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Cortisol/Dehydroepiandrosterone ratio in saliva: endocrine biomarker for chronic stress in pigs?
- Fels, Michaela, Rauterberg, Sally, Schwennen, Cornelia, Ligges, Uwe, Herbrandt, Swetlana, Kemper, Nicole, Schmicke, Marion
- Livestock science 2019
- animal welfare, biomarkers, blood serum, cortisol, farms, piglets, prasterone, rearing, saliva, straw, tail docking
- The adrenal hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in contrast to cortisol is suggested as a chronic stress marker. The aim of the present orientation study was to test whether DHEA was different in 10-wk-old pigs reared with three different housing systems on different farms. Blood and saliva were taken from 71 pigs reared under either indoor conditions with low disease level (n=30; I+) or indoor conditions with different welfare and health problems (caudophagia, infections, I-; n=21) or under improved conditions (combination of indoor and outdoor areas, C; n=20), aimed to enhance animal welfare, for instance by offering straw and abandonment of tail docking. In C pigs, serum cortisol was lower than in I+ (p<0.001), but similar to I-. In saliva, cortisol levels in pigs from C were lower compared to I+ and I- (P<0.001). Serum DHEA was lower in C pigs than in I- pigs (P=0.017) and in I- pigs it was higher compared to pigs reared under I+ conditions (P<0.001). DHEA in saliva was higher in pigs from C compared to I+ pigs and I- pigs (P<0.001). In saliva, the piglets reared in C showed a lower cortisol/DHEA ratio compared to I+ pigs and I- pigs (P<0.001) which may indicate less stressors in the C system. Further research is needed to confirm these results and to show the importance of DHEA for the analysis of chronic stress in pigs.