Research in veterinary science2011; 93(1); 103-107; doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2011.05.013

Cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone, serotonin, adrenaline and noradrenaline serum concentrations in relation to disease and stress in the horse.

Abstract: No detailed comparative data are available on the hormonal parameters of horses suffering from a number of diseases. The aim of our study was to measure concentrations of cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), serotonin, adrenaline and noradrenaline in horses with various diseases and following surgery, to assess the response of the HPA axis and adrenal medulla. Blood samples were obtained from six groups of horses comprising a total of 119 animals as follows: laminitis, acute abdominal syndrome (AAS), castration surgery, acute diseases, chronic diseases and healthy controls. Serum hormonal concentrations were determined for each group for comparison. Statistically significant differences between all groups and controls were found for cortisol, ACTH (except for castration), serotonin and adrenaline concentrations but only in horses with laminitis and AAS for noradrenaline. No statistically significant differences were found between males and females. The largest changes in the pituitary-adrenal axis activity occurred mainly in acute diseases, laminitis and in the AAS group.
Publication Date: 2011-06-07 PubMed ID: 21641009DOI: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2011.05.013Google Scholar: Lookup
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  • Journal Article


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The research article focuses on assessing the hormonal parameters in horses impacted by various diseases and post-surgery, particularly examining levels of cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), serotonin, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

Objective of the Research

The primary goal of this study was to evaluate and compare the hormone concentrations in horses afflicted by different diseases and post-surgery. The hormones studied were cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), serotonin, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. There were no existing comparative data on these hormonal parameters, which posed a gap in information that the study aimed to fill.

Research Methodology

  • The study’s test subjects were six groups of horses, with a total population of 119 animals. The groups consisted of horses with laminitis, horses with acute abdominal syndrome (AAS), castrated horses, horses with acute diseases, horses with chronic diseases, and a group of healthy control horses.
  • Blood samples were obtained from each group. The samples’ serum hormonal concentrations were measured and later compared among the different groups.

Findings of the Research

  • The researchers found statistically significant differences in the concentrations of cortisol, ACTH (except for castration), serotonin, and adrenaline between the control group and all the other groups, barring the one comprising castrated horses.
  • Noradrenaline concentration differed significantly only in the horses with laminitis and AAS as compared to the control group.
  • The study didn’t discover any statistically significant difference between male and female horses regarding these hormonal parameters.
  • Acute diseases, laminitis, and AAS led to the most noticeable changes in pituitary-adrenal axis activity, which essentially represents the body’s stress response system.

In summary, the research provides valuable insights into the hormonal changes in horses suffering from different diseases and post-surgery, contributing to a deeper understanding of equine health and response to stress and illness.

Cite This Article

Ayala I, Martos NF, Silvan G, Gutierrez-Panizo C, Clavel JG, Illera JC. (2011). Cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone, serotonin, adrenaline and noradrenaline serum concentrations in relation to disease and stress in the horse. Res Vet Sci, 93(1), 103-107.


ISSN: 1532-2661
NlmUniqueID: 0401300
Country: England
Language: English
Volume: 93
Issue: 1
Pages: 103-107

Researcher Affiliations

Ayala, Ignacio
  • Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Veterinary Faculty, University of Murcia, Murcia 30100, Spain.
Martos, Nieves F
    Silvan, Gema
      Gutierrez-Panizo, Candido
        Clavel, Jose G
          Illera, Juan Carlos

            MeSH Terms

            • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
            • Animals
            • Epinephrine / blood
            • Female
            • Horse Diseases / blood
            • Horse Diseases / physiopathology
            • Horses / blood
            • Horses / physiology
            • Hydrocortisone / blood
            • Male
            • Norepinephrine / blood
            • Serotonin / blood
            • Stress, Physiological / physiology


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