Severe or chronic GI disease can be challenging to treat.
Dogs with severe chronic problems without a clear cause often don’t respond to treatment. The underlying factors can be genetic, environmental, immune, or involve the state of intestinal bacteria. In fact, the disruption in intestinal microbiota appears to be the key.
Probiotic therapy can prove helpful. However, there is a discrepancy between the number of bacteria strains in a healthy gut and a supplement.
Fecal transplantation therapy
In essence, fecal transplantation is what it sounds like, and it can be a life-saving procedure. Amazingly, even our local vet does it. They even have their own donor dog. A friend of mine has a dog who had severe GI problems. Fecal transplantation made a big difference for them and likely saved the dog’s life.
Penny was a 9-year-old Yorkshire Terrier. Penny was suffering from chronic diarrhea and was losing weight. Their veterinarian couldn’t find a distinctive cause of Penny’s problems. For three months, they tried every symptomatic treatment in the book. Nothing helped, not even steroids. Penny kept getting worse.
Her veterinarian referred Penny to a specialty hospital, hoping that abdominal ultrasound might provide some answers.
The ultrasound imaging pointed toward an immune problem, and the veterinarians added immunomodulatory medication to Penny’s treatment. However, even that didn’t help.
The next step for Penny was to see an internal specialist. The original plan was to have Penny undergo an endoscopic examination and biopsy to confirm IBD. However, given her state and breed predisposition to this condition, the specialist decided to proceed straight to treatment.
Further reading: Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs: Why I Dislike IBD
A couple of different treatments later, Penny was still getting worse. By this time, she had lost about half of her original weight. Finally, she was at the point where her parents needed to consider euthanasia.
As a last resort, the specialist recommended trying fecal transplant therapy.
Under sedation, Penny received a dose of a processed, fresh poop from a donor dog. Then, the veterinarian implanted the fecal solution in Penny’s colon via a catheter.
Penny’s bowel movements started to improve as soon as she left the hospital. Penny was getting better. One after another, they took her off all medications.
Penny’s stools improved, and she started putting weight back on.
A new framework for chronic GI disease in dogs and cats