A poo swap.
Unfortunately, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Transplanting poo from a healthy dog into a sick dog via fecal suspension.
Sounds grim, but poo swapping has been used for centuries to treat diarrhoea and constipation. Recently, practitioners have begun prescribing the treatment for a broader range of conditions that commonly affect modern dogs, relating to the skin, gut and immune system issues.
The reason this treatment works is because your dog is not just a dog. They are home to a community. That community is made up of living entities such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, that reside in your dog’s gut. They influence your dog’s skin, digestion, immune responses, and even their mental health. The community is called the gut microbiome, and it’s vital to your dog’s health.
A poo swap procedure takes the healthy gut microbiome from one dog and implants it into another. In a recent study, researchers showed that improving the gut flora of puppies with skin issues via a poo swap reduced their symptoms. What’s more, the therapy’s results lasted longer and had more statistically significant benefits than standard pharmaceutical options. They proved that a low diversity of microbiota or an imbalance within the gut can predispose a dog to the development of allergies and other skin conditions, and that by improving the balance of the gut, it was more beneficial than the pharmaceutical route.
Creating Good Gut Diversity
Creating good diversity in the gut microbiome begins at an early age, in fact, pre-birth. From the moment a dog’s mother is pregnant, the breeder or owner’s decisions will impact the gut microbiome health of her puppies. A poor diet or over exposure to antibiotics can negatively impact the gut microbiome of her and her litter.
Once her litter is born the emphasis obviously shifts to the lifestyle of her pups. Poor early stage puppy diets, over vaccination and overly sterile environments can all negatively impact the gut microbiome of the litter. All of these factors dramatically increase a puppy’s chances of developing allergies later in life.
An imbalanced intestinal microbiota can lead to a whole host of immune problems but the most common is increased sensitivity to irritants and those symptoms we know and hate.
Inflamed. Red. Itchy. Skin.
Skin Allergies and Diet
Skin allergies affect 10-15% of the canine population. The symptoms indicate that your dog’s gut is improperly balanced and suffering from inflammation. As many owners reading this will know, it can seriously impair your dog’s quality of life. Thankfully, no one is expecting you to perform a poo swap, there are options for you and your dog before that drastic measure.
The simplest way to improve the diversity and health of your dog’s gut microbiome is through diet. The goal is to get your dog onto the biggest variety of fresh foods that they can digest. Variation in their diet is critical to promoting diversity in their gut microbiome. Unfortunately, variety is also exactly what dogs with allergies struggle with. The key is finding out which foods your dog can digest well and building on them slowly.
The first thing I do for a dog that is suffering from allergies is put them on a food elimination trial. This is a testing process to find out which foods your dog is best at digesting and which ones cause their skin to flare up. I’ve laid out the steps below.
Food Elimination Trial
Find the right meat:
Meat makes up the bulk of your dog’s diet so it’s important we find the one’s that agree with them. Remove all the ingredients you suspect may be causing your dog’s allergic reactions and simplify the diet to only meats.
Start with chicken for three days, if they don’t react with any symptoms we can assume that they digest chicken well and move onto the next protein source. Beef, then lamb, then game meats.
If at any point, your dog reacts negatively to a certain protein source, remove that protein source from their diet and cross it off your list. Return their diet to the sources of protein you have established are safe to eat. After 2 days, start the process of introducing new meats again and watch for adverse skin reactions.
Adding Organ Meats
Once you’ve established the largest possible variety of healthy meat sources for your dog, it’s time to add organ meats to their bowl. Organ meats are your dog’s daily multivitamin, their inclusion will make sure your dog is receiving a nutritionally complete diet.
Start with organ meats from the same animal sources as the ones your dog is already digesting well – these are the most likely to work for your dog. Your dog’s new dog bowl should be 90% meat that you have established as safe and 10% trial organ meat.
Feed them this for 3 days. If your dog has a negative reaction to the new organ meat, you know it’s the organ meat that is causing a problem because you’ve established everything else is safe. Remove it from the diet and go back to 100% safe meat for 2 days. Then start the process again with a new organ meat.
Once you’ve done this a number of times, you should figure out which organ meats agree with your dog.
Non Meat Ingredients:
Next you need a calcium source, this is easy as there aren’t many options. Either ground eggshell (if chicken and eggs are safe to eat), a raw bone, or a calcium supplement. The process is the same again – adding only to the list of ingredients you have already established are safe. Any flare ups point to the calcium as the culprit.
Do the same for fruits, vegetables, seeds, oils and supplements.
By the end of this repetitive and somewhat boring process you want to establish at least 3 meats/2 Organ sources/6 veggies/3 fruits/ 2 seeds and 2 oils that your dog can eat.
A Healthy Gut
Suddenly, your dog is eating a nutritionally dense, complete diet that they digest well. Their gut microbiome is flourishing and their skin and coat is glistening. Their system has, likely for the first time in their lives, had a chance to make a full recovery.
It’s a process that requires patience, but it will be worth it for your dog’s long term health and happiness. I guarantee, you won’t regret it. The best part is, once it’s done, it’s done and you won’t have to mess about with any poo procedures.
If you want me to help you walk through the process and create the recipes for you to follow – please book a consultation and we can work through this together.