Fecal Transplants for Dogs

The term alone is a conversation-stopper. Fecal transplants? For dogs? Don’t laugh. Fecal transplants are making headlines as a wonder drug for pets and people.

Forty years ago, when Clostridium difficile colitis, or “C. diff,” a bacterial infection resulting from antibiotic therapy, became an epidemic in American hospitals, nothing cured its debilitating, non-stop diarrhea. For most patients, as soon as an effective treatment was discontinued, symptoms returned. Finally, doctors tried a technique that had been successfully used decades earlier but which wasn’t formally adopted because the thought of it made people uncomfortable. When fecal matter from healthy donors was transferred to the colons of sick patients, more than 90 percent recovered. Their symptoms resolved within hours and never returned.

Veterinarians who gave fecal transplants to puppies with chronic diarrhea, or to adult dogs with gastrointestinal problems, reported similar success rates.

Transferring microbial material from healthy to sick ruminants, such as cattle, is a long-established veterinary practice, but fecal microbial transplantation, or FMT, is so new to veterinary medicine that much remains unknown. As a result, the treatment is controversial and not widely available, though a growing number of veterinarians and caregivers are exploring this option. Understanding your dog’s microbiota and the history of fecal transplants will help you make informed decisions for your best friend regarding the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal illnesses.

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