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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2010

Authors: Jakubowska, I; Rettenbacher, S; van den Hoven, R

Title: Faecal cortisol metabolite excretion and stress in Standardbred Trotters under field conditions and during treadmill training.

Source: Wien Tierarztl Monatsschr (97), 1-2 31-36.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Rettenbacher-Riefler Sophie
Van Den Hoven Rene

Vetmed Research Units
University Equine Clinic, Clinical Unit of Equine Internal Medicine
Institute for Medical Biochemistry

Project(s): Cortisol metabolisms in the feces of horses with tying-up

Faecal cortisol metabolite concentrations are useful indicators of stress in domestic and game animals. Their excretion by trained or raced horses was used as a suitable indicator of stress in the present study. The reference range of concentrations of faecal 11,17-dioxoandrostanes (11,17-DOA), a group of cortisol metabolites, for racing standardbreds was calculated from data of 18 healthy regularly trained and raced trotters. The 95 % confidence interval was 14-31 nmol/kg faeces. Some unfit horses showed values out of this reference range, e.g. 2 of 4 horses with recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis both had 11,17-DOA concentrations of 50 nmol/kg. In a further trial, the relation between faecal 11,17-DOA levels of 5 treadmill-trained trotters and exercise was investigated. Median 11, 17-DOA levels gradually increased from 39 nmol/kg at the start of the training program to a maximum of 146 nmol/kg prior to the 3(rd) training session. The 11,17-DOA levels of one rather nervous horse even reached 1,478 nmol/kg, prior to its 3(rd) training session. The day after the 1(st),2(nd), 3(rd) and 4(th) training session, median 11,17-DOA levels were 33, 55, 65 and 115 nmol/kg, respectively. The median 11, 17-DOA levels prior to 4 standard exercise test (SET) were 26, 43, 216 and 43 nmol/kg, respectively. The median post SET 11, 17-DOA levels were 63, 281, 197 and 81 nmol/kg. Plasma cortisol levels increased after exercise, but at 18 hrs it appeared that the circadian pattern was restored. The type of exercise and the time in relation to the exercise had significant effects on plasma cortisol concentrations. Plasma cortisol concentrations prior to SETs were higher than those prior to training. Increased baseline 11,17-DOA levels prior to exercise indicated increased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity during the entire trial. Hence, all training of horses and performing SETs indicates stress. However, when horses became accustomed to the exercise they excreted lower levels of faecal cortisol metabolites, suggesting successful adaptation to the stress of intensive exercise.

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