The Real Scoop On Poop: How To Perform Fecal Exams at Home

This post is primarily for other goat owners interested in performing their own fecal exams at home in an effort to better manage their herd's internal parasites. We will go step-by-step through performing a fecal, what the needed supplies are, where to acquire those supplies and finally what in the heck are you actually looking at and for?


***Disclaimer: I am NOT a veterinarian. I am however a Certified Veterinary Technician with over 19 years of experience and have seen my fair share of fecal samples in that time. I do perform my own fecal exams on my goat herd and feel confident in my ability to teach you to do the same. With that being said, lets get started!


Supplies You Will Need:

Disposable Paper Cups

Sandwich sized ziplock bags

Kitchen Scale with ability to measure in grams

Fecal Flotation Solution (Can Purchase on Amazon)

Tongue Depressors/Craft Sticks (Can Purchase at WalMart)

Syringe to Measure Fecal Flotation Solution

Strainer (Can Purchase at WalMart)

McMaster Slide (Can Purchase on Amazon or directly through Eggzamin.com)

Transfer Pipettes (Can Purchase on Amazon)

Microscope with Moveable Stage and at least a 10X objective (Can Purchase on Amazon)

Puppy pads are nice to have, but not required



Procedure:


Start by gathering about 10 fecal pellets from each individual goat you are going to perform a fecal on. It's not accurate enough to just gather fecal pellets from the ground as you won't know how long they have been there or to whom they belong. The reason to fecal test is to identify those individual animals in your herd who need to be dewormed. Did you know 20% of your herd is usually responsible for 80% of the worms in your pasture? By identifying those individuals, you can decrease the amount of deworming you need to complete, thus saving money and preventing the worms from becoming resistant to your dewormers.


Gather 10 fecal pellets into your ziplock bag and label each bag with the animal's name.

Once all fecal samples are collected, take 2 cups per each animal you have a sample for and write their name on each of the 2 cups. Write the animal's name on one end of a tongue depressor as well. It's important to use separate cups and tongue depressors for EACH animal so you don't have any cross-contamination.


Cups on scale and zeroed out. 4 grams of feces in cup 26 mLs of fecal solution drawn up


Place the cups on the kitchen scale and tare/zero it WITH the cups on it. Measure out 4 grams of feces into the cup. It's helpful to use the craft stick to get the fecal pellets out of the bag in a controlled manner. Draw up 26 mLs of the fecal flotation solution.


Solution added to feces Feces dissolved in solution Strainer Feces after being strained


Add the fecal flotation solution to the cup and use the tongue depressor to thoroughly smash and dissolve the fecal pellets until you have a soupy solution. Next you will utilize the strainer over the second cup and pour the soupy solution through the strainer and into the second cup. The second cup should now contain the poop solution with the larger pieces filtered out.


Filling the pipette Loading first side of slide One side loaded Both sides loaded


Now we need to use our pipette to suck up some of the fecal solution with the feces dissolved in it and load the fist side of our slide. You'll want to stir the solution and suck up some fluid while the fluid is still in motion. Hold your pipette parallel to the table and gently squeeze to fill the chamber. You want to avoid air bubbles as much as possible. Stir the solution again and fill the pipette again to fill the second chamber. Once both chambers are filled, you need to let them sit for 10 minutes to allow any parasite eggs to float to the surface of the slide.


Microscope 10 X objective you will use Ovals are coccidia Barber pole egg


After allowing 10 minutes for the parasite eggs to float to the surface of the slide, place your slide on the microscope and focus on the blue lines of the grid that is engraved on the slide. Once you've focused the microscope, methodically start working your way through the grid system counting every parasite egg you see inside of the grid. Be sure to differentiate the types of eggs you are counting. For instance, 6 coccidia and 3 barber pole rather than just 9. Once you've counted all the eggs on one side of the slide, record that number and repeat on the other side of the slide. Once completed, add the number of each type of parasite together.


For example, if on the first side of the slide you observed 15 coccidia and 2 barber pole and on the second side of the slide you saw 12 coccidia and 0 barber pole, you would have a total of 27 coccidia and 2 barber pole.



What does this mean though and what do you do with these numbers?


When doing fecals on our goats and managing parasites, the goal isn't to have no parasites at all as it is in our companion animals like dogs and cats. We have to understand that livestock are almost ALWAYS going to have some burden of intestinal parasites. What we want to achieve as responsible herdsmen (and women) is a manageable load of worms that are still susceptible to our dewormers.


We need to accept the fact that we may never eliminate all of the worms from our animals.

A low number of worms are actually a good thing. Animals develop resistance to the worms that they have and don’t let any more get established. Resistance can be natural; some animals are just hardier than others. Resistance can be genetic; they pass their resistance (or lack of) to their offspring.


Back to our example of 27 coccidia and 2 barber pole, we need to do a little bit of math to figure out how many parasite eggs of each type we have in each gram of feces. The calculation you want to use is the total number of each type of egg multiplied by 25. This will give you the number of eggs per gram. So in our example above, we have:


27 coccidia x 25 = 675 coccidia oocysts per gram of feces

2 baber pole x 25 = 50 barber po