Marigold is a sweet, middle-aged, orange tabby cat found as a stray and taken to the city shelter. Affectionate and easy-going, she had everything going for her, except for one critical flaw that threatened her adoptability -- she had constant liquid diarrhea. Even though she was a favorite at the shelter, her cage was constantly a mess, as was her bright orange fur, and it wasn’t long before Marigold was deemed “unadoptable.” Soon after, her digestive issues earned her a spot at the top of the shelter’s euthanasia list.
Lucky for Marigold, on the day before her scheduled euthanasia, she was saved by Cat Town, a cat rescue in Oakland, California. She went through a series of foster homes, but her chronic diarrhea always limited the duration of her stays. That is, until she was fostered by Tracy, who quickly fell in love with Marigold’s sunny personality. Tracy adopted Marigold, promising that she would give her the very best life possible. She tried every medication, diet and supplement recommended by her veterinarian and friends, but nothing worked for long and Marigold would always relapse. This went on for four years.
In the midst of a particularly intense bout of diarrhea over the winter holidays, Tracy was sure it was the end for Marigold. A friend suggested she check out AnimalBiome, a San Francisco Bay Area start-up founded by researchers from UC Davis to help pets like Marigold, who suffer from health conditions that can be tied to imbalances in the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the term used to describe the millions of microscopic living things - including bacteria, viruses, and fungi - that live inside every pet’s digestive tract.
While these bacteria may be small in size, together their impact on every pet’s health is massive. Of course, being located in the digestive system, these tiny organisms help determine how your pet breaks down their food, and how well they absorb it. And their impact goes much further than digestion. They help the immune system to function properly, and they produce neurotransmitters that can affect brain function. Gut microbes can also influence whether a pet has itchy skin, a soft, shiny coat or a brittle and dull one, and whether your pet is fit and active, or overweight and uncomfortable. Learn more about the microbiome.
Restoring Balance to the Microbiome
When the microbiome becomes imbalanced, a pet can find themselves on a slippery slope towards a variety of health conditions, including chronic diarrhea like Marigold. AnimalBiome performed a microbiome analysis on Marigold’s stool that revealed that she was missing crucial groups of bacteria that cats need in order to have healthy gut function. Because these bacteria are not found in probiotics, AnimalBiome had just developed its Gut Microbiome Restoration supplement, which is designed to transfer key cat-specific beneficial bacteria from a healthy cat to a sick one like Marigold. Within three days, Marigold’s diarrhea began to lessen, and within a week, she was having normal stools - something she hadn’t had in more than four years.
More than half of pets will suffer from a microbiome-related health condition
Unfortunately, Marigold is not alone: more than half of pets will suffer from a microbiome-related health condition at some point in their lives. Understanding and supporting your pet’s microbiome throughout their lives can help prevent the development of digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, and possibly even psychological conditions like separation anxiety and aggression.
Why taking care of your pet’s gut health is important
Even apparently healthy pets can have microbiome deficiencies that could contribute to chronic health conditions later. The best way to get an understanding of the condition of your pet’s gut health is to have their microbiome tested. The test report reveals the types and proportions of bacteria living in your pet’s gut. And results are compared to healthy pets, so it is easy to see where (or whether) there might be room for improvement. When there is room for improvement, AnimalBiome provides specific suggestions on diet, supplements and lifestyle. Often these are small changes you can make now, which over time can have a big impact on your pet’s health.
It isn’t just inconvenient and stressful when your pet is ill like Marigold; it’s heartbreaking. When nothing works, many pets with these chronic conditions are euthanized, and some pet parents may give up, which Tracy suspects is how Marigold wound up being found as a friendly stray in mid-life. But now there is a solution.