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.

Hypovitaminosis A: influence of three diets or topical treatment on hepatic, adipose, and plasma retinoid concentrations and presence of squamous metaplasia in Mississippi gopher frogs (Rana capito servosa)

Hypovitaminosis A has been linked to health concerns in amphibians causing squamous metaplasia of the tongue, bladder, kidneys and other organs. Juvenile Mississippi Gopher Frogs (Rana capito servosa) at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (n = 32) were randomly assigned to one of four vitamin A treatment groups including three dietary feeder cricket treatments and one topical vitamin A...

A targeted metabolomics assay to measure purines in the diet of managed and free-ranging common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates)

Ammonium urate nephrolithiasis occurs in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) managed under human care but not in free-ranging dolphins (Smith et al., 2013). In mammals, purine-rich diets, such as the piscivorous diet of dolphins, can predispose to urate urolith formation (Osborne et al., 1995). The total purine content of food is measured commercially by summing the concentrations of four purine...

A comparative nutrient analysis of fish species consumed by managed and free-ranging common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) with respect to ammonium urate nephrolithiasis

Ammonium urate nephroliths develop in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) managed under human care, but do not occur in free-ranging dolphins (Smith et al., 2013). In mammals, urate urolith development has been attributed partly to the effect of diet on urine saturation and pH. Free-ranging and collection dolphins consume diets that differ in fish species variety, location, and fresh versus...

Evaluation of the nutritional status of rehabilitated green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) utilizing nutritional markers, stable isotopes, and metagenomics

Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are unique because hatchlings and pelagic juveniles are carnivorous, while later life history stages are primarily herbivorous. Dietary requirements at each life stage are poorly understood, making diet selection during rehabilitation of injured and sick animals challenging. Although turtles are typically transitioned to an herbivorous diet before release, food items high in animal protein (e.g.,...

Non-healing subcutaneous hemorrhage in a colony of vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) due to suspected vitamin C deficiency

The Milwaukee County Zoo has housed vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) since 1973. The bats are fed defibrinated cow’s blood with a liquid pediatric multivitamin supplement. In November 2013, one bat developed a non-healing left wing hematoma. An August 2014 post-mortem examination revealed multifocal extensive necrohemorrhagic and suppurative ulcerative dermatitis with no underlying cause determined. From July to December 2014, five...

Evaluation of vitamin A status and diagnosis of hypovitaminosis A in amphibians

Without supplementation, insect-based diets for amphibians and reptiles are known to be deficient in nutrients such as calcium and vitamin A (Livingston et al., 2014). In the last decade, hypovitaminosis A has been recognized as a limiting factor for amphibian conservation programs that must successfully maintain and breed endangered species for ex situ rescue, survival assurance, and reintroduction programs (Pessier,...

Use of a novel iron chelator (HBED) in black rhinoceros

Black rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornis) are critically endangered and are compromised by iron overload under human care (Paglia and Tsu, 2012; Molenaar et al., 2008). With the goal of safely reducing iron absorption in the gastrointestinal tract of affected and susceptible individuals, we investigated oral administration of the iron chelator, N,N-bis(2-hydroxybenzyl)ethylenediamine-N,N–diacetic acid (HBED) to 2.1 black rhinoceros. We expected HBED administration...

Nutrition therapy for human gastrointestinal disorders and application to captive non-human primates

Abnormal gastrointestinal function is considered to be a common problem among captive non-human primates. Certain nutrients and diet patterns are implicated in abnormal gastrointestinal function and disease. The human nutrition field uses medical nutrition therapies to prevent and/or manage a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. Some of these may be appropriate for application to non-human primates. Current evidence-based nutrition interventions for...

Vitamin analysis reliability: A case study testing supplements and supplemented meat products for vitamin levels at three commercial laboratories in the United States

Regularly scheduled laboratory analysis of feed samples in zoological institutions is a necessary practice for maintenance of the highest levels of quality control. As such, factors such as cost, stability of product, and available storage environment may influence sampling protocols at each institution. The choice of laboratory used for analysis generally considers location and shipping concerns, availability of testing, methodology...

Monoozygenase conversion in two anura species

It is unknown whether pro-vitamin A supplements used in captive diets of amphibian insectivores provide the animals with nutrients they can convert for their vitamin A needs. This research sought to evaluate if activity of ?–carotene 15,15’-monooxygenase was present in the liver and small intestine of two anura species, as gauged by the conversion of ?–carotene to retinal. Liver and...

Hemochromatosis in bottlenose dolphins: clinical significance, risk factors, and treatment suggest non-hereditary etiology

Botttlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) can have hemochromatosis (iron overload), evidenced by excessive iron deposition in the liver, transferrin saturation >80%, and rising high serum iron levels (>300 ug/dl) responsive to phlebotomy (Johnson et al., 2009). Dolphins with hemochromatosis have chronic, phasic elevations in aminotransferases (Venn-Watson et al., 2008). Compared to age and sex-matched healthy controls, these dolphins are also more...

