Salivary alpha-amylase activity and cortisol in horses with acute abdominal disease: A pilot study

María Dolores Contreras-Aguilar, Damián Escribano, María Martín-Cuervo, Fernando Tecles, Jose Joaquín Cerón

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14 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 The Author(s). Background: The aim of this study was to evaluate salivary alpha-amylase (sAA), considered a non-invasive biomarker for sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity, and salivary cortisol as possible pain-induced stress biomarker, in horses with acute abdominal disease. Therefore, a prospective observational study was performed in which both biomarkers were analyzed in a group of horses with acute abdomen syndrome, and compared with a group of healthy control horses by an unpaired Student's t-test. In addition, the possible relationship between both biomarkers, the score in Equine Acute Abdominal Pain scales version 1 (EAAPS-1 scale), Heart Rate (HR) and Respiratory Rate (RR), plasma lactate, the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) score and serum amyloid A (SAA) concentration was assessed by a Spearman correlation test. Results: A total of 30 horses were included in the study, 19 with acute abdominal disease diagnosed as large colon displacements, simple impactions of the pelvic flexure, spasmodic colics and enteritis and 11 healthy ones. sAA activity (24.5 median-fold, P < 0.0001) and salivary cortisol (1.7 median-fold, P < 0.01) were significantly higher in horses with acute abdomen than in healthy horses. sAA activity was significantly correlated with EAAPS-1 scale (r = 0.78, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.38-0.89, P < 0.001) and SIRS score (r = 0.49, 95% CI 0.03-0.78, P < 0.05). Neither sAA nor salivary cortisol correlated with HR, RR, plasma lactate and SAA. Conclusions: Although this study should be considered as preliminary one, alpha-amylase measurements in saliva could be a biomarker of pain-induced stress in horses with acute abdominal disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article number156
JournalBMC veterinary research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2018


  • Colic
  • Horse
  • Pain
  • Salivary alpha-amylase
  • Salivary cortisol


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