Fecal Condition Scoring Resource Center

Fecal condition scores and fecal color provide insight into how a diet is being digested by an animal and the state of gastrointestinal health. The following fecal condition scoring scales have been obtained from a variety of sources.  We have credited the authors where we can, and encourage you to submit additional scales or corrections to attributions.  More info is at the bottom of this page.

About Fecal Condition Scoring

As zoo and wildlife nutrition professionals, we utilize all information we can gather about the animals in our care and how they process their diet, especially information that can be gathered passively, without impact to the animal.  One, often underutilized, tool that used to assess how an animal is processing their diet is a thorough examination of their feces (stool).  This can be informal and subjective (i.e. – “loose,” or “pebble-like,” or “pudding”), but those words can mean different things to different people.  If fecal consistency is used as a tool to assess how a diet is digested and/or overall animal health, an objective assessment of that consistency is necessary.  We spend so much time looking at it, scooping it, moving it, dumping it, so let’s utilize it to better care for our animals!

Fecal Condition Scoring Scales

Fecal condition scores are developed to provide an objective and commonly understood scale to assess and describe fecal material.  Obviously, this differs with the species and digestive strategy in question (“ideal” horse and cow fecal material differs in consistency).  For this reason, a variety of scales have been developed.  These scales are primarily numerical with descriptive terminology and images associated with them.  These efforts have primarily focused on domestic animals (dogs), but also have expanded to several wildlife species.

The scores range from simple 1-3, 1-5, or 1-7 point systems, to similar systems with sub-scores for each number, and systems that score from 0-100 in 25 point increments.  Given the systems currently in place for domestic animals, and those currently utilized for the wildlife species we manage, a 0-100 scale appears to be most preferred and useful.  These types of scales are currently in place for some of our carnivore species, but remain undeveloped for most of the animals with which we work.

Implications of Fecal Condition Scores

Fecal condition scores can provide insight into how a diet is being digested (otherwise utilized) by an animal (color is helpful, as well).  Low scores (unformed, loose, diarrhea, etc) may indicate digestive upset, malabsorption, and/or possible hydration issues.  On the other end of the spectrum, hard stools may indicate a lack of appropriate fiber, a water balance issue, etc.  The routine use of fecal scoring systems with animals can provide an invaluable tool to veterinarians and animal managers when “something” changes with condition, consumption, and/or overall health.

Call for More Scales (Training Opportunity)

We welcome the development of additional scales.   This is an excellent opportunity for you, your staff, volunteers, interns, and other students to get involved in the development of a basic animal husbandry management tool!  Need a fecal condition scoring scale for a species not represented?  Consider the following:

  • Look at scales already developed and determine a format that might work best for the species in question.
  • Consider a scale that includes lower scores as drier feces and higher scores as wetter feces (so we can start to gain some consistency, building from the scales established for domestics).
  • Consider photo techniques.  Just like body condition scoring (BCS), angle, light exposure, shadows can all play a role in visual assessment (especially in a 2D picture).  Take your best shots and include language that describes and supports the image as objectively as possible.
  • Once developed and tested/used, consider not only sharing the value and utility of the scales via a NAG Conference poster or the such, but also with the resource at this site and the associated ACM for the species.
  • This a great chance for your interns, volunteers, keepers, etc to get involved in a simple, yet very useful tool, to provide more objective information and get involved in animal care!

If you know of additional published resources for this page, we encourage you to submit them for potential inclusion:

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Please upload your document for review.

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Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition Foundation (ZWNF) Announces EDUCATION AND TRAVEL Grant Opportunity

The Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition Foundation (ZWNF) is a non-profit organization established for the purpose of:
– contributing expertise and providing funds to support zoo and wildlife nutrition programs worldwide,
– furthering the science of zoo nutrition
– facilitating the dissemination of nutrition knowledge, and
– developing the next generation of zoo nutrition leaders

The ZWNF Education & Travel Grant supports attendance at a comparative nutrition or animal nutrition-related conference, workshop, or training program.

This grant funding may be used to support travel and/or registration costs, and funding may be requested up to $500 for this purpose. Travel should be completed within 1 year of funding receipt, and a final report will be expected within 3 months of that time.

