Poop Therapy

dog coneWe live in a world obsessed with clean. Our floors are scrubbed with antibacterial cleaners, we squirt hand sanitizer gel on our children’s hands and wipe down our kitchen counters with antibacterial wipes. Knowing this, you shouldn’t be surprised there was a big buzz when a poop transplant between a mother and her toddler son was used as treatment for a serious intestinal infection, Clostridium difficile.

Scientifically known as a fecal microbiota transplant, this unappealing therapy was a lifesaver for the sick child.

This veterinarian is not surprised

As a veterinarian, the concept of transplanting bacteria from a healthy patient to a sick patient is really nothing new. A “cud” transplant has long been used to transfer good bacteria to sick ruminant animals (sheep, goats and cows). Ruminants have a biochemically complex digestive process required to break down the dense plant material that forms their diet. The cud is a wad of partially digested food which returns to the mouth and is chewed a second time as part of this complex process. Veterinarians collect a cud from a healthy ruminant and feed it to sick one, transferring the healthy digestive tract bacteria much like the fecal microbiota transplant did in the sick toddler.

Fecal microbiota transplantation

Every living animal has its own microbiome on the skin and in the gastrointestinal tract. These endogenous bacteria help keep us healthy. Illness and antibiotic therapy disturb the normal bacterial and allow bad bacteria like C. difficile to proliferate and cause illness. Transplantation of bacteria takes several forms. The toddler received a fresh fecal transplant, but feces from a donor can be frozen for future use. There are even synthetic cultures of bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract. Transplantation of the good bacteria occurs via a nasogastric tube or by colonscopy.

A very recent study shows improvement in 79% of patients treated in this dramatic fashion.

Dogs and cats are lucky

Today, ruminants are the only veterinary patients receiving fecal microbiota transplant therapy; although pets sick enough to spend time in an ICU may contract C. difficile. Fortunately, this infection doesn’t happen as often as it does in human ICU patients.

Therapy dogs visiting human health care facilities have a greater risk of being colonized by C. difficile.

If your pet develops diarrhea following hospitalization or while taking antibiotics, be sure to tell your veterinarian as further testing may be required.

If your dog is a therapy dog, follow the healthcare guidelines and the visitation rules of your animal assisted therapy organization to protect your dog against this type of serious infection.

4 Responses to Poop Therapy

  1. […] these pathogens. Several intestinal pathogens were found in the rats, in addition to E. coli, Clostridium and  […]

  2. The only ones I know doing poop therapy in dogs is dogs themselves! You don’t know how may dogs find other dog’s stool, their cat’s litter box or the droppings of wildlife a tasty treat.

    Seriously, some research would need to be done to make sure poop therapy is safe and would not make your dog worse rather than better, but based on the information in humans, I think this research would be worthwhile.

  3. Natalie Clausson says:

    I was wondering if anyone has tried fecal transplantation in dogs? My dog got antibiotics a few times now and afterward not been able to really have anything but a strick diet. Would such a transplant be to difficult to do, due to the different breeds, having different types of diets? I know many dogs that have very sensitive digestion tracts. It strikes me as strange that breeds like Huskies have so many stomach problems given there diet must have been varied and scares when the were just sleed dogs (yes, I do know they metabilize more of there food then other breeds). I personally have a Standard Poodle who just can’t seem to go long with out some stomach problem. Dogs live longer because of the antibiotics but shouldnt we do something about the quality of life too? Thank you for your time, Natalie

  4. […] my last post, I wrote about a serious intestinal infection, Clostridium difficile and how a radical treatment […]

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