Restore the Microbiome

If your pet suffers from digestive or skin problems, the search for a solution can be frustrating. You’ve probably researched online, switched foods, tried prescribed medications, and bought various supplements. But while many cats’ and dogs’ symptoms do improve in response to dietary changes or medication, other pets experience only minor improvement (at best), or their symptoms come back after a few weeks or months.

A key factor that may affect how a pet responds to treatment is the status of their gut microbiome—the community of microorganisms living inside the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. There is substantial scientific evidence that many health conditions—including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic diarrhea, allergies, atopic dermatitis, ulcerative colitis, and antibiotic-resistant Clostridium and Clostridioides infections (including C. diff infections)—have an element in common: an imbalanced gut microbiome.

What is a gut microbiome imbalance?

In many cases, cats and dogs with digestive problems, skin issues, or other symptoms are missing certain gut bacteria that are important for healthy digestive and immune functions. In other cases, one or more pathogens (“bad” bacteria) cause an imbalance when they grow too numerous and crowd out the “good” bacteria.

Research suggests that a diverse, well-balanced gut microbiome supports overall health and longevity by providing resilience to perturbations, such as environmental challenges, dietary indiscretions, . But many factors, including diet, environment, parasites, pathogens, and medications (like antibiotics) that, can disrupt your pet’s gut health. Luckily, it is possible to restore the microbiome to a healthier state.

What can I do to rebalance my pet’s gut microbiome?

Therapies to balance and strengthen your cat’s or dog’s gut microbiome include diet, prebiotics, probiotics, and fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).

This chart explains common microbiome conditions, potential causes, and ways to shift the microbiome:

Microbiome Condition Possible Causes Responses

Some important bacterial groups are missing.

Age, genetics, diet, antibiotics

Add new bacteria to your pet’s microbiome via dietary changes or fecal transplant (FMT).

Populations of certain “bad actors” (pathogens) have become too large.

Diet (e.g., too much carbohydrate), illness

Reduce or remove overgrown pathogen populations with bacteriophages or by “competitive exclusion” via FMT.

All the right players are there, but not in the right numbers.

Age, diet (e.g., too many carbohydrates or not enough fiber)

Rebalance your pet’s gut bacterial populations with dietary changes and prebiotics.

Simple changes to your pet’s diet may be enough to restore balance. Adding more protein to the diet, for example, supports the growth of the important Fusobacteria group, which do best in a high-protein environment. Supplementing your pet’s food with Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic, promotes digestive health. And adding prebiotics—certain dietary fibers, like inulin—encourages the kinds of beneficial gut bacteria that counteract inflammation.

If your pet’s microbiome imbalance is moderate to severe, dietary changes and prebiotics may not be enough. In these cases, a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) may help. A growing body of research has found that fecal transplants can help improve several different gastrointestinal disorders (as well as many other conditions) by changing the gut microbiome.

What is fecal microbiota transplant (FMT)?

Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT), also called fecal transplant, is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor to the GI tract of a sick recipient. The stool from the donor contains a diverse, well-functioning community of bacteria that take up residence in the recipient’s gut. FMT is the best known approach for restoring a balanced gut microbiome and has proven to be an effective treatment in both humans and animals.

FMT has been used for hundreds of years in veterinary medicine and for over a thousand years in human medicine. Though modern regulatory entities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are still figuring out how to classify it, FMT continues to demonstrate beneficial results for a growing list of human health conditions. For example, FMT is routinely used to treat Clostridium difficile infections. And it has proven to be the most promising solution for the low gut bacterial diversity associated with Crohn’s disease (a form of IBD). FMT has also been used successfully in clinical trials to reduce inflammatory events in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and to treat the symptoms of autism. 

What are Gut Restore/FMT capsules (poop pills)?

An FMT can be delivered via colonoscopy or enema, but for cats and dogs, those procedures generally require sedation. Our Gut Restore Supplement is a daily oral capsule that gives your pet the benefits of FMT without the need for surgery or sedation. Containing a proprietary mixture of carefully screened, freeze-dried donor stool, the Gut Restore capsules (aka “poop pills”) offer a noninvasive, affordable, at-home alternative for pets suffering from digestive, skin, or immune system issues.

How can Gut Restore Supplements improve my pet’s health?

When pets with digestive symptoms, skin issues, or immune system problems turn out to be missing certain important gut bacteria, we need to add those missing members to the microbiome and help the new populations grow and thrive.

AnimalBiome’s Gut Restore Supplements provide a whole community of healthy cat- or dog-specific microbes. The capsule’s food-grade enteric coating prevents it from dissolving until it reaches the intestines, where the contents “seed” your pet’s gut with a diverse array of healthy bacteria, filling in any missing groups.

If your pet’s Gut Health Test report shows an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, restoring balance will require removing or reducing those troublemaking groups.