Aquatic animal supplementation practices – survey results and recommendations

Aquatic animals have been maintained under human care for centuries. Limitations in the variety of foods available to feed to these animals as well as the use of frozen/thawed diets make supplementation of some nutrients necessary. Limited research has been done on what vitamins or minerals are necessary and in what amounts. There are no standardized requirements or recommended daily...

Nutritional pathology 101: common post mortem lesions of nutritional deficiencies and excess across taxa

The wide variety of lifestyle, digestive tract, and physiologic adaptations that exist across taxa result in an expansive array of nutritional needs and sensitivities, which can result in inadvertent essential nutrient excesses or deficiencies that result in disease (Barboza et al., 2009; Dierenfeld, 1997). While the incidence of nutrition related disease has seen a steady decline in veterinary pathology with...

Nutritional management of healthy senior wild felines: using the domestic cat as a model

Nutritional adjustments that might promote health and slow progression or onset of disease (e.g. chronic renal disease, CRD) and improve quality of life in senior wild felines are being presently tested at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK). The idea is based on studies done with domestic cats aimed at controlling the symptoms of CRD (Carey, 1998). We expect to continue long...

Evaluation of type I and II collagen biomarkers for the detection of joint pathology in elephants

The first objective of this trial was to evaluate whether biomarkers for type I and type II collagen were detectable in elephant serum samples. Two commercially available enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent (ELISA) assays for the detection of the crosslinking telopeptides of type I collagen (CTX-I) and type II collagen (CTX-II) were validated for use with elephant sera. The second objective was to...

A retrospective investigation of the prevalence and significance of hemosiderosis in captive pinnipeds

Iron is a trace element required for the synthesis of haemoglobin and a number of energetic reactions. In most species, iron uptake is primarily regulated by the absorption of iron and protein-addition conversion to ferritin in the mucosal layers of the intestines and the sloughing of mucosal layers when iron levels are replete. However, if this system becomes imbalanced as...

Iron deficiency anemia in captive Malayan tapir calves (Tapirus indicus)

Subclinical iron deficiency anemia was diagnosed in a captive neonatal female Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus) through blood samples obtained as part of an in-house training program for venipuncture. Routine blood testing performed at day 2 of age was within in-house and ISIS normal values for this species. Microcytic hypochromic anemia (HCT = 16 %; MCV = 38.4 fL; MCH =...

Dietary treatment of iron storage disease in captive birds of paradise (Paradisaea raggiana)

Elevated serum iron parameters were lowered through dietary manipulation in captive Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea raggiana) using a modification of previously published low-iron diets. Study birds were part of a captive breeding program consisting of two males and one female, captive born, 3.5 to 9 years of age. Serum iron, total iron binding capacity (TIBC), percent transferrin saturation, body weight,...

Medical considerations when exhibiting multiple taxa in large aquarium systems

Large multi-taxa aquatic systems are often challenging for both husbandry and veterinary personnel. A wide variety of diseases can afflict entire systems with potential medical considerations for all exposed taxa. Largely for logistic reasons, the most common method of disease treatment is the addition of chemotherapeutics directly to the aquatic environment. However, the potential for species-specific toxicoses associated with some...

Epidemiology of selected infectious diseases in zoo ungulates: single species versus mixed species exhibits

The study analyses the epidemiology of selected infectious diseases of 65 different species within the four families of bovids, cervids, camelids and equids in one Czech and nine German zoos. It is based on a survey of all epidemiologic data since 1998. Furthermore 900 blood samples taken between 1998 and 2005 are screened for the presence of antibodies against selected...

Colitis in captive tamarins displayed on semi-natural mixed species exhibits in a North American zoo

Callitrichids have long been kept in zoological exhibits and in laboratory colonies. They are considered to be difficult to maintain and breed in captivity. Most of the species are considered to be endangered, threatened or vulnerable. Some causes of morbidity and mortality include inappropriate housing and diet, disease and trauma related to social stress, wasting marmoset syndrome, infectious diseases and...

VITILIGO ASSOCIATED WITH HYPOVITAMINOSIS D IN MALAYAN FLYING FOX (PTEROPUS VAMPYRUS) AND ISLAND FLYING FOX (PTEROPUS HYPOMELANUS)

Eight Malayan flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) and three island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) presented for varying degrees of skin depigmentation of the wing membranes, face, and feet. Lesions were observed 6 months after the bats were placed in a newly constructed indoor-only exhibit. Skin biopsies indicated segmental loss of melanin pigment within the epidermis; skin scrapes and culture results were...

FEED-RELATED HYPERVITAMINOSIS D IN A CAPTIVE FLOCK OF BUDGERIGARS (MELOPSITTACUS UNDULATAS): MORBIDITY, MORTALITIES AND PATHOLOGIC LESIONS

In the spring of 2012, the Blank Park Zoo began suffering mortalities in a flock of 229 captive Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) housed in an interactive public-feeding aviary. Clinical signs included weakness, posterior paresis, inability to fly, central nervous signs or acute death. Gross and microscopic lesions were not apparent in acutely affected deceased birds. Many birds had evidence of trauma,...