Macronutrient selection in mammalian insectivores at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

This study determined macronutrient target of several mammalian insectivore species including 3-banded armadillo, aardvark, tamandua (lesser anteater), and greater anteater. These insectivores are often maintained on a commercial insectivore diet, which may or may not be appropriate for every species in this diverse and polyphyletic group. Animals were fed three experimental diets that varied in their proportions of calories from...

Comparative serum analysis of free-ranging and managed green moray eels (Gymnothorax funebris) and relationship to diet fed to eels under human care

Green moray eels (Gymnothorax funebris) under human care are reported to have elevated plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations with associated development of lipid keratopathy (Clode et al. 2012). Nevertheless, serum trace mineral and vitamin analyses have not been assessed, and the complete nutrient content (cholesterol, vitamins, and minerals) of managed eel diets has also not been reported (Clode et al....

Practical investigation of cricket dust supplements commonly used to enhance diets provided to insectivore species under human care.

Amphibians  and  reptiles  commonly  managed  under  human  care  are  commonly  fed  farmed  feeder  crickets  (Acheta  domesticus)  that  are  deficient  in  calcium.  Calcium  deficiency  can  lead  to  the  development  of  nutritional  metabolic  bone  disease  in  animals  consuming  the  crickets;  therefore,  feeder  crickets  are  commonly  supplemented  with  calcium  by  either  dusting  the  crickets’exoskeleton  or  by  providing  crickets  with  a  calcium  enriched  diet. ...

Development of an artificial diet to support conservation efforts of the Atala Hairstreak Butterfly (Eumaeus atala)

The rare atala  hairstreak  butterfly  (Eumaeus  atala)  is  native  to  Florida,  and  coontie,  a  small  cycad,  is  its  only  native  host  plant.  In  the  early  1900’s,  coontie  was  eradicated  due  to  unsustainable  agricultural  practices,  so  atala  populations  plummeted.    The  butterfly  was  thought  to  be  extinct  in  the  mid-1900s  but  has  seen  a  comeback  since  its  rediscovery  near  Miami  in  the ...

The Mob-Under Investigation

‘Brewer’, a 4 year old male red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) under human care at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, presented on December 10, 2016 with signs of colic, penile prolapse, and dribbling urine. Diagnostic imaging, including radiographs and computed tomography (CT) with contrast, revealed urethral obstruction with a radiopaque stone and additional uroliths in the left ureter and right renal pelvis. The...

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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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.

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...