To apply, submit a short proposal (1 page, excluding CV) including the following information:
– Description of the conference, workshop or training program
– Rationale for ZWNF support, i.e., How will this program increase knowledge/skill base in animal nutrition? How will this program support/contribute to a current or future role in animal nutrition?
– Funding requested, with details of funding from other sources if required for attendance
– CV

Timelines:
– Call for Grants 4/8/18
– Grant proposals due 5/31/18
– Grant awardee/s announced 8/4/18 (at CNS meeting)
– Funding provided by 8/4/18
– Final report due by 2/1/19

Evaluation Criteria:
Proposals will be evaluated by members or designees of ZWNF and AZA NAG. Anyone related to, or who could potentially benefit from grant funding, will be excluded from the selection process. ZWNF board of directors and AZA NAG reviewers are not eligible for grant funding. Eligible proposals will be prioritized based upon those that most clearly meet the AZA NAG’s objectives and priority of funding.

Submit proposals to Barbara Henry, President, ZWNF, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45220, or via email at Barbara.henry@cincinnatizoo.org.

* Reports on projects or summaries will be viewable on the ZWNF section of the AZA NAG Website and will be included in the ZWNF annual report/updates. ZWNF must be acknowledged in all publications. A contract between the grantee and ZWNF will clearly state these requirements and use of funds. Organizations outside the US will need to provide additional documentation of tax exempt status and financial records.

Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition Foundation (ZWNF) Announces RESEARCH Grant Opportunity

The Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition Foundation (ZWNF) is a non-profit organization established for the purpose of:
– contributing expertise and providing funds to support zoo and wildlife nutrition programs worldwide,
– furthering the science of zoo nutrition
– facilitating the dissemination of nutrition knowledge, and
– developing the next generation of zoo nutrition leaders

The ZWNF Research Grant supports basic or applied research in the area of zoo and wildlife nutrition.

Grants may be funded up to $1000, and funding may be used to support research programs, including no more than $250 allocated to travel expenses.

Examples of projects eligible for ZWNF Research Grant support include: animal studies evaluating nutrient intake and/or nutrient requirements, evaluation of nutrient content of dietary items, palatability work and other effects of diet/nutrition on behavior, development and/or validation of tools for nutritional assessment such as BCS methods. Examples of projects that are not eligible for ZWNF Research Grant support include: diet surveys without some component described above, studies examining animal physiology without a nutrition component.

Projects should be completed within 1 year of funding receipt, and a final report will be expected within 6 months of that time*.

To apply, submit a short proposal (3 page max, excluding CV and IACUC documentation) including the following information:
– Title and Investigators
– Purpose and Background Information
– Methods (i.e., Design, Analytical Methods, Data Analyses, Expected Results)
– Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval, if applicable
– CV for investigators
– Funding requested, with details of funding from other sources if required for project completion
– Dissemination plan

Timelines:
– Call for Grants 4/8/18
– Grant proposals due 5/31/18
– Grant awardee/s announced 8/4/18 (at CNS meeting)
– Funding provided by 8/4/18
– Final report due by 12/31/19

Evaluation Criteria:
Proposals will be evaluated by members or designees of ZWNF and AZA NAG. Anyone related to, or who could potentially benefit from grant funding, will be excluded from the selection process. ZWNF board of directors and AZA NAG reviewers are not eligible for grant funding. Eligible proposals will be prioritized based upon those that most clearly meet the AZA NAG’s objectives and priority of funding.

Submit proposals to Barbara Henry, President, ZWNF, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45220, or via email at Barbara.henry@cincinnatizoo.org.

* Reports on projects or summaries will be viewable on the ZWNF section of the AZA NAG Website and will be included in the ZWNF annual report/updates. ZWNF must be acknowledged in all publications. A contract between the grantee and ZWNF will clearly state these requirements and use of funds. Organizations outside the US will need to provide additional documentation of tax exempt status and financial records.

Toronto Zoo Selects SCARF Nutrition Resident

                              

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Sarra Gourlie to the position of SCARF Nutrition Resident at the Toronto Zoo. The Toronto Zoo was awarded the Sue Crissey Animal Nutrition Residency Fund (SCARF) Grant by the Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition Foundation (ZWNF). This fund was established in 2006 by the Chicago Zoological Society, in cooperation with the AZA Nutrition Advisory Group (NAG), to acknowledge and honor the significant impact that Sue Crissey had on the field of zoo nutrition during her 15 years of service at Brookfield Zoo. The goal of the SCARF Grant is to support residencies in nutritional studies that will improve the welfare of animals in zoos and aquariums while training the next generation of Zoo Nutritionists. To date, two residents have completed the program and Sarra will be the third.

