Severity assessment of animal experiments is mainly conducted by using subjective parameters. A widely applicable biomarker to assess animal distress could contribute to an objective severity assessment in different animal models. Here, the distress of three murine animal models for gastrointestinal diseases was assessed by multiple behavioral and physiological parameters. To identify possible new biomarkers for distress 750 highly conserved microRNAs were measured in the blood plasma of mice before and after the induction of pancreatitis. Deregulated miRNA candidates were identified and further quantified in additional animal models for pancreatic cancer and cholestasis. MiR-375 and miR-203 were upregulated during pancreatitis and down regulated during cholestasis, whereas miR-132 was upregulated in all models. Correlation between miR-132 and plasma corticosterone concentrations resulted in the highest correlation coefficient, when compared to the analysis of miR-375, miR-203 and miR-30b. These results indicate that miR-132 might function as a general biomarker for distress, whereas the other miRNAs were altered in a disease specific manner. In conclusion, plasma miRNA profiling may help to better characterize the level of distress in mouse models for gastrointestinal diseases.