We recently spent a lovely Saturday in Walnut Creek, California at a fundraiser for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the “Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Walk.” AnimalBiome helped sponsor the event to build awareness for these debilitating diseases and to raise funds to find cures.
Before the walk started, several patients shared heartbreaking testimonials about their experiences with the diagnosis and treatment of their condition. The details of life with such a serious digestive condition are graphic, and we were struck by the bravery of each of them for sharing their experience. For such a serious topic, it was a really fun event full of teams of people supporting their loved ones. We were really impressed with these support networks of friends and families coming together to help.
Just like people, dogs and cats can experience crippling gastrointestinal disorders. At AnimalBiome we work daily with pet parents managing these conditions of their beloved pets. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that includes both Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. In veterinary medicine, pets are usually diagnosed with general IBD and do not receive one of these more specific diagnoses. IBD means chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, there's a long list of symptoms but the main ones are chronic diarrhea and/or constipation, vomiting and abdominal pain.
For humans daily life with a condition like this is challenging, just as it is for pets and their people. Many of our clients have tried all of the currently available treatment options to help their pet, including antibiotics, dietary changes and steroids. In some cases, these interventions have not helped if the condition is rooted in an imbalanced gut microbiome. While broad spectrum antibiotics can be lifesaving and some digestive conditions may be responsive to them, an unintended and widely known side effect is that they will also harm beneficial bacteria, potentially even worsening the condition. In addition, the loss of some of these beneficial bacteria may contribute to the development of chronic health conditions.
All animals, including people, have unique collections of microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses and other tiny living things) in their digestive tracts, collectively termed the gut microbiome. Bacteria in the microbiome are crucial for digestion and obtaining nutrients from the food your pet eats. Beyond digestion, gut bacteria influence many aspects of your pet’s overall health.
At AnimalBiome, we’ve developed an oral supplement for cats and dogs that contains an entire community of healthy microbes to attack this problem at its root. It is based on the principles of a procedure done both in humans and pets known as fecal transplant -- which is exactly what it sounds like. Stool is taken from healthy individuals and put into sick individuals to replace an entire gut microbial community.
This is traditionally performed via enema in a procedure inside a clinician’s office. In humans, fecal transplants are only available to patients if they have a non-responding C. difficile infection, though there are currently clinical trials underway for a variety of other conditions (including Crohn’s and colitis). In the veterinary world, only a limited amount of vets perform them so it can be difficult for pet caregivers to access. We developed our oral supplements so that pet parents would have access to fecal transplants regardless of where they live.
Having a pet with a chronic health condition is hard on so many levels for caregivers. We know from interacting with our clients that they often feel overwhelmed and isolated and given the circumstances, who wouldn’t. It can be challenging to find support networks to help navigate and discover potential treatment options. We heard this theme echoed in the testimonials at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Walk as well. In order to build community and increase access to information for struggling pet owners, we established a Facebook group (Fecal transplants for cats and dogs). It is a great place for people to ask questions, exchange stories and learn new information. We’ve seen firsthand the relief they experience when they can share stories with other caregivers facing the same things.
People at the Walk were intrigued to learn that our pets can struggle with the same digestive issues as people, and were really excited to hear about a promising new option for improving their quality of life. We were honored to participate and help support the mission of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
About the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation: The mission of the Foundation is to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. If you need information about these conditions in humans and/or want to get involved in helping find solutions, you can find your local chapter here.
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