When medicine is crap: Fecal transplants in veterinary medicine - Dr. Marty Becker

When medicine is crap: Fecal transplants in veterinary medicine

Tuesday, Jul 8th, 2014 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Summer bulldogI know many of my canine patients would as soon chow down on the contents of a diaper pail as their own nutritious food. I also remember as a child telling my mother, “This medicine tastes like crap!”

That’s close to literally true now, as a growing number of MDs and veterinarians are using fecal transplants, using the stool of one healthy patient to help the gut of a sickly patient recover and thrive.

In humans, a serious bacterial infection of the gut caused by Clostridium difficle is most frequently the reason for this therapy. The germ affects half a million Americans each year, and kills about 15,000 of them. A fecal transplant a low-cost treatment for the life-threatening infection that could cure up to 90 percent of them, with minimal side effects, often within days.

According to a list maintained by the Fecal Transplant Foundation, only about 100 physicians offer fecal transplants in the U.S., and the treatment costs around $1,500.00 (typically not covered by insurance). What about in veterinary medicine?

I met veterinarian Margo Roman at the world’s largest veterinary conference in Orlando this part January, and learned she has done over 420 fecal transplants at Main St. Animal Services of Hopkinton in Massachusetts. She’s created a website about the therapy, with a very funny, slightly naughty, name.

Dr. Roman has lectured about the procedure in Thailand and Japan, and has two papers coming up on micro-biome restorative therapy, which she hopes will become the natural way to reboot the gut. If this procedure can keep the GI tract, a vital organ that contains up to 85 percent of the immune system, working perfectly, then it has the potential to help sick animals become well and apparently healthy animals to achieve optimal health.

Just think: When you see your dog eating another’s scat, they may be self-medicating!

Right now, my go-to treatment for rebuilding gut health is probiotics like Fortiflora, which my dogs scarf down like it was, well.. cat poop! But would you ever consider fecal transplant therapy for a pet? How about for yourself?