As a Nutrition Resident, Sarra will train at the Toronto Zoo to become a Zoo Nutritionist, qualified for employment in an AZA/CAZA accredited facility. Reporting to the Nutritionist, this two-year educational position will allow her to participate in and review the operations, managerial activities, diet formulations, clinical case management, meetings, courses, presentations, research, development, and training programs of the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Nutrition Centre.

Sarra joined the Toronto Zoo as a Temporary Nutrition Assistant and thereafter entered the Toronto Zoo Nutrition Internship Program during which she completed research on the suitability of apple browse for large primates and obtained her Master’s degree by thesis, from the University of Guelph. More recently, she has been employed as a Research and Development assistant at the Wildlife Nutrition Centre, working on the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program and on the Toronto Zoo Carnivore Diet Program.  We look forward to Sarra continuing her relationship with the Zoo community and furthering her knowledge and skills in pursuit of joining the field as a professional Zoo Nutritionist. Congratulations Sarra!

To learn more about the Sue Crissey Animal Nutrition Residency Fund (SCARF) or to make a donation, please visit: https://nagonline.net/287/sue-crissey-animal-nutrition-residency-fund-scarf/

Sarra Gourlie, Toronto Zoo
Third SCARF Nutrition Resident

The Hungry Hungry Hippo

In January 2017, Fiona the baby hippo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo six weeks premature and some 30 pounds underweight. Getting Fiona to put on pounds was a life-or-death matter. Unfortunately, nursing wasn’t an option, and the only hippo formula recipe on file was old and out of date. To devise a new one, team Fiona turned to the...

Featuring a great inter-institutional collaboration!
“A hippo, an orangutan, and a scientist walk into a milk bar…” or so our story goes.

Click the image to take a listen.

This story is also featured on CNN as a Great Big Story.

Click the picture to take peak.

Practical Zoo Nutrition Management to be held 7-11 May 2018

Practical Zoo Nutrition Management (7-11 May 2018)

The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal, VA is happy to announce full enrollment for the third offering of the Practical Zoo Nutrition Management course.

With roughly 20 out of the more than 200 Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos in the United States employing full time nutritionists, there exists a critical shortage of zoo-based nutrition expertise. Similar institutions outside the US face the same challenges.  Long-term sustainability of an animal collection and the successful reproduction of breeding animals rely heavily on proper nutrition, yet this can be a serious challenge. Many of these institutions care for hundreds or thousands of species, all with specific dietary needs that may even vary across seasons and reproductive conditions.

This course is designed to provide knowledge and hands-on experience within one of the oldest zoo nutrition programs in the US. Because of the complexities and extensive experiential learning involved in the profession, this course is not designed to create a zoo nutritionist in 5 days.  But participants will become familiar with a wide variety of topics in the field of zoo and wildlife nutrition, as well as some of the nuances of managing a commissary (food procurement and preparation) operation to support a zoo.  The class is full for this offering, but stay tuned for the announcement of the next offering in 2019!  (https://smconservation.gmu.edu/programs/graduate-and-professional/professional-training-courses/nutrition/)

Guidelines for the Humane and Ethical Acquisition and Management of Vertebrate Feeder Animals (Excluding Fish)

It is vitally important that omnivorous and carnivorous species in the care of zoos and aquariums receive the appropriate foods needed to meet their nutritional and behavioral requirements. Oftentimes this entails using ‘feeder animals’ as part of their diet.  It is important that zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) make certain that feeder animals...

Body Condition Scoring Resource Center

  The following body condition scoring (BCS) scales have been obtained from a variety of sources.  We have credited the authors where we can, and encourage you to submit newly developed or modified scales or corrections to attributions.

The following body condition scoring (BCS) scales have been obtained from a variety of sources.  We have credited the authors where we can, and encourage you to submit newly developed or modified scales or corrections to attributions.

