A commitment to animal care and welfare—specifically in working dogs—is the driving force behind the newly funded research project.
Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has announced the research grant to Colorado State University (CSU). The pilot study aims to measure the Allostatic Load (AL) of dogs, which is understood as the ‘wear and tear’ on the body due to chronic or frequent stressors.
AL in humans is affected by genetics and personality, and high AL is a predictor of negative health outcomes including heart disease and cognitive decline. After successfully validating AL in primates, the research team seeks to validate canine AL for the first time.
“Developing a reliable method of measuring chronic stress will help ensure we are taking proper care of working dogs as well as pet dogs,” says CSU association professor, Barbara Wolfe, DVM, PhD, DACZM,, principal investigator of the project. “If successful, this tool could be utilized to predict success in working dogs and identify when working dogs are experiencing unhealthy levels of stress.”
The study will involve analysis of early life events and lifestyle factors that may influence AL in Labrador retrievers raised and trained to be as guide dogs, as well as in Labrador retrievers raised as pets. Researchers will use blood sampling to compare biomarkers associated with AL to these lifestyle and event factors to determine any association between AL and potential stressors.
While many studies to date have used a single biomarker, such as cortisol, to determine canine stress, measuring AL tests multiple biomarkers of stress which allows for a more accurate measure of the accumulation of stress over time.
“This project reflects HABRI’s deep commitment to animal care and welfare,” says the institute’s president, Steven Feldman. “Understanding how to improve the lives of our canine companions is crucial to strengthening the human-animal bond.”
For more information on HABRI, click here.