Prospective severity assessment is legally required in many countries to ensure high-quality research along with high welfare standards for laboratory animals. Mice and rats, the most common laboratory species, are prey animals that usually suppress signs of pain and suffering. Therefore, highly sensitive readout parameters are necessary to adequately quantify distress. The present study compared the performance of different non-invasive methods in determining animal distress, such as measuring body weight, distress score, faecal corticosterone metabolites, burrowing, and nesting behaviour, with continuous monitoring of heart rate, body temperature and activity by telemetry. The distress caused by two surgical interventions was compared and the burden caused by tumour growth was described. Transmitter implantation caused higher distress than laparotomy plus carcinoma cell injection into the pancreas. Surprisingly, no significant increase in distress was observed during tumour growth. The receiver operating characteristic curve analysis revealed that some non-invasive distress-parameters, i.e., distress-score and burrowing activity, exhibited slightly better performance to quantify distress than the most suitable parameters measured by telemetry. Due to the high burden caused by the implantation of the telemetric device, the use of non-invasive methods to assess distress in laboratory animals after surgical interventions should be favoured in future studies.