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Online Journal of Veterinary Research©
Volume 10 (1) : 20- 25, 2006
Nutritional therapy modulates stress responses of elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) to removal of velvet antler.
Cook NJ1, Schaefer AL2, Church JS2
Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and 2Agriculture and
Cook NJ, Schaefer AL, Church JS Nutritional therapy modulates stress responses of elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) to removal of velvet antler. Online J Vet Res (1): 20-25, 2006. The present paper provides information from two studies performed in consecutive years on elk Cervus elaphus canadensis. The animals were pre-treated with a commercial nutritional therapy product 24 hours prior to removal of velvet antler (velveting). Stress-induced increases in metabolic activity were assessed by infrared thermography (IRT) of radiated heat from an area around the eye. Adrenocortical response was assessed by plasma and salivary cortisol measurements. Nutritional therapy treatment (NT) was a commercial formulation containing electrolytes, sugars and selected amino acids in an alfalfa-based pellet. In Study #1, nutritional therapy was given to control (CON) and treated (NT) groups of animals on alternate days. In Study #2, CON and NT treated animals were represented during each day of velvet removal. In Study #1, plasma and salivary cortisol levels were significantly elevated in response to velveting (P < 0.0001 and 0.03, respectively). Nutritional Therapy animals exhibited lower salivary cortisol levels than CON animals (P < 0.0002), particularly for pre-cut and post-cut samples (P < 0.04 and 0.001, respectively). The saliva:plasma cortisol ratio (%) was significantly lower in NT animals for all samples (P < 0.0001), samples collected pre-cut (P < 0.02) and post-cut (P < 0.0002). In Study #2, plasma cortisol levels in post-cut samples were significantly lower (P < 0.02) in the NT group compared to CON animals and salivary cortisol levels were consistently lower (P < 0.0001) in NT animals over the first 11 minutes of restraint. In Study #1, infrared heat losses increased in response to velveting (P < 0.0001), but were generally lower in NT animals (P < 0.006) and IRT temperature were significantly lower in NT animals at pre-cut and post-cut (P < 0.05 and 0.04, respectively). Similar responses in radiated heat losses occurred in Study #2 for both treatment groups (P < 0.0001). In Study #2, radiated heat losses were consistently lower in NT animals compared to CON but differences were not statistically significant. These studies demonstrate that pre-capture nutritional therapy reduces HPA axis and metabolic responses of elk to the stress of velveting.
Key Words: Velveting, nutritional therapy, salivary cortisol, infrared thermography.
Abbreviations: TC, tourniquet compression; Comp, high-tension compression; EA, electrical analgesia; LIDO, lidocaine; IRT, infrared thermography; NT, nutritional therapy; CON, nutritional controls.