Dog Hair: A Quick and Painless Stress Test for Doggies – Consumer Health News

MONDAY, April 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The strange smells and sounds of an animal shelter can stress out even the most placid pup, and invasive tests to see if he needs medication to calm down are only add to anxiety.

So there is good news for Fido in new search outside the Netherlands.

The study found that analyzing a single sample of dog hair gives an accurate measure of the cortisol, the stress hormone — a simple and painless alternative to collecting multiple samples of saliva, urine, feces or blood.

“[A shelter] is really a change of environment for most dogs, so often you see a stress response,” said lead researcher Janneke van der Laan. She is a PhD student in the animal behavior group at the University of Utrecht.

Suddenly, van der Laan said, shelter dogs find themselves in a new place with unfamiliar sounds and smells, and are separated from those they were attached to. This can lead to chronic stress, as well as behavioral issues.

His interest in the welfare and behavior of companion animals and his volunteer work in shelters converged in this small study, published online April 21 in the journal Scientific reports.

Seeking an alternative to invasive hormone testing, van der Laan and his team compared hair samples from shelter dogs to those from a control group of puppies from private homes.

The researchers shaved a tuft of hair from the dogs’ necks to collect samples. The hair was picked up when the dogs arrived at the shelter, again six weeks later, and then several times after their adoption.

The study authors wanted to know if testing capillary cortisol concentration would be as accurate as more invasive techniques, such as blood sampling. Cortisol is an arousal hormone that can indicate positive and negative changes. Veterinarians often measure it to determine if an animal needs medication to calm down.

The bottom line: After six weeks at the shelter, the dogs’ cortisol levels increased dramatically.

But the situation improved when they found new homes. After six weeks, and again after six months, their cortisol levels were similar to what they had when they entered the shelter.

“We were primarily interested in the shelter and immediately after the adoption to see if these two new environments … would differ — that was an important question for us,” van der Laan said. “And also, we were very interested in the period before the dogs arrived at the shelter, because that is often the period that we don’t know much about.”

Investigators studied the impact of stress on the dogs in other ways, van der Laan said, including looking at behavior, nocturnal activity and hormone levels in urine samples.

If dogs are unable to adapt to their environment, long-term medical or behavioral problems can result, researchers have found.

“It really speaks to trying to reduce stress levels in an environment like a shelter as much as possible,” van der Laan said.

Monitoring individual dogs is key, she said. Some adapt more easily than others, sometimes due to their genetic profile or previous experiences.

The study included a control group of 20 companion dogs, as well as 18 female and 34 male shelter dogs. On average, they were 3.8 years old.

The researchers noted that further study of hair testing for cortisol with more dogs, including those with different coat types, is needed. German researchers have also studied hair test.

Dr. Cassidy Cordon, clinical instructor in veterinary medicine at Washington State University in Pullman, reviewed the new study results.

She said whether in a shelter or a temporary kennel, group housing is stressful for dogs.

Kennels are very noisy and resonant, and dogs can be affected by the stress of others barking, their sleep can be disturbed, and even a change in routine can be stressful.

“It definitely has a huge, huge impact. Behaviourally, it can make them more likely to lash out,” Cordon explained. “It can also make them more likely to hole up and get locked in themselves. So they’re kind of the shy dog ​​you need to almost give them a boost of confidence and get them out of their way again. shell.”

And, she added, “It’s kind of like people — everyone handles it a little differently and dogs will too.”

Shelters can help alleviate some of that stress in a variety of ways, Cordon said, including playing music from dog-friendly stations that tone down some of the sound. Shelter workers can help them get as rich as possible, while slowly helping them adjust.

And after adoption, new families can help with the adjustment by establishing a routine for eating, walking and other activities and sticking to it, she suggested.

“The more predictable you can make your schedule, the easier and faster it will adapt,” Cordon said.

More information

The American Kennel Club has more on how to know if your dog is stressed.

SOURCES: Janneke van der Laan, PhD student, Division of Animals in Science and Society, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands; Cassidy Cordon, DVM, Clinical Instructor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman; Scientific reportsApril 21, 2022, online

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