What’s Fecal Transplantation?
Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT), also known as Microbiome Restorative Therapy, is a procedure where fecal material from a healthy microbiome donor is transferred to an individual suffering from a gastrointestinal disease to restore gut health and resolve the illness. It’s been practiced in human medicine for years and has been used to treat intestinal diseases, like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, as well as infections caused by intestinal parasites and bacteria.
What’s a Microbiome?
Microbiome is a term used to describe a community of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that are present in an environment or an organism. In the case of fecal microbiota transplantation, we’re talking about the normal gut flora, which is composed of harmless, beneficial bacteria that live inside the digestive tract. These good bacteria protect the body from bad bacteria, maintain proper digestive function, and help trigger immune responses in the presence of diseases and infections.
How Effective Is FMT in Treating Dogs with Parvo?
Since fecal transplantation was found to be very effective in treating various gastrointestinal diseases in humans, veterinarians and veterinary researchers alike were curious to know how if it would work on animals, too. It wasn’t long until researchers in a veterinary teaching hospital in Brazil decided to conduct a study to find out just how effective and safe the procedure would be if performed on sick animals.
In the study, the researchers used 66 puppies diagnosed with Parvo—all of which were under one year of age and suffering hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (severe bloody diarrhea). 33 puppies received standard supportive treatment, which included IV fluids, antibiotics, anti-nausea medications, and gastrointestinal protectives, while the other 33 underwent fecal transplantation in addition to supportive treatment.
According to the results of the study, puppies that received fecal transplantation (21.2%) had a lower death rate than the ones that only received supportive care (36.5). Within 48 hours, diarrhea also resolved in 61.6 percent of the puppies that received fecal transplantation but only 4.8 percent of the ones that received supportive care alone. Lastly, the puppies that received fecal transplantation stayed in the animal hospital for only 3 days, while the others stayed for 6 days.
How Does It Work?
Before fecal transplantation is performed, complete bloodwork and fecal examinations are done on the patient. They’re also going to be tested for Parvo to make sure that there’s a proper diagnosis. When finding a microbiome donor, potential candidates are meticulously screened and tested for any diseases, intestinal problems, parasites, and other factors that may hinder a successful result.
Once everything is set and ready to go, veterinarians will collect fecal material from the healthy microbiome donor and make sure it remains viable throughout the procedure by keeping it frozen. During the actual fecal transplantation, the feces will be diluted using saline and administered through the rectum of the sick pup using a syringe and a catheter. The patient will lie on their side the whole time, with their pelvis elevated to allow easier passage of the fluids.
How Does It Help Dogs with Parvo?
Fecal microbiota transplantation is especially helpful in dogs suffering from severe gastrointestinal symptoms brought about by Parvo. Why? Because both the Canine Parvovirus and the medications involved in supportive treatment play a huge role in depleting the normal gut flora. The combination of vomiting, diarrhea, and drugs is stripping them of the good bacteria that are supposed to protect the body from harmful pathogens and keep the immune system strong and healthy. Fecal microbiota transplantation can help restore the balance in the gut and increase the number of good bacteria in the body. As a result, the gut, which makes up 70% of the immune system, becomes healthier, making it easier for the dogs to recover from Parvo.