Poop: Is it the treatment of the future? Fecal transplants for dogs and cats may help to improve intestinal issues such as chronic diarrhea and vomiting
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
From the time Ana was young, she had intestinal problems. When she was only 5 months old, she suffered severe vomiting and diarrhea and wouldn't eat or drink. Instead she tried to eat non-food items such as toys, cords and paint on the wall.
"We thought she was going to die. When she should have been gaining about 6 pounds, she lost about 6 pounds," says Ana's owner, Tracy Weber of Seattle.
To help Ana thrive, Weber cooked special meals for the German shepherd puppy and tried different proteins and supplements. Nothing worked.
"When I called the vet and said, 'What do we try next?' she suggested a fecal transplant."
The gastrointestinal tract houses a complex collection of microorganisms known as the microbiome. They play a crucial role in health -- not just of the gut, but of the entire body, including regulating the immune system. Microbiome population is affected by factors such as diet, antibiotics and gastrointestinal disease, and healthy animals have a highly individual microbiota.
Weber didn't know much about fecal microbiota transplants (FMT), and she didn't like the idea of implanting another dog's poop into her dog's gastrointestinal tract. But the more she researched it, the more she thought it would be worth a shot.
Fecal transplants are a rare instance of a treatment used first in humans and then in dogs and cats. In humans, FMT has been successful in treating 90 to 98 percent of recurring Clostridium difficile infections, leading to normalization of the microbiome. Clinical signs resolve within one to two days. For inflammatory bowel disease, though, the success rate is much lower, only 25 to 30 percent.
Nicknamed "re-poopulation," FMT involves transplanting fecal material from a known healthy dog with good digestion, no parasites and no treatment with antibiotics for at least the previous three months. The process begins by blending the feces and separating out the solids. What remains is a soupy mixture of probiotic and fecal material that, for Ana, was administered as an enema into the colon. Another protocol involves inserting the material into the gut through a nasogastric tube, and one company offers an oral fecal transplant capsule.
Ana did not need to be sedated during the procedure. Afterward, she had to remain crated for six hours to give the microbes time to settle in to their new environment. Patients may be given loperamide (Imodium) to reduce the likelihood of a bowel movement.
It took several weeks before Weber saw improvement in Ana's appetite and chronic diarrhea, but the pica -- the tendency to eat non-food items -- disappeared the same day as the fecal transplant. The transplant was repeated when the pica reappeared.
The number of fecal transplants required varies in both dogs and humans, probably depending on how difficult it is for gut microbes to stay alive in a specific digestive tract. In his lecture on the intestinal microbiome at the 2018 Veterinary Meeting and Expo, Texas A&M University veterinary microbiologist Jan S. Suchodolski says that in some patients, fecal transplants are repeated up to three times every three to four weeks. The procedure decreased the imbalance of microorganisms (known as dysbiosis) in most dogs, although a subset had no improvement.
"I have colleagues who say 70 percent of patients get better, and I have colleagues who say zero percent get better," Dr. Suchodolski said.
Of Ana, Weber says, "In general, (the transplants) have helped, but we may do a third with a different donor dog."
Do fecal transplants have potential for other health benefits? At Ontario Veterinary College in Canada, Shauna Blois, DVM, is investigating the benefit of fecal transplants for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease. And last year, researchers at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine discovered a relationship between the brain, the gastrointestinal tract, and immune system diseases. The finding could have implications for treatment of certain immune and neurologic diseases, as well as diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
Anal sacs can be
Q: After my cat got off my lap recently, I noticed a couple of wet spots on my pants. When I gave them a sniff, the smell just about knocked me over. What was that?
A: You have just been introduced to the secretions of the feline anal glands. These pea-size glands, also called anal sacs, produce a malodorous substance that enables cats to identify and communicate with each other as well as mark territory. When the cat defecates, the contents of the anal sacs are squeezed out, coating the cat's stool and allowing him to leave a stinky warning -- "Tom's Club: No other cats allowed" -- to other cats who pass by.
Usually, anal gland secretions aren't an issue in cats, but sometimes anal glands become overactive, resulting in a noticeable odor. Anal glands that malfunction and don't empty normally can become inflamed, infected or impacted.
Inflamed or infected anal glands may become swollen and tender, inhibiting normal passage of the secretions. If you notice your cat frequently scooting on the ground or biting at his rear, this may be the problem. Left untreated, the anal glands can abscess or rupture, which isn't pleasant for your cat or for you when you have to medicate the area. Luckily, this condition is rare in cats; they are more likely to develop impacted anal glands.
Impaction occurs when stools don't exert enough pressure on the glands as the cat defecates. This may occur in cats with chronic soft stools because the anal musculature has nothing to push the sac against to release the fluid.
Your veterinarian can relieve the situation by emptying the glands manually. If your cat has soft stools related to food allergies, a change in diet may help. Adding plain canned pumpkin to the cat's food can boost his fiber intake and improve stool consistency as well. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Teeth tell the tale
of puppy age
-- How old is that puppy? Young animals aren't always accompanied by a birth certificate, so determining their age can be tricky. But veterinarians have a method that gives them a pretty accurate answer: They look at the teeth. Seeing which teeth have come in helps in estimating a young pup's age. Puppy teeth start to erupt at 3 to 4 weeks, starting with the canines and followed by the first two sets of incisors at 4 to 5 weeks, the first two sets of premolars at 4 to 6 weeks, the third set of incisors at 5 to 6 weeks, and the last set of premolars at 6 to 8 weeks. The temporary teeth start to fall out when pups are 14 weeks to 7 months old. By 8 months, most puppies have a full set of adult teeth.
-- If you thought that the plague was a medieval disease, think again. It still exists and can affect humans, dogs, cats and other mammals. The bacterial disease occurs primarily in wildlife, but humans and pets can be exposed if bitten by an infected flea or through direct contact with infected animals. The first diagnosed case this year was seen in a dog in New Mexico. Plague cases also occured in Arizona, Colorado and Utah. Signs include fever, headache, chills, weakness, and swollen, painful lymph nodes.
-- K is for Korat. The gray cat with green eyes symbolizes luck and prosperity in his homeland of Thailand, where he is known as si-sawat. Although they are related to the Siamese, the cats are not as vocal as their pointed cousins, but they have no problem communicating their desires when it comes to food or attention. Expect to provide plenty of interaction if you invite one of these active, playful cats into your life. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.