The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Gut bacteria transplants could ease chronic illness

Studies examine prospects of healthy gut bacteria donations to manage inflammatory gut conditions in dogs.

Researchers are investigating the potential of managing chronic gut conditions by transplanting beneficial gut bacteria in faeces from healthy dogs into affected dogs.

Experts in veterinary internal medicine are studying the technique as a treatment that could be tailored to alleviate long-term illness, and reduce reliance on conventional treatment with antibiotics and immune suppressants.

The potential treatment may help dogs affected by chronic inflammatory enteropathy, which is similar to inflammatory bowel disease in humans.

Scientists are also researching the impact of different types of fibre in canine diets, which could be used to generate beneficial bacteria in the guts of healthy dogs, for donation to sick dogs.

Studying inflammation

In the first of these studies, stools recovered from healthy dogs were used to prepare an enema that was administered to dogs affected by chronic inflammatory enteropathy.

The treated dogs were monitored for changes to the composition of microbiological organisms in their gut, by analysis of their faeces. Influencing the types of organisms in the gut could affect inflammation and offer a route to managing illness.

Early results suggest treatment gives temporary improvement, and vets are analysing their results in detail.

Studying the effect of fibre

In separate research, vets studied the potential for altering the gut bacteria of healthy dogs by managing the types of fibre in their diet.

Their findings could establish whether the composition of bacteria in the guts of donor dogs could be managed to create bespoke transplants for dogs with gastrointestinal conditions.

Dogs were fed one of three different types of fibre twice daily for 3 weeks, and their stool analysed once a week to monitor the impact of their diet on the composition and diversity of microorganisms and other substances in the gut.

Scientists are currently analysing the outcomes of their study.

Fibre in the diet has long been associated with benefits for the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions, and previous studies suggest fibre can improve friendly gut flora and create anti-inflammatory conditions, but the biological mechanisms underpinning these are not well understood.

Experts hope the results of their research, supported by the Fiona and Ian Russell Seed Corn Fund, will enable a step toward the development of faecal transplants as a standard treatment for gastrointestinal conditions.

Transplantation of faecal microbiota holds much promise to address chronic gut conditions, both as a novel treatment to ease the condition in affected dogs and also as an alternative to the long-term use of antibiotics and probiotics.

Silke SalavatiSenior Lecturer in Small Animal Internal Medicine and member of the international Companion Animal Faecal Bank Consortium


About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies 

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos. 

The School comprises: 

The Roslin Institute 

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security 

The Roslin Innovation Centre 

The Hospital for Small Animals 

Equine Veterinary Services 

Farm Animal Services 

Easter Bush Pathology 

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education 

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.