October 08, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Digestibility markers to estimate fecal output of dogs

Interpretive Summary: Digestibility markers to estimate fecal output of dogs

By: Anne Kamiya, MS

Before a new feed product can be introduced to market, digestibility studies need to be performed. In this recent Journal of Animal Science study, researchers evaluated the potential of digestibility markers to substitute the total fecal collection (TFC) method for determining apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD), in dogs. The TFC method takes 4-5 days of fecal collection, which requires animals to be confined in a controlled space and all fecal matter to be collected. The researchers cited concerns about accuracy of this method (feces may be stepped on or lost to coprophagy, for instance) and animal welfare (stress of being held in a confined/controlled space) as valid reasons to investigate other ways of determining ATTD.

In this study, three digestibility markers were used to estimate fecal output and ATTD in adult beagles. The ATTD results were then compared to TFC results. Digestibility markers included chromic oxide, titanium dioxide and acid insoluble ash. It was hypothesized that all three markers would have comparable results to TFC. Measurements of fecal organic matter, crude protein, crude fat and gross energy were determined for all four methods. Results indicated that titanium dioxide was the most comparable digestibility marker to TFC.

The results of this study suggest that using digestibility markers to determine the ATTD of dogs may be a viable substitute for the TFC method, which is the current “gold standard.” Considering this study was small (12 animals) and evaluated only one breed of dog (beagles), larger and more comprehensive studies are needed to reaffirm these results and to evaluate titanium dioxide as a digestibility marker in dogs.  

The original article, Comparison of four digestibility markers to estimate fecal output of dogs, is viewable in the Journal of Animal Science.