Canine atopic dermatitis (cAD) is a common disease with a multifactorial aetiology associated with impaired immunoregulation. The immunopathogenesis has similarities to that of human atopic dermatitis. Clinical signs of allergic disease in humans and mice are reduced by administration of saprophytic mycobacteria that amplify regulatory cytokines and hence the effect of Mycobacterium vaccae on the clinical severity of cAD was investigated. Sixty-two dogs with cAD, selected according to strict criteria, were treated with a single intradermal injection and evaluated monthly for 3 months in a placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial. Clinical severity was quantified using standardized scores and by owner assessment of pruritus. A single injection of a heat-killed suspension of M. vaccae was found to be well tolerated and effective in treating mild to moderate cases of cAD demonstrable for 3 months, but was insignificant in more severely affected dogs.