Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) for Dogs
Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is a very beneficial procedure for treating gastrointestinal disease. FMT has not been extensively researched in the veterinary world and is not yet widely used in veterinary practice. Most of what is known about FMT comes from human medicine, where it has primarily been used to treat GI infections caused by the bacteria Clostridium difficile.
This article will help you gain a better understanding of FMT and how it can help treat dogs with GI disease.
What is FMT?
Fecal microbiota transplantation is the process by which feces from a healthy donor are transplanted into the GI tract of a recipient. To back up a bit, the gut microbiota is a community of beneficial microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi) in the intestines. It is responsible for proper digestion and protects against infection from harmful microorganisms.
As is true in people, the composition of the gut microbiota varies in each dog. However, if a dog develops a GI disease, this composition becomes imbalanced and the microbiota becomes overwhelmed by harmful microorganisms. This imbalance, called ‘dysbiosis,’ negatively affects digestion and contributes to the common signs of GI disease, such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
FMT is performed to restore a healthy gut microbiota. The exact mechanism by which FMT does this is not known. Research in human medicine has demonstrated that the transplanted healthy microbiota can be taken up and maintained within the FMT recipient’s GI tract. It’s reasonable to think that this can happen in dogs, too.
FMT Research in Dogs
FMT is still in its infancy in veterinary medicine. To date, there are only a handful of studies that have evaluated FMT in dogs. Fortunately, these studies have reported that FMT benefits dogs with GI disease. For example, a case report of a dog with diarrhea from a C. difficile infection reported the diarrhea resolved within 2 to 3 days after ingesting a capsule. Following the FMT, the bacteria was no longer detected in the feces, indicating the infection had been cleared from the body; moreover, the dog did not experience any negative side effects after the procedure.
Another study looked at the use of FMT to treat puppies with canine parvovirus, which causes severe and sometimes fatal GI disease in puppies. Half of the puppies underwent rectal FMT plus ‘standard treatment’ (intravenous fluids and antibiotics); the other half of the puppies received only the standard treatment. Compared with the puppies receiving only standard treatment, the puppies receiving FMT recovered faster from the disease and had higher survival rates.
The FMT Procedure
Understanding how FMT is performed may help reduce some of its ‘grossness’ factor. First, a healthy donor dog is selected. This donor dog should be properly vaccinated, have no current or previous GI disease or immune system disorders, have no recent history (3 months) of antibiotic treatment, and be able to produce enough feces for transplantation. Next, the donor’s feces are collected and processed into liquid or capsule form.
Before the procedure, the recipient dog or cat may receive a medication to slow intestinal motility to allow the transplanted feces more time to be absorbed into the recipient’s GI tract. The feces are commonly transplanted via a colorectal catheter but can also be administered orally with capsules. No sedation is needed for the FMT procedure.
Dogs receiving FMT often show improvement within hours to days of the procedure, with little or no negative side effects. The benefits of FMT may be temporary, though, meaning that the procedure may have to be repeated.
Research states it is possible to pass infectious disease/parasites with fecal material from a donor, but the strict screening process of donors greatly limits that possibility.
The cost of FMT is variable.
FMT has shown promise as a beneficial procedure for dogs and cats with certain types of GI disease. Although it is not yet commonly performed in veterinary practices, the hope is that FMT will gain traction within the veterinary community and among pet parents.
Symptoms and diseases that MBRT can help are:
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Neurological issues
- Skin conditions
- Various types of cancers
- Lyme disease and other infections
- Kidney and liver issues
- Chronic ear infections and Allergies
Dr. Jyl Rubin DVM (916) 989-0738