Let’s face it. If you’re a pet owner, you deal with your fair share of poop. But that usually doesn’t stop people from scrunching up their face at the idea of actually using it to help heal their pets.
Healing powers of poop
Fecal transplant treatment has grown in popularity and acceptability in recent years because of its effectiveness with healing certain types of bowel disease. Starting in 2019, for example, the National Instutite of Health started clinical trials using fecal transplants to treat Clostridium difficile-associated disease (CDAD), a potentially life-threatening diarrheal illness.
“Clostridium difficile-associated disease, a significant problem in healthcare facilities, causes an estimated 15,000 deaths in the United States each year,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “This randomized, controlled trial aims to provide critical data on the efficacy and long-term safety of using fecal microbiota transplants by enema to cure C. diff infections.”
So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that fecal treatments have similar benefits for your beloved pets.
But, as Veterinarian Erika de Papp writes, “The hurdle in introducing this type of therapy is to convince clients that this is not entirely disgusting and distasteful, and to prevent transmission of infectious diseases.”
I have found fecal transplants as part of an effective holistic treatment plan that can include acupuncture, laser therapy, protherapy, and physical manipulation, among other strategies. While research is still emerging, the animals I treat and their improved wellbeing suggests we are on to something here.
When it comes to fecal transplants, new evidence suggests the treatment in the worst instances can save your pet’s life. FMTs also may be more effective than existing probiotics in restoring the community of bacteria in the GI tract (Chaitman et al. 2016).
Dogs have microbiomes, too. In fact, studies have found that people and dogs living in the same household share much of the same microbiome. Complex colonies of microorganisms live in the ears, mouth, respiratory tract, and skin, but most occupy the digestive tract.
Fecal transplants can help dogs with chronic digestive problems recover their health, by helping them build an improved microbiome. Some facts about fecal transplants:
- The treatment was documented in history as far back as 4th century China.
- FMT use in veterinary medicine dates back to the 17th century.
- Reported success rates range from 90-98%, with no adverse side effects.
- FMT has also been used to treat humans with IBD, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and IBS.
- Veterinarians who gave fecal transplants to puppies with chronic diarrhea, or to adult dogs with gastrointestinal problems, reported similar success rates.
A healthy microbiome not only improves a dog’s digestion, but also creates some nutrients, including thiamin (vitamin B1), cobalamin (vitamin B12), and short-chain fatty acids that help your dog absorb minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. Really, the microbiome affects nearly every aspect of your dog’s health and happiness.
Now my fellow pet owners, you know like I do, dogs and cats often have a certain taste for others’ waste. You might be wondering if it’s best to encourage the buffet.
While some vets have suggested allowing natural consumption could be helpful. But ingesting the fecal matter of potentially another sick animal has its own threats to health. Often times I have had to spend weeks or months in the treatment of an animal with severe internal disease in part from the practice of eating other livestock waste.
The safest way to proceed is to consult a holistic veterinarian and if recommended, proceed with a prescribed fecal treatment plan.
There’s a lot of “material” to digest when it comes to fecal transplants. They can work, but consult a trained vet to make the best decision for your pet.
About The Author
Author Dr Babette Gladstein is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr Gladstein’s treatment modality expertise includes acupuncture, ultrasound, chiropractic and massage therapy, prolotherapy, holistic and traditional therapies. She makes house calls in the New York metropolitan area.