not only dry out and irritate the skin but are actually carcinogenic. They strip the skin of natural oils and destroy the microbiome and naturally occurring enzyme on the skin that help protect it, throwing off the skin’s natural balance.
A few of the toxic chemical ingredients to stay away from are:
- sodium lauryl sulfates
- cocomide DEA
- cocomide MEA
- TEA lauryl sulfate
- propylene glycol
When bathing, always make sure you use warm water and make bath time special and fun! Lather up the coat and give a gentle massage with your finger tips to help relax your doggie buddy. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to get all the shampoo out of the coat. Using a final rinse of filtered water or Spring water, with some SBO probiotic and/or Kombucha will be beneficial not only removing left over soap residue but will aid in restoring a healthy skin microbiome.
While this information may go against everything you’ve been taught for decades, isn’t it great to know that not all bacteria or other microbes should be killed or avoided. And, in reality, it would be a futile endeavor anyway.
So, instead of being grossed out by the billions of life forms with which you share your dog’s body (and your own), embrace the little guys that make up the skin microbiome and do your best to protect them as well as they do their best to protect your dog.
What does Dr. Jeannie and The Whole Dog recommend?
Vitality Science Pet Flora (internally for gut health and externally mixed with spring water and/or witch hazel and massaged into the skin – to help keep the skin biome healthy) – a soil based organism probiotic that also contains humic and fulvic acids.
This article is intended for educational purposes only. The decision to use or not use any information is the sole responsibility of the reader.
Part 3 – The importance of letting your dog get dirty and being outside more
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This article is intended to be educational. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a qualified animal health professional. Dr. Jeannie Thomason of The Whole Dog does not assume any legal responsibility for misuse of the information or products discussed in this article.