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Title: An investigation into the use of infrared thermography as a tool to assess the physiological stress response in the horse
Author: Yarnell, K.
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2011
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The experiments reported in this thesis investigated the use of temperature measurement using infrared thermography (IRT) as an objective, non-invasive method to identify the physiological stress response in the horse. The primary area of investigation was the eye area within the medial posterior palpebral border of the lower eyelid and the lacrimal caruncle as in existing work in other species. The application of these findings to horse management and welfare was discussed. Horses were exposed to potentially stressful situations that were acute (<20 seconds), short term (ten minutes) and long term or repetitive (one week) in duration. Temperature was measured using IRT in addition to measurement of salivary cortisol, faecal corticosterone and behavioural assessment, all of which are currently accepted measures of the stress response. IRT was shown to be an unsuitable method to assess acute stress in the horse due to the species specific behavioural response of flight. Rapid evasive movement of the horse meant that recording temperature using a thermal camera was difficult. A modified experimental design may have made it possible to capture the thermal response to acute stress however restraint of the horse would have been stressful in itself and confounded results. A significant (p=0.005), positive correlation was found between eye temperature and the stress hormone salivary cortisol when horses were exposed to the short term potentially stressful husbandry procedure of clipping. Behavioural assessment of the horses during clipping did not support the physiological findings. Finally IRT was shown to be an unsuitable method to identify long term or repetitive stress associated with restrictive housing. Faecal corticosterone and behavioural assessment were found to be more appropriate methods to monitor stress chronic duration. These experiments provide evidence that IRT is able to identify temperature change associated with short term stress and offers an objective, non-invasive and instant physiological measure of the equine stress response. Use of IRT as a research tool will allow a better understanding of how horses perceive short term husbandry procedures and management techniques and allow alterations to be made if necessary in order to improve equine welfare and maintain well being.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available