Click to expand

Pangolins, Aardvarks, & Xenarthrans (Sloths, Anteaters, Armadillos)
Reptiles & Amphibians

About BCS Scales

Body condition scoring (BCS) is a subjective measurement of an animal’s muscle definition and superficial fatty tissue.BCS for Zoo Animals

BCS has been used for many years in the livestock industry to improve the productivity, health, reproduction and longevity of herds.  BCS has become increasingly common in zoological settings for many of the same reasons.  Our greatest challenge in zoos is to develop practical systems or scales for the diverse species with which we work.  Some scales have been well-developed and validated, while others remain works in progress.  The NAG encourages the careful and thoughtful development of new scales, the refinement of those that already exist, and the diligent attention to their implementation for the good of the animals in our care.

About BCS Scales

Body condition scoring scales are numerical, and they typically range from 1 (emaciated) to either 5 or 9 (obese).  When using a 5-point scale, many people will assign half points (2.5 or 4.5 out of 5), which effectively turns the 5 point scale into a 9 point scale.  Whenever possible, we recommend the use of a 9 point scale.

fish3

Implications of BCS Scores

horsebcs

Low BCS scores have been associated with lowered reproductive success, poor recovery from illness, and may be a sign of disease or age.  High BCS scores have been associated with an increased risk of dystocia (difficulty giving birth), reproductive disorders, arthritis, diabetes, and other chronic conditions (Chan-McLeod et al. 1994; Burkholder 2000; Aeberhard et al. 2001; Busato et al. 2002; Berry et al. 2007; Boudreau 2012).  Despite the known risks of being too far at either end of the BCS spectrum, a BCS score should be non-judgmental.  You may be pleased that an animal recovering from a serious illness has moved from a 2 to a 3 (on a 9-pt scale), yet worry that a healthy animal has dropped from a 4 to a 3.  You may be glad that an obese animal has dropped from an 8 to a 5, yet endeavor to raise an animal preparing for hibernation from a 5 to an 8 or 9 (which may be “normal,” physiologically, for the species in question).  Keep in mind that just because it may be “normal” for a species to be over-conditioned at a specific time of year or life stage, this does not impact the BCS scale (a score of 8/9 remains 8/9, even if declared “appropriate” in terms of animal management; the scale does not “slide” to make that over-conditioned animal a 5/9). In addition, the scale is does not slide for growing, geriatric, or pregnant animals (regardless of stage of life, metabolic status, etc, the scale is designed to assess condition as objectively as possible).

Tips for Body Condition Scoring

  • BCS is best learned and implemented through consistent practice.  Often, it helps to have multiple staff involved at the start (animal managers, keepers, veterinarians, nutritionists, etc.) to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding terminology, anatomy, and the scoring system being used.  In the end, however, it is often best to have a limited number of scorers so that consistency can be maintained.  In addition, having someone who does not see the animals every day perform the scoring can be helpful.
  • Scorers should be familiar with the anatomy of each species.  If multiple scorers are utilized, they should be objectively evaluated for consistency with the same animals.  It can be helpful to note the initials of the scorer when a BCS is performed and recorded.
  • Although there are many different systems/scales (even for a single species), it is a good idea to pick one scoring system for each species and stick with it.  This allows for increased familiarity and proficiency, over time.
  • BCS is a particularly useful tool for animals that aren’t very tractable or for those who are unable to be weighed regularly.  If body weights are available, BCS acts as a complementary assessment for management purposes.  Ensure that the interval between BCS is reasonable and practical.
  • For growing animals, body weights can be paired with appropriate growth curves to assess development. However, body weights in growing individuals often vary, even within species, and may not be the best assessment of growth. In these cases, BCS can be used not only to assess appropriate growth, but also to establish target weights for individuals.
  • If your species of interest does not have a scale established, please consider developing one.  If you do, look at those that have already been thoughtfully developed. Ideal BCS scales are easy to use, distinguish biologically relevant changes in status, provide enough description that multiple observers will obtain similar results, and, ideally, have been validated through other means (ultrasound, TOBEC, necropsy).  Photographs and drawings should clearly show points of interest and be coupled with clear written descriptions.   The NAG encourages you to share your systems by presenting a poster or presentation at our conference, or publishing in another format that can be accessed by the zoo community.
References

If you know of additional published resources for this page, we encourage you to submit them for potential inclusion:

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

What species is this for?

Please upload your document for review.

Please provide as much reference/citation information you can so that we can properly attribute the resource.

Prove you aren't a robot. Enter the text below:
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We will review your submission and post if we feel it is appropriate for this site.