Breakthrough Treatment Saves Pets From Euthanasia — Could It Help Yours Too?

fecal microbiota transplant

Story at-a-glance -

  • A fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) is a procedure in which stool from a healthy donor is transferred to the colon of a sick patient
  • FMT is being used very successfully to treat humans with C. diff infections, and is also being used to treat veterinary patients with GI disease
  • Trailblazing veterinarians across the U.S. are using FMT to treat cases of unresponsive diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, giardia-induced loose stools, diarrhea in kenneled dogs and parvo

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Today I'm bringing you news from the exciting if slightly icky field of fecal transplantation! Two years ago I did a fascinating interview with Dr. Margo Roman, a fellow integrative veterinarian who performs microbiome restorative therapy, also known as a fecal transplant or fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).

For those who may not have heard of it, a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) "… is a procedure in which fecal matter, or stool, is collected from a tested donor, mixed with a saline or other solution, strained, and placed in a patient, by colonoscopy, endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or enema."1

In humans, reported success rates for treating potentially deadly Clostridium difficile infections with FMT range from a miraculous 90 to 98 percent, with no adverse side effects.

FMT is also being used to treat people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and studies are underway to explore the use of FMT to treat obesity, diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.2

Dr. Roman's Groundbreaking Work With Fecal Transplants

As we discussed during our 2015 interview, Dr. Roman has had tremendous success with fecal transplants in her veterinary practice, including with her very first FMT patient, a standard Poodle named Stovin whose owner had spent over $16,000 attempting to treat severe gastrointestinal problems and Addison's disease.

The poor dog was so emaciated he had to be carried into her clinic. He was hemorrhaging from the gut, and no one knew why. Dr. Roman treated him with acupuncture, ozone therapy and a fecal transplant, and Stovin made a complete recovery.

She also successfully treated a wire-haired fox terrier named Archie, who had an immunoglobulin deficiency, intermittent diarrhea after eating certain foods, anxiety and aggressive tendencies. Within 24 hours of his fecal transplant, Archie was able to eat foods that had always given him diarrhea in the past. His anxiety disappeared, and he was calm and balanced.

Dr. Roman has also cured several dogs of their poop-eating behavior with microbiome restorative therapy. She provides a wealth of information on transplants, the microbiome and lots of other related subjects at her aptly named website, Eat Sh*t & Live.

Veterinarians in Canada Are Using FMT to Treat Dogs With Chronic, Unresponsive Diarrhea

Currently there are a number of small-scale studies and trials being conducted to test the benefits of fecal transplants in dogs and cats with gastrointestinal conditions such as intractable diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Veterinary researchers at the Ontario Veterinary College in Canada have performed several fecal transplants in pets with chronic diarrhea unresponsive or only moderately responsive to standard treatments such as dietary changes, probiotics, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.3

The patients were given enemas prior to FMT, and the solution was also administered via enema and held in the colon for 45 minutes. Two days after the transplants, the patients' microbiomes resembled those of the donor animals rather than their own. The patients showed significant improvement in stool consistency within 24 hours of the transplant and remained clinically normal when checked at three months post-transplant.

FMT Saves Cat With Ulcerative Colitis From Euthanasia

Another recent report comes from the Medi-Vet Veterinary Hospital in Haifa, Israel, where FMT was attempted on a 10-year-old female spayed Abyssinian cat with ulcerative colitis (UC) that was unresponsive to traditional treatment. From the study abstract:

"A fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) through rectal (enema) administration was performed as a last therapeutic option for the cat before euthanasia, and there was an immediate improvement after the procedure in regards to fecal texture, odor and color.

After the initial successful response, the cat developed a clinical relapse of the diarrhea, and a second FMT procedure was performed five weeks thereafter. Gradually, during a [three]-month period the cat started passing normal stools."4

At 11 months post-transplant the cat was still passing normal stools, so in this remarkable case, the FMT literally saved the animal's life.

Fecal Transplants Resolve Loose Stools in Italian Greyhound

In another case report, veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Chaitman of Veterinary Internal Medicine and Allergy Specialists in NY, who has performed FMT for several years, discusses Henry, a 5-month-old Italian Greyhound with chronic diarrhea from a giardia infection.5 Henry had been treated with several rounds of drugs, including antibiotics, over a three-month period.

After a fecal transplant, Henry's stool quality was greatly improved. However, two weeks after the FMT, he developed vomiting and severe diarrhea with mucus and blood in the stool, and it was discovered he still had a giardia infection, and circovirus as well. Henry was given more drugs and the giardia finally resolved, but as you might guess, the loose stools returned. Dr. Chaitman put Henry on a novel diet and did a second fecal transplant, and his stool once again normalized.

FMT Is Being Used to Treat and Prevent Diarrhea in Litters of Guide Dog Puppies

Diarrhea and other GI issues are a common problem in kenneled dogs, and a veterinarian in Florida, Dr. Kevin Conrad, is working with Palmetto's Southeastern Guide Dogs to address the issue in the animals the group breeds and raises as working dogs. The goal is to find a less costly and time-consuming way to treat the dogs that doesn't involve the use of antibiotics, which often exacerbate the problem.

"We see 250 dogs a year and there were a lot of repeat offenders with symptoms not going away," Conrad told the Bradenton Herald. "We'd either repeat antibiotics or adjust their feeding. It could take days, weeks or months to get one dog feeling better and I knew there had to be an easier process."6

Conrad took a simple approach to his FMT trials. He identified donor dogs without digestive issues who seemed "naturally inclined not to get sick," froze their stool samples, cultured them to make sure the right bacteria was present, liquefied the samples in a sterile saline solution and started performing fecal transplants on the guide dogs.

"Immediately we were having an 87 percent success rate after one treatment," says Conrad. "For those needing a second treatment, the success rate is 93 percent and there has not been one that has had diarrhea since."

Next, Conrad decided to backtrack from diarrhea puppies to their moms and discovered high levels of bad bacteria in pre-litter females. He began doing fecal transplants on pregnant mothers who then gave birth to puppies without diarrhea issues. Conrad effectively moved beyond treating the problem to preventing it, and now he's eager to see if the transplants prevent diarrhea throughout the dogs' lifetimes.

Pets With GI Issues Deserve an All-Natural Cure With No Side Effects

I was personally involved in recommending a fecal transplant for a friend's puppy who had parvo and was very close to death. Read the story of Felix the Labrador puppy. The story had a very happy ending, which further confirmed for me the near-miraculous healing potential of microbiome restorative therapy.

Also, last year my hairdresser was lamenting that her 2-year-old dog, Bret, was plagued with chronic staph infections and was intensely itchy. She mentioned his symptoms came on after his puppy vaccines so we had a conversation about vaccinosis and I suggested she try fecal transplants for her miserable boy. She recently sent me before and after pictures that speak for themselves:

Bret Before Fecal Transplant
Bret Before Fecal Transplant
Bret After Fecal Transplant
Bret After Fecal Transplant

If you have a dog or cat with chronic GI issues, and especially if your pet has had antibiotic therapy, I encourage you to ask your veterinarian about fecal transplants. You might also try contacting an integrative or holistic veterinarian in your area.

FMT isn't a widely used treatment yet and there are no official studies for vets to refer to, but fortunately there are a few practitioners out there like Dr. Roman, Dr. Chaitman and Dr. Conrad, who are blazing a trail for other veterinarians interested in giving this natural, common sense, nearly free therapy the attention it deserves.