Can non-invasive glucocorticoid measures be used as reliable indicators of stress in animals?
Refinement techniques are being increasingly employed in all fields of animal research to try to ensure that the highest standards of welfare are upheld. This review concerns one of the main emerging techniques for the assessment of welfare itself, namely the non-invasive measurement of glucocorticoids (GCs) as indicators of stress. The paper is divided into three sections. The first discusses the relationship between GCs and stress. The second section considers whether factors other than stress are linked to rises in GCs, eg exercise, oestrus cycle and diet. The final part examines the reliability of the non-invasive techniques that measure GCs from samples of saliva and faeces. Although it is important to take into account some caveats associated with the methodologies employed, it is concluded, nevertheless, that these techniques can give accurate and reliable information regarding the welfare status of an individual or group of animals without the procedures themselves causing any kind of distress to the subjects.
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