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Logo of compmedJournal Web siteSee also archive of Canadian Journal of Comparative MedicineNow Published as Canadian Journal of Veterinary ResearchFormerly published as Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Science. 1940 to 1968.
Can J Comp Med. Apr 1980; 44(2): 148–154.
PMCID: PMC1320050

An Investigation of Variables in a Fecal Flotation Technique


Several variables in a standard vial fecal gravitational flotation technique were investigated. These were the specific gravity of the sodium nitrate flotation solution, duration of flotation and mesh sizes of strainers. The number of eggs which floated and adhered to a coverslip were counted and estimates of the number of eggs remaining in the strained fecal suspension and in the feces trapped on the strainer were made. Eggs from hookworms, Trichuris vulpis and Toxocara canis in feces from dogs, Nematodirus spp. from sheep and Parascaris equorum from horses floated equally well in solutions with specific gravities (SpGr) ranging from 1.22-1.38. Taenia spp. from dogs had a slightly narrower range (SpGr 1.27-1.38) for best recovery. Eggs from Haemonchus contortus from sheep appeared to float best between SpGr 1.22- 1.32. Strongyles from one horse floated best with SpGr 1.27-1.32 and from another with SpGr 1.11-1.38. Coccidial oocysts from sheep floated best in a narrow range of SpGr from 1.22-1.27. However, as the SpGr of the solution was increased the recognition of eggs under the coverslip was increasingly difficult and especially so at SpGr 1.38 with sheep feces. This was due to the increasing amount of debris and the more rapid formation of crystals with evaporation with solutions of higher SpGr. It appeared, therefore, that solutions with SpGr of 1.22-1.35 would be best for routine laboratory use. At specific gravity 1.27, there appeared to be no difference in the number of eggs recovered for a four, eight and 12 min flotation period.

Only 3-7% of the eggs in 4 g of feces were counted under the coverslip. This poor efficacy resulted first because approximately 50% of the eggs were trapped in the feces and retained on the strainer. Secondly, only one half of the strained fecal suspension, containing approximately 25% of the eggs, was placed in the vial for examination. Thirdly, of those eggs in the vial only 16-29% were counted under the coverslip. When the second half of the strained fecal suspension was placed in another vial, the amount of debris and air bubbles adhering to the coverslip was much less than that for the first vial. Egg counts for both vials appeared similar and it may be that when debris is excessive the fecal examination should involve counts from a second vial. The use of strainers finer than the standard tea strainer and the addition of minimal amounts of detergent did not increase the egg count.

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  • Slocombe JO. Parasitisms in domesticated animals in Ontario. I. Ontario Veterinary College Records 1965-70. Can Vet J. 1973 Feb;14(2):36–42. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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