If you have a dog with chronic disease … Microbiome Restorative Therapy (MBRT) can provide a powerful solution.
MBRT means transplanting gut microorganisms from a healthy animal to a sick one. The purpose is to restore optimal gastrointestinal (GI) health.
Let’s back up a bit. There’s a ton of talk nowadays about the connection between microbes and health. You can find research on almost any ailment from a microbial angle. Animal studies are under way as well.
What’s The Microbiome?
The microbiome – or microbiota – contains all the microbes that share our body space. It includes bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, protozoa, and fungi.
They live on any body surfaces connected to the outside world, including …
- Gastrointestinal tract
In humans, there are even beneficial microbes in the brain.
These microbes are generally non-pathogenic. They exist in harmony … and symbiotically with their host. So the microbes and the body support one another.
There are trillions of microbes in the human body. That’s 10 times more microbial cells than human cells … and more stars than the Milky Way.
If we lined up the microbes end-to-end, they would circle the earth 2.5 times. We have 150 times more microbes than genes! And the numbers are very similar to our animal friends.
And there are more than 10,000 different species of microbes living in and around the human body. Our dogs (who love eating and rolling in all sorts of nasty things), may have even greater diversity.
Each individual has her own unique microbiome … it’s as personal as a fingerprint.
What Do We Really Know?
To me, these statistics are awe-inspiring. They make me question everything I learned in vet school … and life!
Are we just a giant heap of microbes?
Even the inside of our cells harbors a certain kind of microbe known as mitochondria. Mitochondria are descendants of primordial bacteria.
So … are we microbes held together by cell membranes and connective tissue? And, if we’re more microbes than cells, who’s in charge? Where do our thoughts, drives, desires, and behaviors come from?
Recent discoveries about the microbiome put a whole new spin on healing. They’re causing a revolution in thinking and treating.
It’s humbling to think how little we know.
What causes disease? Should we treat the cells and focus on their dysfunction? Or should we aim to enhance the health and diversity of our microbes?
To me, the future of medicine is in treating the microbiome.
For one thing, it’s much more accessible and manipulable than the genome. But it’s also because of its influence on the cells and the chemicals they produce to help them function.
[RELATED: What Are The Best Probiotics ]
The Key To Health
If the biome holds the key to health, we must examine everything that can disturb and damage it.
Many drugs and chemicals kill the army of supporters in and around the body. These include antibiotics, disinfectants, dewormers, and so-called preventatives (pesticides).
How do these substances affect the biome … and thus the cells? And what about the food we feed our dogs?
Are we feeding the microbiota so that the microbes can feed the cells? Or are we altering the composition of the biome … causing malfunction with harmful diets?
There are still more questions than answers. But if we consider what nature intended … including dogs eating feces … perhaps we can stop the massive destruction we’ve achieved in just a few decades.
Why Gut Health Matters
About 95% of microbes live in the gut.
And we can trace about 90% of ailments to the gut and an unhealthy gut biome.
The results I see from treating my animal patients’ gut biome are incredible. It makes me realize that fecal transplants are one of the most potent therapies we have.
It’s the way to go – until we dive even further into the unknown!
A huge number of diseases stem from a dysfunctional gastrointestinal tract. Here are a few of them:
- Chronic ear infections
- Autoimmune diseases
- Most inflammatory conditions
- Metabolic issues
- Behavioral abnormalities
Your dog’s initial exposure to microbes came from her journey through the birth canal. Dogs also replenish their digestive flora by eating feces.
As disgusting as this sounds, “eating shit” promotes a healthy life.
Daisy, a very proper poodle lady, used to be very picky about the poop she’d choose. On our walks, she paid no attention to some horse manure piles, while others were a delicacy.
Foals often eat their mother’s feces as they transition to eating more solid food. Horses with GI issues may also dine on their pasture-mate’s poop, to try to heal their gut.
In the wild, dogs and cats first feast on the intestines of their prey. This provides large amounts of microorganisms. Dogs also enjoy a buffet of rotting carcasses to increase their intake of microbes.
