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Horm Behav. 2009 Jan;55(1):163-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.09.010. Epub 2008 Oct 7.

Methods of collection for salivary cortisol measurement in dogs.

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Department of Dairy and Animal Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


Salivary cortisol has been increasingly used as a measure of stress response in studies of welfare, reaction to stress and human-animal interactions in dogs and other species. While it can be a very useful measure, there are a number of saliva collection issues made evident through studies in the human and animal fields which have not been investigated in the canine species. Collection materials and the volume of saliva that is collected; the use of salivary stimulants; and the effect of food contamination can all dramatically impact cortisol measurement, leading to spurious results. In order to further examine the limitations of the collection method and the effects of collection material and salivary stimulant on salivary cortisol levels, a series of clinical, in vitro and in vivo studies were performed. It was found that there is a large amount of inter- and intra-individual variation in salivary cortisol measurement. Beef flavoring of collection materials leads to unpredictable variability in salivary cortisol concentration. Using salivary stimulants such as citric acid also has the potential to affect cortisol concentration measurement in saliva. Hydrocellulose appears to be a useful collection material for salivary cortisol determination. Recommendations for collection materials and use of salivary stimulants are presented.

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