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Zuki the Rescue Dog: Healing Her Itchy Skin from Within

Many dogs suffer from uncomfortable skin disorders like atopic dermatitis -- in fact, it is the most common reason dogs visit their veterinarian. The skin is a great indicator of what’s going on inside your pup’s body - especially their gut health.

Skin conditions may be indicative of poor gut health and function. This seems to have been the case for poor Zuki, a sweet 6-year-old Shiba Inu pup who suffered from a severe case of atopic dermatitis and was transformed through dietary changes and balancing her gut microbial community.

Atopic dermatitis is an allergic condition which results in the red, itchy skin you can see in Zuki’s before pictures. It can cause severe pain and discomfort. Affected dogs will often lick and scratch until their skin is raw and bleeding. In poor Zuki’s case, her condition was so difficult to manage that she was eventually surrendered to the DC Shiba Inu Rescue.

Atopic dermatitis is caused by a hyperactive immune system that constantly tells the body that it is under threat, resulting in excessive inflammation. Researchers have begun to realize that the microbes comprising the gut microbiome can affect the functioning of the immune system. Some beneficial microbes, like those in the Lactobacillus genus, produce anti-inflammatory compounds that prevent the immune system from creating needless inflammation. Other less helpful bacteria, such as pathogenic strains of E. coli, produce compounds that trigger excessive inflammation like the kind we can see in Zuki’s skin. While we are still deciphering the mechanisms at play, there is a lot of potential to alleviate conditions like atopic dermatitis by altering the composition of the gut microbiome, thereby reducing chronic inflammation.

Lucky for Zuki, the people at the DC Shiba Inu Rescue (DC SIR) are experts at helping dogs with severe skin problems just like hers. DC SIR’s approach to managing these cases is by targeting the dog’s gut microbiome, which plays a huge role in exacerbating skin conditions like atopic dermatitis.

Zuki began treatment with AnimalBiome’s fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) oral capsules, which help replace pro-inflammatory bacteria with anti-inflammatory bacteria that calm the immune system. In addition, she was placed on a raw meat diet, allowing her to steer clear of some of the grains and other unnecessary additives in commercial pet foods. Some of the ingredients in commercial dog food may trigger food sensitivities and encourage the growth of pro-inflammatory bacteria.

Before beginning the FMT capsules, DC SIR used AnimalBiome’s gut health assessment Doggy Kit to have Zuki’s gut microbiome analyzed by sending in a sample of her stool; they will take a second sample after the conclusion of her treatment. The pre-treatment and post-treatment samples can then be compared to see how Zuki’s gut responded to the fecal transplant, as well as what kind of treatment, if any, might be warranted in the future.

DC SIR has focused on microbiome therapy for years, but Zuki is the first dog to use AnimalBiome’s oral fecal transplant capsules. DC SIR intends to utilize fecal transplant pills for many of their atopic dermatitis rescue pups in the future, as they believe it will cut the time needed to treat their health issues in half. In fact, one of their newest arrivals just began the treatment this week.

With intensive microbiome therapy and lots of love from the volunteers at DC SIR, Zuki made an incredible transformation. After only two months, she’s well on her way to a soft, healthy coat of fur, and her skin is no longer red or flaky. She can spend her time playing and napping instead of licking and scratching. And perhaps most importantly, she’s far happier and healthier, all because of those tiny beneficial microbes working tirelessly in her gut. She’ll soon be recovered enough to find her forever home.

Here’s a short video highlighting the DC SIR Allergy Program and a review of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in dogs with canine atopic dermatitis. You can watch Zuki’s transformation towards the end!

You can support the efforts of DC SIR by contributing to help with medical expenses associated with caring for pups like Zuki.

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