Health And The Microbiome
The microbiome plays a major role in health – physical as well as mental. Some of its functions are:
- Intestinal maturation
- Inhibiting pathogen growth
- Digesting food
- Protecting the mucosal barrier (preventing leaky gut)
- Regulating hormones
- Excreting toxins
- Producing vitamins and other healing compounds
- Training the immune system and modulating immune response
- Production of secretory IgA (immunoglobulins)
- Neural development
- Synthesis of neurotransmitters (the GI tract makes 90% of serotonin)
Around 80% of the body’s immune system lives in the GI tract. So it’s easy to see that GI health is paramount to support the entire body.
Much research is underway in the animal field. There’s a new journal, Animal Biome, that publishes emerging research.
In humans, the microbiome plays a role in autoimmune diseases … diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple schlerosis, fibromyalgia, allergies and some cancers. An imbalance in the microbiome may even cause obesity.
Gut microbes play an important role in producing neurotransmitters … so a disturbance in the gut flora affects the brain.
This may drive psychological disorders like depression, dementia, aggression or anxiety.
MBRT – No Sh*t!
Fecal transplants are nothing new. They’ve been around since the 4th century. German physicians wrote a stool recipe book about treating GI illnesses.
Compared to the veterinary world, fecal transplantation in humans is in its infancy … it’s currently only FDA-approved for Clostridium difficile infections.
Your four-legged companion may have already prepared you for this disgusting idea. Dogs have some less-than-proper behavior involving unappetizing things!
More and more veterinarians are using MBRT in their practices. There are different ways to perform fecal transplants … including both rectal and oral donations.
The transplantation process is very simple (as you’ll see in the video below). But, for the best results, you need to do some preparation.
When you implant a healthy biome into a hostile environment, it’s harder for it to survive. So it’s best to decrease inflammation in the gut beforehand.
In my practice, we do this by:
- Testing for food sensitivities
- Eliminating pro-inflammatory foods … processed foods with poor quality ingredients and high levels of carbohydrates
- Adding probiotics, enzymes plus a digestive and immune support product (I use LumaPetTM). These supplements strengthen the tight junctions in the gut lining … promoting better communication between microorganisms.
Finding a healthy fecal donor can be tricky. There are several important criteria for donors:
- Excellent health.
- As free from chemical exposure as possible.
- Preferably not de-sexed.
- Raised on a raw diet (donor and her ancestors).
- Live long lives with much exposure to nature (again, donor and ancestors).
- A happy disposition.
- No antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or other microbiome-damaging chemicals … any time in their lives.
- Must pass a battery of tests … to verify health and avoid transmission of unwanted pathogens.
[RELATED: Dog Probiotics: The Next Generation ]
Who Can Benefit?
In my practice, almost every animal gets a fecal transplant even if they don’t have any obvious signs of disease.
At some point in their lives, most animals I see have had antibiotics or other compromising drugs.
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
We’re still discovering the far-reaching effects of our friendly cohabitants …. so there’s infinite potential for improvement in many other conditions as well.
This video shows one of my patients getting a fecal transplant.
Two Case Histories
Here are a couple of case histories that show how fecal transplant can resolve stubborn cases.
#1 Bear’s IBD
Bear is a German Shepherd with longstanding inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). He was a police dog … but his health issues and high anxiety prevented him from doing his job.
I met him after he’d gone through a battery of tests and treatments. He’d had food sensitivity testing and switched to a raw diet.
Despite all these efforts his gut health was still suffering. But with poop to the rescue, he had normal feces a few days after a fecal transplant.
His family sent me this joy-filled email a couple of days after the procedure: “Bear’s poop is formed and soft. Color is improving. All he wants to do is play! His energy level is off the charts!”
As you can see from the images below, Bear’s fecal quality continued to improve to become normal.
#2 Hudson’s Skin Disease
Hudson is a middle-aged Labrador Retriever. He’d suffered from skin allergies and recurrent ear infections his entire life.
When I met him he was already on a raw diet. His owners had tried many different therapies.
At that time his skin was out of control (as you can see in the image below). Hudson’s quality of life was seriously compromised.
He did get some medication at first, to keep him comfortable. Then we tested for food sensitivities and eliminated the foods he was sensitive to.
We prepared his gut with the usual protocol … then he received a fecal transplant.
Since the transplant, he’s completely changed in appearance. He’s regained his joy for life and mischief! A repeat transplant quickly resolved a brief flare-up this spring
Note: Images and video are with permission of Odette Suter DVM