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: