PEI

Dogs can now donate feces as well as blood at the AVC in Charlottetown

Gus the golden retriever has been donating blood for years. Now, he's going to be donating his feces too.

Frozen donor dog poo can help remedy canine intestinal illnesses, says donor coordinator

Gus is a regular donor in the AVC's canine blood donor program. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Gus the golden retriever is used to having blood drawn at the Atlantic Veterinary College's small animal hospital in Charlottetown.  

"He just hops up on the table and you know within five minutes he's given his donation," said his owner Emily MacNeil, who is also a registered veterinary technician at the AVC.

"He gets lots of cookies and love, and he absolutely loves coming here," she said.

Emily MacNeil brings her dog Gus to the AVC on a regular basis to give blood. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Gus is one of close to 30 dogs that take part in the AVC's canine blood donor program, which started when the college opened in 1986.

"We have lots of patients come in who are hit by a car, may lose a large amount of blood, and need a donation, cardiac patients during surgery… splenic mass removals, things like that," MacNeil said. 

Power of poo

But now, after six years as a regular blood donor, Gus will soon be donating something more — his feces. 

Red blood cells and plasma are a huge help during surgeries, but it turns out fecal transplants can also be helpful for dogs with a variety of intestinal illnesses

That's why the AVC is now asking for fecal donations as well as blood donations. 

There are close to 30 dogs in the canine blood donor program, but coordinator Andrea Jack says she is always happy to have more. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"The thought process is that the healthy gut flora and microbe bacteria from the donor would then actually be transplanted into the recipient and help return their gut flora to a healthier status quicker," said donor program coordinator Andrea Jack. 

The samples will be mixed with saline, strained, and frozen until they need to be used. 

'We've got it, so why not give it'

Fecal transplants are sometimes used in human medicine, such as in the treatment of C. difficile

"Just like within human medicine, everyone is trying to do the least invasive, and promote good flora within the gut bacteria, so it's certainly trending that way in veterinary medicine as well," Jack said. 

The program is just getting started at the AVC, but Jack says she's aware of at least three fecal transplants that have been done so far.

Mike McPhail and Christy Fraser bring in their dog Ferghus to give blood donations, and he has already given a fecal sample. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Christy Fraser's dog Ferghus has been a blood donor for about six months, and has already given a fecal donation.

"Ah, it was a little different, first time I'd heard of it, but we've got it, so why not give it."

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About the Author

Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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