One way to remove bad actors from the mix is through “competitive exclusion.” When the “good” microbes in the gut compete successfully and multiply, they take resources away from the “bad” microbes, which are kept in check and may gradually die out. Through this process, beneficial members of the microbiome actually outcompete certain pathogens. In human medicine, for example, that’s how FMT works against C. difficile infections.

Sometimes competitive exclusion on its own can’t win control back from the pathogens that are contributing to your pet’s symptoms. In these cases, the introduction of an array of healthy gut microbes will be much more likely to have a positive result if we first knock out particular harmful bacteria with targeted therapies such as bacteriophages or certain antibiotics.

Bacteriophages are friendly viruses that attack specific types of bacteria. Some bacteriophages, for example, specifically target E. coli. One of the ingredients in our Gut Maintenance Plus product is a prebiotic bacteriophage cocktail called PreforPro, which helps take bad actors out of the mix so that the beneficial bacteria in your pet’s microbiome have room to grow.

Once we remove the bad actors, the healthy bacteria have more room to grow. By seeding your pet’s microbiome with all the right bacteria in the right proportions, our Gut Restore Supplement capsules can help reestablish balance and resolve symptoms. Positive results—such as firmer stool, better appetite, and less itching—are often seen within a few weeks.

What symptoms or conditions can Gut Restore/FMT capsules help with?

Microbiome imbalances are associated with a wide variety of health problems, but our Gut Restore Supplements have proven to be especially helpful for the two categories that account for the majority of visits to veterinarians: digestive issues and skin issues.

  • Digestive Issues
  • Skin Issues

Digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and weight loss can have a variety of causes. If you and your veterinarian have already worked together to rule out other explanations (such as dietary indiscretions, parasites, and underlying disease), the next thing to check for is whether your pet has an imbalanced gut microbiome.

For example, the genus Escherichia (a group of bacteria that includes E. coli) is a beneficial member of the community when it makes up less than 5% of a cat’s or dog’s gut microbiome. But an overgrowth of Escherichia can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.

Gut Restore Supplements can resolve diarrhea quickly by introducing a whole community of beneficial bacteria that can crowd out the harmful ones, restoring healthy function to the digestive system.

Read more about common causes of diarrhea and at-home remedies:

Research has found strong evidence that long-lasting or recurring skin issues—such as red or itchy skin, hair loss, chin acne, and recurrent ear infections—have a connection to the gut microbiome. That’s because skin conditions are often caused by a defective immune system response, and about 70%–80% of the body’s immune cells live in the GI tract.

In addition to interfering with proper immune function, an imbalanced gut microbiome can cause the intestinal walls to become more permeable, or “leaky” (a factor that’s associated with food allergies). Both of these effects—a compromised immune system and a “leaky gut”—can show up as skin problems. A dysfunctional gut environment is also prone to inflammation, which can trigger hyperactive immune responses all over the body.

Itching and other skin problems may be a clue that your pet’s gut microbiome is missing some key bacteria groups. Kittens and puppies who start out without a nursing mother, for example, often miss out on important microbes that a mother’s milk would normally provide. In other cases, there’s a genetic reason for an animal to be missing certain microbiome members.

FMT, whether administered rectally via enema, via colonoscopy, or in an oral supplement like our Gut Restore capsules, introduces a complete and balanced community of microbes into the recipient’s gut, supplying all the different microbiome members needed to support proper immune function. For pets with skin issues, Gut Restore capsules can help resolve symptoms by replacing pro-inflammatory bacteria with anti-inflammatory bacteria that calm the immune system.

How effective are Gut Restore Supplements at reducing symptoms?

In a pilot study, AnimalBiome gave 72 cats and 40 dogs with diagnosed or suspected inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) a single (25-day) course of 50 capsules of our Gut Restore Supplements. Symptoms improved in 83% of the cats and 80% of the dogs. In addition, about half of the dogs and a quarter of the cats also had an increase in appetite. This study demonstrates that even though FMT can’t always cure IBD, it can be an effective tool to improve symptoms and increase quality of life for pets.

Read more about this study in our 2019 publication The Promise of Fecal Transplants: A Microbiome Solution for Veterinary Practitioners.

After the pilot study, we looked more closely at the cats and dogs who hadn’t improved or whose IBD symptoms returned within two or three months. When we examined the “before” and “after” microbiome testing for these animals, we found bacterial scenarios that called for a more directed approach.

In many of these cases, the culprit was an overgrown population of E. coli, a normal member of the microbiome that becomes a troublemaker when present in large numbers. For this scenario, we recommend the prebiotic bacteriophage cocktail PreforPro, an ingredient in our Gut Maintenance Plus product, which we designed specifically to reduce the amount of E. coli in your pet’s digestive tract.

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