Cats diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and their owners have a difficult road ahead. The treatment feels like throwing darts in the dark and hoping you hit the target. My cat Lucy was having a major flare and nothing was working. I was at the end of my rope when I tried a newer science, fecal transplant. Yup, it’s all in the poop. So if you don’t wanna talk poop, this probably isn’t for you.
In this article, I’ll give you a little insight into gut restoration through fecal transplant capsules from AnimalBiome to see if it might be a fit for your cat (or dog). It’s a newer science, but it’s showing a lot of promise so far – in pets and humans! As always, before starting any treatment, supplement, or new food, please talk to your vet.
What Is IBD?
My super simple explanation of inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. As inflammatory cells multiply, it makes it harder for cats to absorb nutrients. Symptoms can include weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Although a biopsy is the only way to truly diagnose IBD, if an ultrasound shows thickening of the stomach and/or intestines, IBD is likely. A blood test that shows lower levels of B12 and folate can further support this diagnosis (but only a biopsy can confirm it).
The actual main cause of IBD is unknown, and most cases are idiopathic (aka no clue). Cats with extreme anxiety tend to have digestive issues (just like anxious people), so it isn’t surprising that anxious cats like my Lucy have IBD.
In my experience, vets recommend a diet change first, adding a probiotic, B12 injections, and a course of steroids to control the inflammation. Here are some common treatments.
- Diet Change – Start by changing the main protein (often chicken) in food and give it at least six weeks. If this doesn’t work, continue to change proteins until something works. Sometimes novel (fancy word for new) proteins like rabbit, bison, kangaroo, or even alligator can be tried. High fiber diets are also an option.
- Steroids – Controls inflammation, which in turn helps with nutrient absorption.
- Probiotics – Popular veterinary options include FortiFlora and Proviable. (AnimalBiome recommended the prebiotic, probiotic combo of Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii) and MannanOligoSaccharides (MOS), and I love it.)
- Antibiotics – Many vets treat diarrhea with metronidazole.
- Fiber – Can help firm stools. Although pumpkin can help with mild cases, my vets recommend fiber powder for more serious diarrhea that isn’t going away.
- Laxatives – Great for constipated cats.
- Acupuncture – Very holistic approach to help with inflammation and other chronic issues.
- Dewormers – Ensures parasites aren’t contributing to the issue.
A New Option?
My cat Lucy was on a special diet, B12 injections, probiotic, and acupuncture to fight her hard stools and inflammation. Her stools would only mildly improve, but then this diarrhea episode came out of nowhere in 2020. Nothing seemed to resolve it; steroids, antibiotics, fiber – nothing was working. It was going on for weeks, with no resolution.
As I shared my troubles on IG, one of my followers recommended AnimalBiome, a pet fecal transplant company. After researching, I shared the information with her vet, as well as my brother who is a scientist. Both said that while fecal transplant was a newer science, there wouldn’t be any harm in trying it.
Fecal Transplantation aka Bacteriotherapy
Next, let’s explain fecal transplantation. Microbiome is the bacteria in the large intestine that help digest food and absorb nutrients. Decreased bacteria diversity or an imbalance can lead to digestive issues. While probiotics do help, the benefit is only minimal, especially because science hasn’t discovered all of the strains beneficial to digestion in cats.
Fecal transplant is the process of transplanting the correct bacteria into the large intestines via a donor. In humans, this process has shown some promise in helping with obesity, GI disorders and even metabolic diseases. And yes, this means taking a healthy stool from a donor and putting it into the large intestine of the patient.
AnimalBiome focuses on restoring the microbiome of dogs and cats by using healthy dog and cat donors to create Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) capsules (poop pills). The oral capsules carry freeze dried stool with all its healthy bacteria to the large intestines repeatedly. This helps seed the microbiome in the large intestine to reach a healthier, more balanced state.
Before we get into the details, I want to review how AnimalBiome determines if your cat needs the capsules, because it’s super cool.
Stool Analysis Kit
- Easy to follow instructions
- Funny meme card
- Sterile gloves
- Collection swabs
- Two collection tubes
- Plastic bag
- Padded envelope for mail back
- Promotional cat sticker (my fav!)
The instructions and tubes were labeled with a special code. I logged into the Pet Portal to register Lucy and the samples, then followed the directions to collect her poop and mail it back. The lab would do DNA sequencing on her poop and then review it with me.
Within a few weeks (somewhere in 2-4) I received a detailed report through the very easy to use Pet Portal dashboard. It showed me bacteria levels and diversity of average cats, and where Lucy fit. It also explained the purpose of main bacteria.
AnimalBiome also encouraged me to schedule a call to review the results. The consultant, Heaather, outlined the concerning parts of Lucy’s results, including lack of diversity and even a bacteria they had never seen before … only Lucy.
- The prebiotic and probiotic combo of Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii) and MannanOligoSaccharides (MOS)
- 60 days of the FMT capsules
- Analyze stool again after 60 days
(Note on this: They told me S. boulardii was the only strain that didn’t interfere with the gut restoration capsules. Although I bought it on Amazon, AnimalBiome now sells their own prebiotic/probiotic on their website.)
What are these FMT capsules exactly? Here’s a rundown.
The FMT Capsules
Indoor cat donors for the FMT capsules are located and screened for everything you can think of, including:
- No antibiotics in past 6 months
- No current or past health issues
- Healthy weight
- Good fecal consistency
- Good behavior and temperament
- Diverse microbiome composition, based on DNA testing
These kitty donors’ poop is collected daily by AnimalBiome, and it’s screened for pathogens:
- Campylobacter coli
- Campylobacter jejuni
- Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) gene
- Cryptosporidium spp.
- Feline coronavirus (FeCoV)
- Feline panleukopenia virus
- Giardia spp.
- Salmonella spp.
- Toxoplasma gondii
- Tritrichomonas blagburni
There is also a parasite screening for:
- Ova (eggs)
Fecal samples are dried and loaded into enteric-coated or capsules that slowly dissolve. This ensures they reach the large intestines.
The large intestines must be exposed to healthy bacteria repeatedly for a period of time to seed the microbiome. AnimalBiome recommends the duration the pills should be taken based on your cat’s stool analysis, taking into account how out of balance the bacteria is.
The goal is eventually the bacteria is in balance and the body maintains it. Some cats will still need the capsules at specific intervals (like once a year) to help keep things in balance long-term, especially if they suffer from chronic digestive issues.
Lucy Today: IBD Who?
Although Lucy’s stool did improve with the capsules and her follow-up stool analyses showed improvement, I knew we’d need more diagnostics. After two 60-day rounds of FMT capsules for AnimalBiome, Lucy went for an ultrasound. The radiologist called and informed me that everything was normal! No intestinal thickening and no signs of IBD. I was in shock.
I worked hard to decrease Lucy’s stress with exercise, gabapentin, walks at the park, and acupuncture. But, I was doing all of those things before her flare, so while I can’t say the gut restoration was the only thing that helped her, I strongly feel it played a role.
If you are at the end of your rope dealing with your cat’s digestive issues, I strongly recommend looking into AnimalBiome and reviewing it with your vet. Even if you don’t want to do the fecal transplant capsules, the prebiotic and probiotic, called Gut Maintenance Plus, might help. My super senior Don Vito also had IBD, and the prebiotic and probiotic helped improve his appetite, and we stopped needing an appetite stimulant.