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Open Access Hair as a Meaningful Measure of Baseline Cortisol Levels over Time in Dogs

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Abstract:

Cortisol measurements of hair are becoming a valuable tool in monitoring chronic stress. To further validate this approach in domestic dogs, we compared the variability of cortisol immunoreactivity in hair with that in saliva and feces of dogs housed under constant social and physical conditions. Fecal (n = 268), and hair (n = 21) samples were collected over 3 mo from 7 dogs housed in a kennel and kept for training veterinary students in minimally invasive procedures. Salivary samples (n = 181) were collected 3 times daily twice weekly during the last month of the study. Hair and salivary samples were analyzed by enzyme immunoassay and feces by radioimmunoassay. HPLC coupled with tandem mass spectrometry was used to confirm the presence of cortisol in 3 hair samples. Variability of cortisol was compared across sample types by using repeated-measures ANOVA followed by paired t tests. Within dogs, cortisol immunoreactivity was less variable in hair than in saliva or feces. Averaged over time, the variability of fecal samples approached that of hair when feces were collected at least 4 times monthly. As predicted, the stable social and environmental condition of the dogs maintained repeatability over time and supported the hypothesis that data from hair samples reflect baseline cortisol levels. These findings indicate that determining cortisol immunoreactivity in hair is a more practical approach than is using samples of saliva or feces in monitoring the effects of long-term stressors such as social or physical environments and disease progression.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada; Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. hmbryan@ucalgary.ca 2: Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada 3: Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada; Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada 4: Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada 5: Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada; Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Publication date: 2013-03-01

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (JAALAS) serves as an official communication vehicle for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The journal includes a section of refereed articles and a section of AALAS association news. The mission of the refereed section of the journal is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information on animal biology, technology, facility operations, management, and compliance as relevant to the AALAS membership. JAALAS accepts research reports (data-based) or scholarly reports (literature-based), with the caveat that all articles, including solicited manuscripts, must include appropriate references and must undergo peer review.

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