Abstract

Evaluation of dairy calf feces is often used in research and for clinical decision making to assess severity of diarrhea. However, this has not been validated for agreement between dry matter content and observed fecal consistency. Therefore, a comparison of observed fecal consistency score to fecal percent dry matter and Cryptosporidium parvum oocyst shedding was performed to assess the accuracy of observational scoring as a measure of diarrhea and its association with number of oocysts shed. Fecal samples from 20 dairy calves experimentally infected with C. parvum oocysts were collected daily post-infection and scored on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 being normal feces to 4 being severe diarrhea. An aliquot of each sample was analyzed for percent dry matter and Cryptosporidium oocyst counts by using immunofluorescent microscopy. Fecal consistency scores of 1, 2, 3, and 4 had median percent dry matter of 20.9, 16.3, 9.6, and 5.8, respectively. Using percent dry matter assessed by fecal consistency scoring were significantly different from each other (P < 0.001). A higher fecal consistency score also was associated with a greater number of Cryptosporidium oocysts shed (P < 0 .0001). Scores of 1, 2, 3, and 4 had median oocyst counts of 0, 0, 1.3 × 106, and 2.8 × 106, respectively. These results suggest that observational scoring is a useful proxy to assess diarrhea in dairy calves.

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